Lifts for housing developments

A helpful guide on the lifts in housing developments, from fire fighting lifts to refurbishing existing lifts in a block of flats, the choices are endless, so read on to find out what the options are…

Tower block lifts – a fascinating history
Multi-storey housing developments were generally restricted to seven storeys before the days of elevators. Wealthy people lived on the ground floor and the poorest people lived on the top floor and so had to climb the most stairs. Social standing reversed with the advent of lifts, the penthouse being reserved for the wealthiest occupants.

High-rise housing became the order of the day post-war and many of these developments still exist, refurbished, today. Lifts were key in the development of modern high rise buildings as without them moving to high floors by staircases would have been too arduous. Today, lifts continue to play an important part in a growing requirement for public and private housing.

When does a modern housing development require a lift?
For managed housing over two floors or more, to ensure the housing is suitable for all occupants, including people with restricted mobility, a vertical lift should be provided. If there are thirty or more individual units (flats) above the ground floor of the building then two lifts for flats should be recommended. This is particularly important in larger flats where a lift being out-of-action could cause disruption to the residents.

What types of lifts for housing developments might be applicable?
Part M of the Building Regulations recommends passenger lifts should always be a first choice. Every passenger lift and platform lift we manufacture and supply to the housing sector has the latest standards and will accommodate a person using a wheelchair, a parent and child with a buggy or several standing people.

Platform lifts can be supplied and installed in low-rise housing, where they are to be used infrequently by a small number of people, and increasingly as an individual solution in a private dwelling.

For taller or larger residential buildings, passenger lifts play the main role. As part of this, the type of passenger lift requires careful consideration, for example some lifts may also be used for fire fighting and evacuation purposes. Below are some of the key questions to enable you to decide which type of passenger lift you require:

What type of finish do you require or do you have any specific requirements?
Lifts should reflect the building they are situated in. For some housing projects there is a more robust requirement, in these circumstances vandal-resistant finishes or vandal resistant lifts can play their part. There are two categories of vandal resistant lifts that are covered by the British Standard EN81-71: Vandal resistant lifts. This standard defines the testing methodology and the classification of lifts in terms of vandal resistance.

For any lift requiring a vandal resistant element, be it category 1 or category 2 primarily the lift has more vandal resistant elements than a traditional passenger lift. These elements include (but are not limited to) the following: vandal resistant and reinforced car and landing doors, finishing the lift car in vandal-resistant heavy-duty stainless steel cladding patterns such as 5WL, leather or linen, vandal resistant lighting and car roofs built to resist more than 150kg, IP54 push buttons, vandal resistant displays and car operating panels.

Vandal resistant lifts category 2 provide twice as much effort to control crushing, shearing, cutting, trapping, impact hazard, electrical and thermal hazard in a lift where there may be occurances of vandal resistance than a category 1 lift.

For example at St John’s Hill Peabody Housing Estate the lifts have been specified to match the heavy duty demand of this environment, with the nine eight-person lifts are fitted with higher-grade stainless steel lift cars and Dewhurst push-button controls and mix of Cat 1 and Cat 2 vandal resistant lifts (image above).

Alternatively, do you require bespoke finishes and car sizes for a high-end housing project to ensure the lift properly reflects the investment of interior design? Here a luxury or bespoke finish, either in the form of a bare lift car clad to match the rest of the building, or glass, marble or wood-effect, helps add to overall sale value. Below is an example of jade-green gloss perspex panels and carpeted floors, flowing through from the landings to ensure the lift interior reflects the development’s design aesthetic at King Edward VII private housing project.

Do you require a fire fighting lift?
As a default, all new passenger lifts are equipped to conform to British Standard EN81-73: Behaviour of lifts in the event of fire. This standard means the lift is connected to the fire alarm system and in the event of a fire the lift travels to the ground floor, the doors remain open and no further calls are taken. This enables all passengers of the lift to evacuate the building and fire fighters to ensure there is no one trapped in the lift car.

This is different to a fire fighting lift. Fire fighting lifts are lifts designed to have additional protection, with controls that enable it to be used under the direct control of the fire and rescue service in fighting a fire. For housing, a fire fighting lift is required if the building has a floor more than 18m above, or more than 10m below fire service vehicle access level.

