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Elevator Design - 5 Tips To Help Your Project Go Smoothly

Elevator planning is a vital part of many building projects, but it’s not usually at the forefront of developers’ or architects’ minds. Here are our tips to help you find the best elevator design for your project and ensure a properly functioning building.

Elevators have something in common with other vital but unflashy technologies in our lives: we take them for granted. But, much like the internet or the hot water in your house, when elevators don’t function properly, we are quickly annoyed.

As elevators are often the overlooked heroes of a building, you probably won’t receive high praise for good elevator design. Still, it’s important to approach the design process carefully so all elements of the building work together like a well-drilled team.

Why is creating an elevator plan hard?

Put simply, because elevator design requires a high-level of attention to detail. The right elevator design varies depending on the size and type of building. There are hundreds of decisions to be made. A hospital may need separate elevators for patients and facilities staff. Tall buildings need fast, wide elevators to keep traffic moving smoothly. Elevators on cruise ships must be able to withstand the pitching and rolling of the ship caused by bad weather. And so it goes; each building has challenges the elevator must overcome.

What are the benefits of getting it right?

A good elevator plan helps a building to work efficiently and safely. Well-designed elevators also complement the overall look and feel of a space. This means passengers enjoy a seamless experience when moving through the building and using the elevators.

If elevator design isn’t handled correctly from the outset it can lead to costly delays later in the process. The worst-case scenario is a poor design that gets past the planning stage, into construction and, finally, operation. This can make life miserable for passengers. Elevators that are too few, too small or just plain ugly all detract from the user experience.

It’s normal for projects to have hiccups, but by following these tips you can avoid major setbacks and set yourself on the path to success.

Tip #1 - start early

Designing an elevator system is not something you can do at the last minute. Building design affects the elevator and vice versa. The New York Marriott Marquis hotel, for example, has a spectacular atrium designed around a circular bank of 16 elevators. Here the elevator plan is, quite literally, central to the overall design of the building.

It’s also important to remember that the entire process from design finalization to installation can be lengthy. And there’s always the chance your client will change their mind about something in the design. If you start early, you’ll have time to accommodate amendments with minimal stress

Tip #2 - understand how the building is used

Good elevator design is based on a thorough understanding of how a building will be used. This means scrutinizing the brief and having detailed conversations with your client. They’re probably not aware of all the factors affecting elevators and the number of decisions that have to be made. It’s your job to ask the right questions and avoid nasty surprises.

Traffic analysis

Traffic analysis involves modeling expected passenger movement as accurately as possible so the required lift performance (including handling capacity and waiting time) can be properly judged. Important factors that must be considered:

  • How many people use the lifts?
  • What are the peak-use periods?
  • Are there busy locations such as restaurants and gyms?
  • Do people need to move large items around the building?
  • Do you need a dedicated lift for firefighters?
  • Does the elevator need to serve floors used for parking?
  • Should the elevators accommodate people with limited mobility?

Tip #3 - don’t forget the foundations and the roof

Travel speed impacts the elevator shaft dimensions, including pit size and headroom. This information must be incorporated into foundation planning. At the other end of the structure, will there be a machine room above the top floor? This affects roof design and building height.

To prepare drawings and get accurate cost estimates, you need to know the elevator dimensions as soon as possible. It’s vital not to start construction work without knowing the exact dimensions of the required elevators. If you do you can severely limit your choices later on. Ask yourself how fast your elevators need to be to serve the building properly. Generally, 20 to 45 seconds is considered the maximum acceptable time for an elevator to travel from the bottom to the top of a building (excluding any stops and travelling at full speed).

Tip #4 - consider aesthetics

Many clients don’t consider elevator interior design at all. That job might be left to you. An elevator interior should suit its use, its passengers and the overall aesthetic of the building.

An elevator is a functional system but also an extension of a building’s style. Choose suitable finishes that can withstand the expected traffic in the building. Where to start? For elevator wall panels and flooring, you can select from many options including stainless steel, laminate, glass, vinyl, carpet, and stone. Then there are custom finishes; the sky’s the limit here. Other things to consider include whether the finishes need to be easy to clean and if the floor needs to be anti-slip for trolleys and goods.

Lighting is another important factor. Get it right and you enhance the design while keeping energy consumption down. You should also consider mirrors, which can add to passenger comfort and safety. For example, to safely reverse a wheelchair out of an elevator.

Tip #5 - keep on top of regulations

Just like the building itself, both commercial and residential elevators have to meet local standards. There’s a mind-boggling array of regulations and safety codes and they’re being updated all the time. They vary between countries but can even vary between cities and regions in the same country.

There are international standards too. The UN publishes architectural guidelines for accessible elevators. These include advice on size limits, minimum numbers of elevators, power usage, accessibility and inspection requirements.

If you design elevator systems for a particular region regularly, you may become familiar with the regulations in that location. If not, you’ll need to seek advice.

How to look like an elevator expert

Elevator design has always been a unique and challenging part of the building process, but the way it’s done is changing. The old way meant pouring over books of elevator specifications and asking more experienced colleagues for advice. Now there’s a faster, easier way.

The Schindler Plan & Design tool is an online application that takes the hassle out of elevator design. It’s simple to use, requires no knowledge of our products and covers aspects of elevator design you might not have even considered.

Plan and design your elevators, then download specifications, technical drawings and 3D BIM models. If you have any questions, you can quickly connect with a consultant online. Schindler Plan & Design is the easy way to look like an elevator design expert, even if you’re not.

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.