Winnipeg’s tallest office building receives historic elevator upgrades

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The tallest office building in Winnipeg, Manitoba is currently receiving historic elevator upgrades. In fact, the 33-story building is undergoing the largest elevator modernization project in the city’s history. The project, spearheaded by TK Elevator Canada, is quite remarkable – considering the building is Winnipeg’s tallest office building and happens to be located at what is widely referred to as the coldest and windiest intersection in Canada.

When speaking about the significance of the job, TK Elevator Canada Supervisor Vince Levenec mentioned the intersection of Portage and Main in downtown Winnipeg as having been included in the chorus of Randy Bachman and Neil Young song – “Prairie Town” is the song, and the famous line is “Portage and Main…50 below.”

The iconic building – which is located at 201 Portage Avenue – was constructed more than 30 years ago. Today, the office building is receiving updates to its high-rise, low-rise, and service elevators, as well as a shuttle elevator. In total, twelve elevators are part of the modernization project.

The benefits of an elevator modernization investment are vast – ranging from improved reliability to reduced energy costs. At its core, elevator modernization is the process of upgrading an elevator and its key parts; however, modernization is so much more than that. Ultimately, a modernization makes a lift not only safer, but also more reliable. The modernization process also helps ensure a more efficient performance and can even prevent problems in the long run.

According to TK Elevator Canada, the upgrades to the elevators at 201 Portage Avenue will help increase the elevators’ efficiency and reduce overall energy consumption, as sustainable regenerative drives are being installed that harness unused energy captured for reuse in the building.

All workers on the Winnipeg job – an office building actively occupied by tenants, meaning all units could not be shut down at once – are proud members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 102. IUEC Local 102 Vice President Chris Johnson, one of the first workers on the job, has played a key role in the modernization project since its inception. He explained that the elevator constructors are working in teams of two to four – with teams working hard to get each elevator completed before moving on to the next unit.

Johnson, as well as Levenec, expressed the excitement of working on this particular modernization job. Donny Daigneault, who is currently the lead mechanic on the 201 Portage Avenue modernization job, echoed this sentiment – adding that the project has been nothing short of special.

Daigneault, who has been with TK Elevator Canada since his first days in the trade roughly 20 years ago, explained that, for him and many elevator constructors, modernization jobs are the most challenging – which is part of what Daigneault says, at times, makes modernization jobs more interesting than others. He went on to describe the high-speed, gearless technology involved in a job of this scale and the “work safe” mission.

“I’ve been in the modernization division for the majority of my career,” said Daigneault. “Every day, safety is our top priority – and that goes for all jobs. We do safety talks to kick off each day. If we’re doing electrical work, for instance, we talk about all potential risks and how to avoid injuries.”

Johnson, Levenec, and Daigneault agree that, in the signatory elevator industry, safety always comes first. The 201 Portage Avenue job, which has been going on for about a year now, has completion dates and other goals just like any other job. That said, an elevator constructor’s main focus is doing his or her best job – and doing one’s best job means focusing on quality while ensuring each part of the job is performed safely.