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Key design considerations for lifts and escalators in offices – Part 2 Making the right choices during lift design

Lifts By Wayne Oliver, Principal Consultant, Vertical Transportation – 22 March 2021

White office corridor with black shiny lift doors


Wayne in an open collar shirt stood in an open plan office

Wayne Oliver

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Part one covered lift design considerations affecting building layout and space take.

There are many key design considerations for lifts and escalators in offices which are consistent across all projects, in Part 2 we will focus on making the right choices during lift design and cover:

  • Marketability of the development to future purchasers or tenants
  • Energy efficiency and sustainability
  • Aesthetic appearance
  • Location of building facilities such as cycle storage and showers
  • Security and building operation

Marketability of the development to future purchasers or tenants

Buildings are not built for the sake of it, they are built for a specific purpose often as a financial investment - a means to create value by selling the completed building for more than it cost to construct it, or perhaps leasing the space in the building to one or more tenants and receiving income for many years. As such, it is key that buildings are marketable and attractive to a future purchaser or tenant.

Some of the ways that a buildings lift system can support the marketability or attractiveness of a building are by offering:

  • Great performance
  • Flexibility for changes of use e.g. to suit single or multiple tenants
  • Resilience in the event of lift breakdowns or removal of lifts from service for fit-out purposes
  • Energy efficiency often assessed through BREEAM ENE06 (in the UK) or LEED in other areas of the world
  • Attractive finishes / aesthetics

N.B – Resilience in the above context means that if a lift is out of service the remaining lifts are still able to handle peak time passenger demand without excessive lift waiting times.

Energy efficiency and sustainability

Lifts and escalators can account for a significant proportion of an office’s energy usage, it is therefore essential that all lifts minimise energy use, are as energy efficient as possible, and are sustainable.

Some of the key design considerations for energy-efficient and sustainable lifts and escalators are:

  • Consider energy use when designing the vertical transportation system
  • Use the most efficient lift configuration and lift control system type
  • Are sustainable energy sources available which could be used to power the lift? Some smaller lifts can be powered by their own solar power source
  • Minimise power consumption when not in use
  • Maximise energy efficiency in use
  • Regenerate and re-use power from the operation of the lift
  • Consider the whole building lifecycle and the ability of equipment to be sustainably updated over time
  • When refurbishing existing lifts consider opportunities to reuse existing elements to reduce increases in embodied carbon


When developing the aesthetic design of a lift interior there are essentially two options:

Manufacturers standard range of lift interior finishes

Lift manufacturers offer a wide range of options for lift interior finishes such as laminates, steels, back-painted glass, and many more. Selecting finishes from the standard ranges offer a multitude of lift interior design options, and importantly is likely to achieve a significant cost saving versus a bespoke lift interior.

Bespoke lift interior finishes

With a bespoke lift interior, a world of design options is available, but it’s important to understand that the options are not limitless, and several considerations and rules must still be complied with. Examples of some of these rules are that materials will need to be robust enough to not be damaged when the lift comes to a sudden halt in a safety stop, they must be resistant to flame and there are rules concerning wall material thickness. The weight of lift interior finishes add to the overall mass of the lift system and correspondingly increase the size of lift machinery and the operational energy consumption of the lift.

Location of building facilities

The location of building facilities such as cycle storage and restaurants can have a significant impact on a building’s lift strategy.

A simple office building, from a lift perspective, is one where all building users enter at the ground floor and all the building floors are located above ground. A single main entrance floor allows for much greater efficiency of the lift system and can reduce the lift requirements for a building, compared to the same building with two main entrance floors.

Modern building designs have introduced building features which impact the lift system design and these features will often require additional lift capacity e.g.

  • Basement lift access
  • Multiple ground floors
  • Attractions on upper floors such as restaurants
  • Accessible rooftops
  • Event spaces which may attract high volumes of occupants over a short period

On a recent project we suggested relocating the cycle store facilities from the basement to the ground floor, which meant the building had one less lift. This provided a capital cost saving of over £250,000, and increased the buildings net lettable area and therefore future rental income.

Why do these building features increase lift requirements?

A good analogy to understand why these features can require additional lift capacity and a greater number of lifts for the building, is to imagine a lift system to be like the starting grid of a racetrack. The ground floor is like the starting line and the floors of the building being the finish line. If some building users access the lift from a basement level (for example from a cycle store or shower area) then it’s like the race car having to reverse away from the starting line to pick up passengers from the pit lane, before then setting off from the back of the grid. Similarly, if there are multiple building entrances at different levels (e.g. some user access at ground and others at upper ground) it’s like the race car setting off and then having to stop before the first corner to pick up passengers and then set off again.

Security and building operation

Lifts are generally a very poor line of security as its easy to tailgate a person if you don’t have the correct security credentials. However, lifts can be a way to promote building users to conform to operational rules.

Integration of lifts with access control or turnstiles can define the primary lift journey for a user making it quick and easy for them to take their most regular journey, and restricting their ability to access other building floors, for instance, the floors of other tenants.

For example, in a building with turnstiles and destination-controlled lifts, a building user would be provided with a swipe card which provides access to the areas of the building to which they have authorisation and is programmed with the floor of the building that they work. On arrival at the building, their card provides access into the building, and when passing through the turnstiles it not only allows their access but informs the lifts of their arrival and calls a lift to take them to their floor completely contactless.

Lift consultancy for office developments

There are many ways in which a lift consultant can help to improve the value and operation of office buildings, through the thoughtful specification of the vertical transportation equipment.

No two projects are the same, if you’d like to discuss how the Cundall vertical transportation team can assist you with your office design, construction or refurbishment project please get in touch.

This series of blogs aimed to provide some thoughts, coupled with experience from previous projects, to assist with the reader’s future building designs and the associated lift and escalator design considerations.

No two projects are the same, if you’d like to discuss how the Cundall vertical transportation team can assist you with your office design, construction or refurbishment project please get in touch.

Part 3 will cover lift design for the redevelopment of existing office buildings.