The design of lifts in retail spaces, offices and historic buildings is more complex than simply complying with the Disability Discrimination Act, says Andy Sayer of Saxon Lifts
1995’s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was a major event in the UK lifting industry. Prior to that, organisations such as banks, retail outlets and hotels had no obligation to provide access to their properties for those with disabilities. With the subsequent introduction of a code of practice for powered lifting platforms for use by disabled people (BS6440:1999), the Act now had teeth.
Since then, architects, designers and contractors have faced a raft of legislative changes, standards and regulations relating to lifts in public and historic spaces – all of which need to be considered.
Complexity of legislation
The introduction of BS6440:1999 provided recommendations for the safe design, construction, installation and operation of lifts for disabled people. Central to this standard was the stipulation of a maximum stroke of two-metres without an enclosure. This caused challenges with listed buildings that required a larger stroke – and hence an enclosure – where such a structure would not be allowed by English Heritage.
This led to a situation where regulations were stating one thing, while the British Standard said something else. It was a scenario which was to be repeated across the industry for decades to come.
Following subsequent amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, the latest version of the legislation – BS6440:2011 – now represents best practice within the industry.
Paramount among the changes to the current standard was the increase in stroke from two to three metres without the need for a full enclosure. This move was especially significant for those working with historic and listed buildings, giving much-needed leeway which helped to maintain the aesthetic value of many historic buildings.
For projects that fall outside the formal standards, which are of particular interest to architects, installers and property owners, it is important that Building Control signs off the development and the building’s insurers are happy to cover the lifting equipment.
Other directives and regulations
As if this were not comprehensive enough, lifts of all types installed in buildings need to adhere to the EC Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. This ensures all areas and risk assessments to machinery are considered, including relevant harmonised standards.
Finally, as part of the Equality Act 2010, Part M of Building Regulations 2010, provides very specific guidance on passenger lift design. This is essential reading for anyone considering disabled access within public buildings, providing detailed guidance on the size of doorways, positioning of buttons, vertical travel distances and even preferences on the colours of flooring.
In addition to Part M, it is important to include consideration of approaches to a building for disabled people. This aspect of the standard is outlined in BS8300-1:2018, and includes recommendations for the design of the external building environment including ramps and other means of access to buildings.
No simple task
While it is tempting to consider lift design and installation as a relatively simple task, this is a dangerous assumption. Unique buildings – especially those of a historic or architecturally significant nature – require specialist knowledge when it comes to lifts for disabled access or deliveries. We advise architects or building managers to take professional advice early to avoid embarrassment or costly remedial expenditure.