Elevator free falls one floor at new problem-ridden UBC student housing complex

Dec 19 2017, 1:48 pm

A 603-bed student housing complex at the University of British Columbia has been experiencing numerous design and maintenance issues since it opened for occupation in the fall of 2013.

Student residents of the UBC Ponderosa Commons say they have had to endure deficiencies that include floods due to faulty pipes, electrical wiring wired backwards, faulty entrance doors, resident door issues, intermittent water outages, water pressure issues, and even a pungent smell of garbage that leaks into the lobbies.

One student resident leader describes the response from UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services over the living environment of the complex as “terribly disconcerting.”

“I think there’s a lack of communication within SHHS causing the issues to not be resolved as quickly… they’ve often been very dismissive or non-responsive when residents bring forth issues,” Jake Mullan, president of the Ponderosa Commons Residence Association, told Vancity Buzz.

The latest problem of a free-falling elevator is not helping the situation and is drawing the ire of residents to a new level. The incident, which is also described by a resident on Facebook, on Sunday, January 25 involved an ascending elevator free-falling an entire floor from the sixteenth floor to the fifteenth floor.

At least two passengers were reportedly inside the cabin at the time, but there were no injuries and the residents were able to run out when the doors opened after the free-fall.

“The elevator was then closed and shut down for the evening and marked off with caution tape, but for some reason unbeknownst to any of us, the elevator was operational at around 11 a.m. on Monday morning until my Vice President notified the Front Desk,” said Mullan.

He says issues with the elevator were first brought up on Friday, January 23 and Saturday, January 24, when housekeepers and a resident reported the elevator had been skipping floors randomly and stopping in between floors.

“A resident contacted me on Saturday afternoon and said that the elevator stopped while she was riding it, shook or dropped causing a loud noise, and threw her off balance,” said Mullan. “Other residents heard the noise. She reported that incident to the front desk as I had advised her to do.”

Andrew Parr, the Managing Director of UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHSS), says university officials are working to change their communications strategies so that residents are away of what is happening and why.

Work on resolving the issues with the free-falling elevator is a top priority, according to Parr. Crews from Kone and Ledcor, the companies that manufactured the elevator and built the complex, placed the elevator in testing mode on Monday and as of Tuesday the elevator is said to have completed 6,000 routine starts and stops since it first began service.

“Now it’s a matter of Kone analyzing the data from the elevator to determine if the reported problem repeated and what it might be,” said Parr.

“We are reliant on our contractor to source the problem, order the necessary supplies and equipment and make the repairs. This takes time and is out of our control… We know that’s frustrating but when you are dealing with a company like Kone with proprietary technology, that’s the situation you have to work within.”

When it comes to resolving other issues with the building, Parr says SHSS makes an effort to respond to each and every issue as quickly as possible.

“SHHS houses nearly 10,000 students at UBC, so there are going to be maintenance issues that come up. There’s no such thing as a perfect building,” adding that “the Ponderosa building does not experience more work orders or maintenance issues than other facilities.”

However, Mullan disagrees and asserts that Ponderosa is a very plain residence built way over budget and within a short timeline. He is also concerned with the possibility that Phase 2 of the Ponderosa Commons project, now under construction and nearing a scheduled September 2015 opening, could be plagued with issues as well.

Students living at Ponderosa pay between $816 to $1,071 monthly in rent and have pursued SHSS for financial compensation, a reduction in the rent, for disruption from the maintenance issues, flood damage to furniture and property, and a lack of services.


Feature Image: Jake Mullan