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Lift consultant v vertical transportation engineer - what's the difference?

Lifts By Graham Barker, Partner, Vertical Transportation – 08 November 2019

Two lift doors side by side against a white textured wall


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

Graham Barker

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Bob Hall standing in a blue shirt against a white background and a line art landscape drawing

Bob Hall

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

Wayne Oliver

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In the UK lift consultants have been in existence for more than 40 years. Over more recent years the term vertical transportation (VT) engineer (or consultant) has come into more general use and there is a degree of interchangeability between them.

What is a VT Consultant?

The term vertical transportation or VT consultant (or engineer) is born from the building design team for construction projects. Here the VT engineer will be responsible for working with the architect, fire, structural and electrical engineers to develop the vertical transportation requirements for the building and incorporating them within the building design in a coordinated way. In this context vertical transportation has its widest meaning and covers all types of vertical transportation equipment, such as:

  • Low rise accessibility lifts / wheelchair platforms
  • Goods platforms – attended and unattended
  • Passenger and passenger/ goods lifts
  • Dedicated goods lifts
  • Firefighting lifts
  • Evacuation lifts
  • Scenic or panoramic lifts
  • Escalators
  • Moving walkways
  • Cycle lifts
  • Dumb waiters / food server lifts
  • Trolley / bin lifts
  • Anything else needed within the building to move goods or people vertically between levels.

For taller buildings there may also be a requirement for a façade access engineer to develop the engineering requirements relating to the cleaning and maintenance of vertical sections of the building, such as the external façade and in some cases internal atria facades.

What is a Lift Consultant?

The term lift consultant has typically been more associated with the lifts of a building after its original construction with typical duties involving:

  • Monitoring and managing the lift maintenance company on behalf of the client
  • Advising on options for lift upgrades or minor refurbishments
  • Developing the specification for lift replacement, major modernisation or minor repair works when equipment is reaching the end of its life
  • Providing specialist knowledge and technical advice to the client with respect to lifts – often overseeing / project managing lift works and confirming their satisfactory completion.

Within the consultancy marketplace there are many more lift consultants than VT consultants, and even fewer consultants who offer all services including the VT building design, and the in operation building lifecycle services of the lift consultant.

Why use a lift consultant / escalator consultant / VT Engineer?

Now that we understand the different terminology used, we can explore in greater detail what VT engineers and lift consultants do, and why you might need or want one.

Both VT Engineers and lift consultants are specialists in their field of interest. The majority will have worked for several years for a lift company to develop their specialist knowledge. Depending upon a specific individuals background and career experiences they are also likely to be a specialist within a specific element of lifts (or escalators).

For example those with lift commissioning or lift design experience are most likely to be vertical transportation engineers involved in the development of specifications for lifts, whereas those with a more practical maintenance engineer background would typically be more involved in the lift consultancy field using their knowledge to assist with in-operation issues and assessments of lifts and escalators. Due to the specialist nature of the lift and escalator industry it is entirely possible that over the course of a career (prior to becoming a consulting engineer) an individual may have worked in several different areas of the lift and escalator and therefore have developed their breadth of knowledge.

To conclude when looking for a VT Engineer or Lift Consultant for your project or building, take a moment to think about what you are looking to gain from the consultants’ involvement, and ensure that your chosen consultant has the specialist knowledge and experience you need.

I lead the Cundall vertical transportation team and we offer both VT and lift consultancy within the UK and globally, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can be of assistance.