Lift Requirements for Flats and Tower Blocks

A helpful guide on specifying lifts for multi-storey housing developments, from fire fighting lifts to refurbishing existing lifts in a block of flats; the choices are endless, so read on to find out the options and considerations.

Tower block lifts – a fascinating history

Multi-story housing developments were restricted to seven storeys before the days of elevators. Wealthy people lived on the ground floor, and the poorest people lived on the top floor and so had to climb the most stairs. Social standing reversed with the advent of lifts, the penthouse reserved for the wealthiest occupants.

High-rise housing became the order of the day post-war, and many of these developments still exist, refurbished, today. Adding lifts to communal areas was vital in developing modern high-rise buildings, as without them moving to high floors by staircases would have been too arduous. Today, lifts continue to play an essential part in a growing requirement for public and private housing.

Lift requirements in flats

A vertical lift should be provided for managed housing over two floors or more to ensure the accommodation is suitable for all occupants, including people with restricted mobility. If there are thirty or more individual units (flats) above the ground floor of the building, then two lifts to support access should always be considered. This is particularly important in larger blocks of flats where a lift being out-of-action can cause severe disruption to residents. As a lift company with over 150 years of experience, Stannah would always recommend installing at least two lifts as best practice for multi-story housing developments.

What types of lifts for tower blocks & flats might be applicable?

Every passenger lift and platform lift we manufacture and supply to the housing sector has the latest standards and will accommodate a person using a wheelchair, a parent and a child with a buggy or several standing people. 

Platform lifts can be supplied and installed in low-rise housing, where they are to be used infrequently by a small number of people and increasingly as an individual solution in a private dwelling. 

Part M of the Building Regulations recommends passenger lifts should always be the first choice. For taller or larger residential buildings, one or more passenger lifts should play the central role in moving people vertically; typically, these are 8 people or larger in line with building regulations and the people moving requirements. 

As part of this, the type of passenger lift requires careful consideration; for example, some lifts may also be used for fire fighting and evacuation purposes. 

There is also a rise in the installation of goods lifts, used to aid underground storage of bikes/bins in residential buildings - driven by a desire for Local Authorities to outline how waste is handled in their areas by waste management plans.

Specifying passenger lifts for multi-storey residential housing

Below are some of the key questions to enable you to decide which type of passenger lift you require:

1. How many lifts, and in what configuration do you require?

Design guidelines recommend two lifts for any building under BS8300 - Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment - Part 2: Buildings — Code of practice, this helps to enable access provision for all in the event of downtime due to servicing and maintenance or in the unlikely event of a lift failure. Depending on the number of floors, this may mean there is also a requirement for one of the lifts to be a fire-fighting lift.

2. Do you require a vandal-resistant finish?

Lifts should reflect their building, where there is a more robust requirement; vandal-resistant finishes or vandal-resistant lifts can play their part. There are two categories of vandal resistant lifts that are covered by the British Standard EN81-71: Vandal resistant lifts. This standard defines the testing methodology and the classification of lifts in terms of vandal resistance.

For any lift requiring a vandal resistant element, be it category 1 or category 2, primarily, the lift has more vandal resistant elements than a traditional passenger lift. These elements include (but are not limited to) the following: vandal-resistant and reinforced car and landing doors, finishing the lift car in vandal-resistant heavy-duty stainless steel cladding patterns such as 5WL, leather or linen, vandal resistant lighting and car roofs built to resist more than 150kg, IP54 push buttons, vandal-resistant displays and car operating panels. 

Vandal-resistant lifts category 2 provide twice as much effort to control crushing, shearing, cutting, trapping, impact hazard, electrical and thermal hazard in a lift where there may be occurrences of vandal resistance than a category 1 lift.


For example, at St John's Hill Peabody Housing Estate the lifts have been specified to match the heavy-duty demand of this environment, with the nine 8-person lifts are fitted with higher-grade stainless steel lift cars and Dewhurst push-button controls and a mix of Cat 1 and Cat 2 vandal-resistant lifts (shown above).

