Elevator World Feature: Vast Forward

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Lerch Bates Area Vice President Ken Dietz

This article originally appeared in Elevator World’s March 2022 Issue. An edited excerpt featuring Lerch Bates Area Vice President Ken Dietz is posted below with permission from the author, Kaija Wilkinson. To read the full story, click here.

VAST FORWARD: Heavily populated, tech-savvy and growing, California’s VT market shows no signs of slowing down


Third-generation elevator man Mike Shaw, field operations manager at Republic Elevator Co., roughly 8 mi. west of Santa Barbara, remembers getting his first elevator paycheck in 1971 from San Bernardino-based Oliver & Williams Elevator Co., where his father was vice president of operations. That same year, journalist Don Hoefler would unwittingly coin a now-famous phrase when he wrote a series on the semiconductor industry for Electronic News called “Silicon Valley USA.” Referring to what has become an almost US$3-trillion neighborhood just south of San Francisco, Silicon Valley is a 1,854-m2 area that continues to drive business for all kinds of industries — including vertical transportation (VT) — thanks to companies like Apple and Google.


Consultancy Lerch Bates, which opened its California office in L.A. in the early 1970s (one of its first expansions), planned the modernization or designed the VT systems serving many iconic structures in key cities, including the Wilshire Grand, says Ken Dietz, Lerch Bates West vice president. In L.A., it has worked on VT for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, SoFi Stadium (home of the National Football League’s L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and contemporary art museum The Broad, in which Mitsubishi Electric U.S. also played a key role. In San Francisco, Lerch Bates was involved in the VT design for the new George R. Moscone Convention Center and also partners with many of the city’s architecture firms for design work throughout Asia.


“California,” Dietz says, “has always been a preeminent market for Lerch Bates.”


VT players in California list a strict regulatory environment, scarcity of good labor, global supply shortages, rising materials costs and the requirement to build more robust VT systems due to much of the state being in a seismic zone among challenges. Still, their California business outlook is almost universally bright, thanks to an array of factors, including:

  • Older buildings that are prime for modernization
  • The upcoming 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
  • Continued need for housing
  • High land prices and continuing urbanization driving construction “up”
  • Customers regarding themselves as “innovation leaders” eager to adopt the latest technology


Some of the challenges of doing business in California actually result in rewards for companies like Lerch Bates. Dietz says:

“The California regulatory environment requires firms doing business in the state to be engaged and willing to adapt to the unique requirements of the market, including enhanced expectations for safety and quality. As an example, our façade-access offering thrives in California due to the unique requirements that [the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health] has promulgated related to worker safety. Understanding the regulatory environment and aligning with our clients expectations are the hallmarks of all Lerch Bates offerings.”


The state’s economy continues to thrive despite the pandemic, Dietz says, pointing to L.A., Silicon Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego as “all actively involved in revitalization and growth.” The need for additional residential development, particularly in urban centers, is one of the main business drivers, he says.


California clients, Dietz says, distinguish themselves by “having a clear vision of their design expectations, which are holistic in that they are aligned with an environmentally and socially conscious worldview, along with aesthetics.”


Whether it’s TK Elevator bringing its first North American electric vehicle fleet car online in L.A. (EW, June 2021) or California office property managers rarely hesitating to install the latest pandemic-related bells and whistles, there is no question the state sets itself apart.



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