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Never Underestimate The Challenges Of Elevator Design

If you’ve planned a couple of elevator systems in a project already, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all. But every elevator design project involves unique challenges. Make sure you’re prepared.


4 World Trade Center is a wonderful symbol of regeneration in lower Manhattan. As you can imagine, getting people up and down such a monumental structure must have been among the architects’ primary concerns. Where would you even start with such a project?

The first principle, whether you’re working on a small apartment block or a towering skyscraper, is to approach each elevator plan with fresh eyes. Here are some of the main challenges to consider next time you have to add an elevator to your design.


Finding the information you need

4 World Trade Center features 37 Schindler 7000 passenger elevators ; a special case requiring bespoke engineering and a huge amount of planning. How much detail do you think the client’s initial brief contained about the elevators? Not a huge amount.

No matter the project size, it is up to you to fill in the gaps by asking the right questions and making suggestions. Where do you get the information you need? The obvious answer is from colleagues, online research and past experience. The first two are time-consuming and the third, on its own, exposes you to the risk of not being thorough. Thankfully, there’s now a fourth option (more on that later).

Avoiding delays

Designing new buildings is complicated and there are many opportunities for delay. If you don’t give commercial or residential elevators proper consideration, you could be adding to your list of woes. Spend more time getting the design right early on and save yourself valuable time later in the project.

Don’t forget, things are bound to change. Have you heard the story about the client who decided, in the middle of construction, to install a concert hall above the ground floor? Just like that, the existing elevator system was no longer fit for purpose. It had to be completely redesigned to incorporate an elevator large enough to move a grand piano.

Keeping up with regulations

Elevators are governed by reams of health and safety regulations. The EU offers detailed guidance on elevator design. Its ‘guide to application of the lifts directive’ runs to 193 pages! The UN has its own accessible elevator design standards. The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) publishes internationally recognized standards for office space. These are split into three classes—a, b and c—each with their own stipulations about elevator system performance.

Retaining all this detail is impossible. Do you know, for example, what elevator dimensions you need for wheelchair access? Or what materials are allowed if the building is an area of seismic activity? You can look it up, but how can you be confident that you have the very latest information?

Choosing the right elevator interior

In some buildings, the elevators are purely functional. In others, the elevator interior design is a standout feature. For major, one-off projects, the only limit is your imagination (and the brief and budget, of course). You might opt for a screen that fills the entire wall of your elevator ; a glass floor; or, in the case of the Hammetschwand Elevator in Switzerland, for the passenger experience to be enhanced by remarkable views.

Whatever look you choose, it needs to suit the building’s use. The owners of a luxury hotel want to move their passengers around in comfort and style. In a busy retail center, the primary concern is likely to be durability and size. If you’re aiming for a hi-tech style, you might consider smart mirrors or an infotainment system.

If you want to impress your client, think about all possible uses of the building, including ones they may not have considered. For example, is there a chance tenants will need to move large, heavy items around the building? If so, it’s worth installing protective curtains so the interiors you’ve so carefully chosen are not damaged.


Save time and delight your clients

Taking all that into account could be rather overwhelming. Especially as elevator design can be perceived as a less exciting part of a building project. But now there is a better way to design elevators. (Remember the ‘fourth option’ we mentioned above?)

The Schindler Plan & Design tool is a free online planning tool that makes it simple to configure and design your elevator or escalator in minutes. It takes you through a step-by-step process covering every aspect of elevator design, including:

  • Travel height/distance
  • Speed
  • Capacity
  • Elevator door type options
  • Power supply needs
  • Finishes and fixtures
  • Seismic provisions

Using the information you provide, Schindler Plan & Design makes suggestions about the number of elevators you need and the model that suits your building. We regularly update Schindler Plan & Design with the latest regulations, so whether the system you’re designing is two stories tall or 20, you can be sure you’re leaving nothing to chance.


Want to learn more about elevator design?

We know there are a lot of things to keep track of when designing an elevator. To help, we created a resource site with a lot of information that will prepare you for your next elevator or escalator project.

Or if you want to test your ideas, visit our Plan and Design tool and start creating!


Use our helpful guide to plan elevator designs that meet standard or custom size requirements, fulfill functional and safety needs and offers a stunning range of interior options.