Passenger lifts are the easiest way for people to move between separate storeys of a building if they either cannot or choose not to use stairs. They are essential in multi-storey buildings and high-rise developments. Such buildings should have at least one lift that is accessible for wheelchair users.
The location of passenger lift shafts and their size and clearance are an integral part of building design from the outset. It's quite common for the lift shaft itself to be a major vertical structural element in the building. The lifts should be located next to stairs to provide ease of access and evacuation during an emergency. A common design involves stairs that rise around the lift shaft.
During emergencies such as a fire or earthquake, a building's occupants are usually advised not to use lifts. This is because a power cut could trap them inside the lift shaft. Sometimes the structural components of a lift shaft are not strong enough to withstand severe earthquake or wind forces. Some new multi-storey buildings, hospitals and high-rise office and apartment blocks do incorporate an evacuation lift that is used during these emergencies. Such lifts should have an independent back-up power supply. In the absence of evacuation lifts, the designers of high-occupancy buildings should plan an emergency evacuation route that allows people of all physical abilities to move between storeys in safety.
Glass-walled lifts have become a fashionable element of modern commercial building design. They are common in a tall building's atrium or along its exterior walls. The selection of such lifts has to balance the expectations of their users. They can cause anxiety in people who suffer from vertigo. But other users with hearing difficulties can recognise the floor level they are riding to in a building, rather than depending on lift announcements. It is worth considering if such lift could be replaced by escalators. The managers of shopping malls and large department stores have discovered that the general public prefers escalators to glass-wall lifts. The escalators also provide a greater transportation capacity than passenger lifts.
Platform lifts are no longer installed in new buildings. But structural constraints in existing buildings may mean that a passenger lift is not feasible. A platform lift with a one- or two-metre rise can provide secure access for wheelchair users at the front entrance of a building. It may also ease access between different levels in the same storey of a building where two slightly mismatching floors are connected together.
All passenger lifts should incorporate safety devices such as self-levelling on a floor so that there is no more than a 10 mm height difference between the landing and the lift floor. Lift doors should open to a minimum width of 950 mm and remain open for at least eight seconds. Hold-open and rapid-close buttons, as well as an emergency telephone, should be provided in the lift. Manually operated lift doors should not be used in modern lifts.
For more information on hydraulic passenger lifts Phillip recommends the Platform lift company. They are experts in lifts for residential and commercial purposes.