Russ Ward

Adaptive Reuse Solution

Adaptive reuse is more than a building fad. It is a revolution who’s time has come. But, when you take vintage properties and turn them into a modern useful space (that it wasn’t necessarily built for) there are tons of hurdles. I couldn’t even start to list them all here. There are structural concerns, financing, zoning, architectural issues, city planning, community groups to assuage, materials to buy and the list goes on and on. So why not start with easy items first and draw a line through some of those to lighten the load? Modular elevators can do that as an adaptive reuse solution.


Who doesn’t love to watch buildings implode? Sometimes I will get lost in Youtube. Between seeing cats playing the piano and “incredible” dash cam videos I take in a fair share of buildings being methodically leveled. Those videos are especially cool when paired with the 1812 Overture. You know the tune (doodle-doodle-doodle-doo-dum-dum, boom – boom).

But, all that fun ultimately has a cost. When the dynamite is lit history and heritage can disappear from the face of the planet in an instant. That is truly a shame. Preservation of the past should be of the deepest concern. It helps define who we are.

On another level however, there is much bigger cost. That cost is in lost dollars and cents regarding the energy to produce the building in the first place.

Lost Energy

See, when a building goes boom, all of the energy it took to create it goes boom too. The cost has been measured a number of ways. One of the first initiatives to estimate the true cost of bulldozing instead of reusing came in the report Assessing the Energy Conservation Benefits of Historic Preservation by the Advisory Council on Preservation (1979). It pointed out that all materials from bricks and mortar to lumber and glass contains a certain amount energy used to create, mill and mold the materials. At the time it was penned the report noted:

Once energy is embodied in a building, it cannot be recovered and used for another purpose — 8 bricks embody energy equivalent to a gallon of gasoline but cannot fuel a car.

Assessing the Energy Conservation Benefits of Historic Preservation (1979) – Page 7

That has always been true and still is true today. So, when the cannons go off in the imploding building video at the crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s grand masterpiece, millions of unrecoverable btu’s goes with it. That expended energy will forever reside in the landfill.

Talk about a waste.

All that energy is not recoverable in the least. And that does not even take into account all of the energy that goes into the demolition, removal and reclamation of the site. So in a nutshell there is the premise. The energy used to create a building in the past cannot be reused, only destroyed. It is in the building itself and nonrecoverable. If the building is razed, the energy use to create the structure will forever be lost. Talk about a waste.

In other words, there is no greener building project than in a building project where the building already exists. When you accept that premise your thinking about what is greener, more sustainable and efficient changes. You begin to wonder if a modern exterior wall is more energy efficient or if it is better to use the old brick and mortar?

If the environment is truly your concern, then adaptive reuse becomes the desire instead of decimating the old and replacing. That can lead to your mind finding creative finds ways to use what has already been erected. However, for the old to be reused it must be updated.

Vertical Transportation

That is where we come in. We are a real simple and green adaptive reuse solution. Most of the buildings primed to be repurposed, fit into our wheelhouse. They are low to mid-rise structures that require ADA compliance. They are perfect for our modular solution.

Additionally, our units can be placed on the interior or exterior of a project. That flexibility is key when dealing with existing structures. They are also most often self-supporting so they will not stress the building loads in any significant way. Lastly, they are ADA compliant and meet all codes regardless of the location. Commercial quality elevators designed to be revolutionary and solve a myriad of problems.

We do this by building an elevator hoistway or shaft out of tough 4X4 steel. Then we install industry standard, non-proprietary elevator components inside the hoistway at the factory. Everything from rails to the car are already inside. Then its loaded on a truck, delivered when you want it and sets in about 4 hours. The whole elevator is ready for start up, hoistway and all.

We also allow you to stretch your legs design-wise allowing for a glass model to show off your work on the rest of the restored building. Or we will work with your design team on something special. Just because it is modular does not mean it comes out of a cookie cutter.

Greener Alternative

But a MEM elevator is more than just the best solution for any low or mid-rise project. It is a also a greener alterative to traditional elevator companies. Here are some ways:

  • Modular elevators reduce traffic to the site lowering the carbon footprint. Factory installed, delivered as a finished unit.
  • Engineered to have less waste. Materials ordered in the right size and the right quantities. Fast, easy manufacturing through better engineering.
  • Fewer mistakes. A factory environment eliminates issues with poor measurement or accidents. There is never a teardown and rebuild.
  • No damaged or lost materials. Drywall and 2X4s can’t just walk away from a factory.
  • Inventory controls. We know what we have on hand and order what we need. We are precise in procurement.
  • Recycling is easier in a factory. What limited scrap we do have, gets sorted and recycled not just thrown in a trash pile.
  • Industry green standards. LED lighting to internal controls that make your elevator more efficient are available.
  • Reduces general construction costs. The jobsite closes quicker. With an elevator delivered in four hours and moved to the beginning of the project, the elevator will not hold up closing the project down.

Adaptive reuse truly is a revolution. So, meeting the demands of that movement takes revolutionary thinking in the various products incorporated in the project.


Modular Elevator Manufacturing has been revolutionary for over 20 years finding better alternatives. So MEM is a great place to start to knock off some of the headaches and lighten your load when if comes to adaptive reuse. Think greener, smarter and faster. MEM is the best adaptive reuse solution for vertical transportation.

Finally if you want to see the doodle-doodle-doodle-doo-dum-dum, boom – boom video I was talking about click the link. If you have a project in mind that needs a low or mid-rise elevator, click the button below!

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