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What is a lift survey and what are the different types?

Lifts By Graham Barker, Partner, Vertical Transportation – 11 January 2023

Man at the bottom of lift shaft working on cables


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

Graham Barker

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A lift or escalator survey can provide access to a wealth of information for building owners and those responsible for vertical transportation equipment within a building, but it is worth noting that not all surveys are the same. Before commissioning a survey of any type of lift or escalator, it is important to consider the impartiality and independence of your appointed surveyor and the type of survey identified as being most suited to your requirements

Independence is the key factor. Our vertical transportation team strongly advises having a lift or escalator survey conducted by a company who is totally independent of any specific equipment manufacturer or contractor. In this way, they can advise you on the most appropriate solution to your problem from all the available options from the vertical transportation industry.

Frequently, we see survey reports from companies who are neither impartial nor independent; such surveys often take the form of a list of products the surveyor would like to sell to their client (for example, when the materials can be sold more profitably) and often don’t fulfil the original intention of the survey. Employing an experienced and independent lift consultant to undertake your survey will provide you with a balanced, informed, experienced ‘whole of market’ viewpoint.

Our team saw a recent example of this for a NHS client. Their contracted lift maintenance provider was advising that the only solution to a recurring problem was to replace the lift control system at a cost of over £30,000. By engaging with us to assess the issue and involving the right technical experts from our team, the lift problem was resolved for under £500, less than 2% of the anticipated budget cost.

The different types of ‘Lift Survey’ explained
There are many different types of lift or escalator surveys based upon the specific client objective, our team can customise these accordingly. When engaging a consultant to undertake a lift survey it is important to clearly explain the survey aims to ensure that these are met and are therefore measurable. Often, some of the types of survey will be merged as they do not exist in isolation, or one survey may lead to subsequent reports.

The main types of lift condition survey are as follows:

Maintenance quality audit – an assessment of the quality of the lift or escalator contractors’ maintenance work. This may be required for regulatory compliance assessment of your contractor (such as in healthcare of housing), or as good practice to confirm that your contractor is fulfilling their obligations safely and diligently.

Condition survey – the assessment of current condition, wear and tear, environment or building impacts on the installed vertical transportation equipment.

Reliability investigation – a survey to identify potential root causes for poor reliability or repeated breakdown of lifts or escalators. Such surveys should also aim to identify corrective actions or further fault-finding processes to resolve the issue.

Lifecycle assessment – the assessment of the current stage of a lift or escalator lifecycle, and the remaining lifespan before any capital investment is needed. This type of survey is often used to support short and long-term capital budget planning.

Compliance survey – an assessment of the compliance of a lift or escalator with all the latest standards or best practice. Where applicable, this should also reference BS EN 81-80 rules for the improvement of safety of existing passenger and goods passenger lifts. Whilst there is often no legal requirement in the UK to upgrade installed equipment to the latest standards applied for new equipment, in many cases clients and operators choose to do so for the safety and comfort of users.

Refurbishment/replacement options survey – to identify the potential options when refurbishing or replacing your lift or escalator. This could include a minor refurbishment to extend equipment life or address issues, or a major refurbishment/replacement to extend lifespan by 20+ years.

Performance assessment – a survey to measure the performance of your lift. This is often used to assess the lifts’ suitability for future changes to the building usage or population, typically when coupled with a lift traffic analysis calculation. It can also be used to assess if performance of the equipment is degrading or being reduced by the maintenance provider due to an underlying issue.

Feasibility survey – a survey typically carried out when major works are planned to a building and the design team wish to understand the potential options for the retention or modification of the vertical transportation to suit the building redevelopment. A regular trend is the addition of more floors to an existing building or turning roof space into an occupied building area (such as a roof terrace). A feasibility survey assesses the potential options or feasibility of the planned design.

Dilapidation survey – an assessment of lift or escalator condition at the end of a lease of a building to assess any dilapidation works required by the exiting tenant.

Completion survey – a survey following completion of major or minor works by a contractor. This is to assess that the works have been fully completed in accordance with the specification and to the required quality and workmanship standards, snagging and documenting any deviation. Such surveys sometime occur immediately following the works completion, and then again before any warranty or defects periods for the works expire.

Fire safety – lift features survey – a survey to identify the features of a lift to assist with fire service operations or building evacuations. Such surveys assist building managers in the development of their plans to comply with the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 as applicable to lifts from 23 January 2023. You can find further information here.

Accident investigation – an investigative survey following an accident to assist in identifying the causes or contributory factors to the accident, and what preventative measures could be taken to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence.

Specialist surveys – other types of specialist surveys of lifts and escalators also exist and can be appropriate for specific situations such as hospitals (according to HTM 08-02).

So, if you think your lifts needs surveying but you’re not sure which one suits your needs, get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.