British Standard EN81-72 compliant firefighter lifts feature trap doors and ladders for rescue operations, additionally electrical components in the shaft and on the car are protected against splashing water. Fire fighting lifts have very specific safety requirements and the presence of fire fighting controls within a lift does not necessarily mean that it is a fire fighting lift. In some circumstances a fire fighting lift may be provided as part of a management plan for evacuating people, in such cases, the lift installation may need to be appropriately located, protected and also contain a number of safety features that are intended to ensure that the lift remains usable for evacuation purposes during the fire.

Are you planning to use the lift as part of your evacuation plans?
In general, it isn’t appropriate to use lifts when there is a fire in the building because there’s always the danger of people being trapped in a lift that has become immobilised because of the fire, hence why the British Standard EN81-73 is in place.

However, in some circumstances, a lift can be provided as part of a management plan for evacuating people and studies have shown they can cut evacuation times by up to 40 per cent. Guidance on the design and use of evacuation lifts is given in BS EN81-76: Evacuation of disabled persons using lifts and where a fire fighting lift has been provided, this can be utilised as part of a management plan for evacuating disabled people.

Do you require a lift to aid the transportation of waste?
There is a rise in the installation of goods lifts, used to aid underground storage of bikes/bins in residential buildings. Local council guidelines for waste management often state the goods lift must be large enough to accommodate a person as well as at least one waste container, this is where an attended goods lift or passenger and goods lifts can play a part.

Your lift supplier will advise you of all the types of lifts available for your building and make a product recommendation after careful analysis of your building users, frequency of travel and budget. See our range of lifts.

We work in both private and public housing, forming strong relationships with leading contractors for design and build tenders, working with architects and clients in traditional procurement routes, and liaising directly with Housing Associations to provide lifts based on the needs of the tenants.

Existing lifts in a block of flats
There are estimated to be more than 250,000 passenger lifts and goods lifts in use in the UK and half of the lifts in use in the UK were installed more than 25 years ago, before the lift regulations that are in force today. Most lift providers are able to supply lift services to local authorities, councils and housing associations, to help maintain the existing stock of passenger and goods lifts in communal access areas, stair lifts and disabled lifts for tenants.

As far back as the 1940s, the use of lifts with dedicated control features for firefighters was recognised in the UK and has been essential in high rise buildings. We have had a British Standard for fire-fighting lifts since the 1980s. For existing tower block lifts where there is a requirement for a fire-fighting provision, building designers can find guidance on how they can modernise lifts intended for use by firefighters to improve their safety in BS 8899: Improvement of fire-fighting and evacuation provisions in existing lifts. The proper maintenance, service and repair of existing lift stock plays an important role in enabling people flow in apartment blocks. Before modern lift regulations, lift design was a matter for architects, building design approval and customer requirement.

Many high-rise tower blocks in the UK pre-date any nationally approved standard and may be laid out or function in unexpected ways. As such, it is the Lift Owner’s responsibility to ensure a lift service provider is appointed to manage the lift maintenance and to help highlight any requirements.

An elevator is an engineered product with a finite life-span, after which it can be refurbished in part, or removed and replaced with newer, more energy efficient equipment. The image left shows the before and after of one of the three lifts at Gunnersbury Court, where the replacement of the antiquated lift system with new lifts, was central to the project.

These lift refurbishments and replacements are completed within occupied buildings and as such, a lift company will work with property owners, tenants, builders and lift consultants to ensure the work is carried out safely, causing minimum disruption and always providing a means of access for all building users. Find out more about servicing.

Lift equipment has a life cycle that can be extended by refurbishment of parts and modernisation of aesthetics but eventually the most economical solution will be complete removal and replacement. Safety for lift users and our lift engineers is always central to a decision to replace existing lift equipment. The first step for a replacement lift is for a lift company to undertake a site survey to establish whether a new lift can fit into the existing shaft and to give advice on the most suitable size and specification.

Lifts for residential housing in the future?
Who knows what the future will bring, for business, for homeowners and for housing managers.
New town-house style homes with several floors and high specification homes are increasing the need for vertical lifts. Our homelifts for high-end housing are the ultimate luxury, often accompanied by the convenience of a service lift or dumbwaiter as shown below.

Developers and Architects for private housing developments are ensuring the home is future-proofed and the added value of the lift helps to assist in the sale of the property and it is certainly a market we have seen strong growth in. Find out more about the housing sector.

Whatever the lift requirement, we can be certain that the pressure for more housing will increase with our population. We will continue to meet the needs for accessibility for everyone in the entire built environment, with housing at the forefront of our market areas.

Have a question? No problem! Get in touch to speak to one of our lift experts.