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Lift shaft ventilation: Understanding the new legislation

European standards By Graham Barker, Partner, Vertical Transportation – 23 November 2018

View of a wide multi-lift elevator shaft from below


Graham in an open collar shirt and suit jacket against a dark wall

Graham Barker

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In 2014 the new European standards for lifts were introduced. EN81-20 and EN81-50.

The requirements for lift shaft ventilation have been revised and are as follows.

  • Shaft ventilation is now the responsibility of the building designer.
  • The lift manufacturer must provide all the necessary information about the lift equipment to the building designer, essentially the heat output of lift components.
  • This approach facilitates energy efficient building design, where ventilation requirements are determined based on the most energy-efficient solution, while at the same time considering working conditions for engineers working in the lift shaft and the comfort of the passengers in the lift car.

Do I need to ventilate my lift shaft?

We are often asked this seemingly simple question by architects and other members of the building design team. The change to the lift standards EN81-20 and EN81-50 which became mandatory for all lifts handed over in Europe after 31 August 2017, introduced a positive change to the requirements for lift shaft ventilation - essential requiring that the building designers determine the requirements based upon the individual building design.

Previous versions of the building regulations and lift standards had placed a requirement for a lift shaft to contain a vent,this requirement was removed many years ago.

What do the current standards say?

Here are a few useful extracts from EN81-20

  • the dissipation of heat from the components / equipment of the lift which would require ventilation of the well and/or the machinery space / location of equipment;
  • The well, machinery spaces and pulley rooms shall not be used to provide ventilation of rooms other than those belonging to the lift.
  • Ventilation shall be such that the motors and equipment, as well as electric cables, etc., are protected from dust, harmful fumes and humidity.
  • The requirement to suitably ventilate the well, and machine rooms is often contained within local building regulations, either specifically, or as a general requirement as would be given for any building space where machinery is installed or people are accommodated

Essentially the regulations require the lift manufacturer to provide the building designer with details of the heat output from the lift equipment, such that the requirements for ventilation can be assessed by the building designer in accordance with the overall building design.

The relevance of lift design

In a traditional traction or hydraulic lift where the lift machine / hydraulic equipment and control equipment are located within a separate machine room, and not in the lift shaft, there are minimal sources of heat generation within the lift shaft itself.

Moving away from the typical traction machine room and instead housing the lift machine, control system, and electrical drive within the lift shaft means there is no requirement for a separate machine room. This saves significant space within a buildings design and has been a step change in the design of lift systems. However, this now means that the heat generating equipment of a lift is located within the lift shaft.

The amount of heat generated will depend upon the specific equipment installed, the usage of the lift, and the building environment.

So, what's the answer - do I need to ventilate my lift shaft?

All of this means that there is no simple answer to the question of whether a lift shaft does or does not require ventilation.

Some of the reasons not to provide ventilation to a lift shaft are:

  • A vent allows the escape of heat from the building, reduce the buildings efficiency and increasing building heating costs
  • A vent requires maintenance; it may become damaged and require replacement - in which case access and maintenance of the vent needs to be considered within the building design
  • A poorly installed, or degraded vent may allow the ingress of water or vermin into the lift shaft and building - with the associated potential costs of damage to the building or lift equipment

What should I do?

  • Consider that you may need a lift shaft vent in the early stages of building design
  • The position of a potential lift shaft vent should consider the prevailing wind direction to minimise potential for wind driven rain to enter the vent
  • Arrange for the building designers to be provided with the lift manufacturers heat output data to enable the relevant calculations to take place

I hope this quick simple summary of the requirement has been useful.