Spotlight Projects

  • Mill Shop making collaboration easier

    Nov 15, 2017
    Collaboration Table

    Most people have gathered around a dinner table, but a “collaboration table?” Maybe not so much.

    This fall, the Facilities & Services Mill produced six such tables for the Main Library. The units allows students to assemble around a desktop and easily share technology, as well as ideas. The base holds a computer tower and other electronic components, while the top features a shared monitor and data and power connections.

    “We can make these tables for about half of what some vendors sell them for, and we can make them to match the existing furniture and surroundings,” said Mill Foreman Andy Burnett.

    Since 2008 when the Mill created its first collaboration table, Burnett estimates his shop has manufactured more than 50 units, mostly for the various libraries on campus, but he and his six-member staff can build them to fit anywhere.

    “It’s been an evolving design over the years,” Burnett said, “because we can design and give the customer exactly what they want.”

    For years, millworkers have been creating unique, affordable woodwork for the University of Illinois. Cabinets, desks, display cases, podiums, benches, doors, windows, picture frames, lab tables and just about anything else you can think of are designed and crafted in their busy shop on the north end of the Physical Plant Service Building. Several other shops also may provide assistance with the projects, depending on their design.

    To find out more about what the Mill Shop can do for you or to get a free estimate, contact the F&S Service Office at 333-3040.

  • Chemistry Annex Elevator Modernization

    May 04, 2017

    The University of Illinois Elevator Mechanics regularly service and repair elevators, dumbwaiters, and wheelchair lifts on campus; and they also perform state-mandated elevator inspections. Their tasks are essential to meeting the safety and usability needs of campus.

    Additionally, the mechanics possess the skills necessary for constructing and modernizing elevators, as was made evident during the recent Chemistry Annex Renovation Project. The building’s existing elevator, though not part of the original project scope, needed refurbishing as a result of wear and tear during the building’s renovation. The project team reviewed the various delivery options available to them and due to a number of factors, the mechanics were chosen to oversee the project.

    The Initial Chemistry Annex Renovation Project did not have funding allocated to repair the elevator’s cab. As a result, Project Manager Matt Firmand, had to ensure he went with a cost effective option.  Said Firmand, “Due to the price they quoted along with their ability to complete the project within our timeframe, we knew we should procure the services of the university mechanics.”

    The quality of work and experience of the mechanics also factored into the decision to utilize in-house services. “Our elevator mechanics have more than 125 years combined experience and before coming to work at the university, the majority of their duties consisted of modernizing elevator cabs and systems,” said Vince Schaub, Elevator Mechanic Foreman.

    Modernizing the elevator’s cab provided the benefits of a new elevator at a much lower cost. New structural side panels with wood finish were installed along with light panels for the ceiling, handrails, and toe kicks. As a result, the elevator now matches the aesthetics of the newly renovated building.

    Elevator modernization not only improves upon attractiveness, it can also make the unit more safe and reliable. This means fewer stuck and inoperable elevators. “A lot of our time is spent on reacting to an elevator that is not working,” said Schaub. “Modernizing these outdated units can save on both time and financial resources.”

    Currently, the majority of elevator modernization is performed by outside contractors though this is a service F&S intends to offer to campus customers more regularly. “With the Chemistry Annex elevator refurbishing, they were able to turn a moth into a butterfly while saving the university more than $10K in the process,” said Ken Buenting, Building Maintenance Superintendent. “The finished product speaks for itself. The quality of work performed by the university’s elevator mechanics is unbeatable.”
  • Group rises to the occasion to help disabled students

    Dec 15, 2016

    F&S elevator mechanics, Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES), and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) received the 2016 Larine Y. Cowan Excellence in Access and Accommodations award sponsored by the University of Illinois Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access.

    The group was nominated by DRES Director Pat Malik for their Wireless Elevator Remote Control (WERC) project.

    “I thought it was remarkable that three very different units could come together and do something like this,” Malik said.

    The project was initiated in 2007 when former elevator foreman Jeff Miller noted that many students with severe physical disabilities were unable to independently access the buttons within an elevator due to reasons such as the elevator being too small for a wheelchair to turnaround or the student not having the reach or dexterity to utilize the controls.

    The WERC project design was twofold. First, ECE worked with the elevator mechanics to create an antenna that could interact with the various electrical configurations found in lifts. Then the department had to design the call boxes.

    Coleman Award WinnerFitting an elevator with wireless controls begins when Malik identifies a building as one a disabled student needs to access. Next, she submits a work order to the Elevator Shop, which places an antenna on the lift to allow a WERC to interact with the elevator’s internal controls.

    While that’s happening, a disability specialist at Beckwith Residential Support Services works with the student to determine what type of call box would work best for him or her. ECE then creates a remote control with the necessary individual features, which can range from simple buttons to voice activation. The original plans called for the elevators to be controlled with a mobile device application, but the group found out that someone else already had a patent on such an application.

    Currently there are 31 campus elevators which are accessible for those who need to use a remote control call box. More will be added as the need arises or funding is available.

    “We have a really good team of people,” Malik said. “We’ve had our bumps and bruises, but we figured things out together as a team. And everyone who worked on this project did so above and beyond their normal job responsibilities.”