3. Do you require a luxury or bespoke finish?

Alternatively, do you require bespoke finishes and car sizes for a high-end housing project to ensure the lift properly reflects the investment of interior design? Here a luxury or bespoke finish, either in the form of a bare lift car clad to match the rest of the building, or glass, marble or wood-effect, helps add to the overall sale value.

Here the specifying consideration is ensuring your chosen finish conforms with fire resistance guidelines. It's worth noting that a heavy floor or wall finish can affect the lifting weight of the passenger lift car, e.g. marble floor so it's always worth discussing this with your chosen lift supplier at the early planning stages of a project.

Below is an example of jade-green gloss perspex panels and carpeted floors, flowing through from the landings to ensure the lift interior reflects the development’s design aesthetic at King Edward VII private housing project (shown below). 



4. Do you require a fire fighting lift?

As a default, all new passenger lifts are equipped to conform to British Standard EN81-73: Behaviour of lifts in the event of fire. This standard means the lift is connected to the fire alarm system and in the event of a fire, the lift travels to the ground floor, the doors remain open and no further calls are taken. This enables all passengers of the lift to evacuate the building, and firefighters to ensure there is no one trapped in the lift car.

This is very different to a fire fighting lift. Fire fighting lifts are lifts designed to have additional protection, with controls that enable them to be used under the direct control of the fire and rescue service in fighting a fire. For housing, a fire fighting lift is required if the building has a floor more than 18m above or more than 10m below fire service vehicle access level. 

British Standard EN81-72 compliant firefighter lifts feature trap doors and ladders for rescue operations, additionally, electrical components in the shaft and on the car are protected against splashing water. Fire fighting lifts have very specific safety requirements and the presence of fire fighting controls within a lift does not necessarily mean that it is a fire fighting lift.

In some circumstances, a fire fighting lift may be provided as part of a management plan for evacuating people. In such cases, the lift installation may need to be appropriately located, protected and also contain a number of safety features that are intended to ensure the lift remains usable for evacuation purposes during the fire.

5. Are you planning to use the lift as part of your evacuation plans?

In general, it isn't appropriate to use lifts when there is a fire in the building because there's always the danger of people being trapped in a lift that has become immobilized due to the fire, hence why the British Standard EN81-73 is in place.

However, in some circumstances, a lift can be provided as part of a management plan for evacuating people and studies have shown they can cut evacuation times by up to 40%. Guidance on the design and use of evacuation lifts is given in BS EN81-76: Evacuation of disabled persons using lifts and where a fire fighting lift has been provided, this can be utilised as part of a management plan for evacuating disabled people.

6. Do you require a lift to aid the transportation of waste?

There is a rise in the installation of goods lifts, used to aid underground storage of bikes/bins in residential buildings. Local council guidelines for waste management often state the goods lift must be large enough to accommodate a person, as well as at least one waste container, this is where an attended goods lift or passenger and goods lifts can play a part.

Your chosen lift supplier will be able to advise you of all the types of lifts available for your building based on the questions above - helping you to create the perfect passenger lift specification after careful analysis of your building users, frequency of travel and budget.

Looking to incorporate a lift into your project?

To enable easy specification and see if a lift can fit in your project why not visit our technical area, where there's a wealth of product information, specifications, CAD blocks and more.

How can we help? 

Whatever the lift requirement, we can be certain that the pressure for more housing will increase with our population and the solution found vertically, increasing the requirement for lifts. We will continue to meet the needs for accessibility for everyone in the entire built environment, with housing at the forefront of our market areas.

We work in both private and public housing, forming strong relationships with leading contractors for design and build tenders, working with architects and clients in traditional procurement routes, and liaising directly with Housing Associations to provide lifts based on the needs of the tenants.

Additionally, our home lifts are helping thousands of homeowners every day. New town-house style homes with several floors and high specification homes are increasing the need for lifts in the home. Once lifts for high-end housing were the ultimate luxury, often accompanied by the convenience of a service lift or dumbwaiter. Today these lifts are increasingly part of a luxury specification or a lifestyle choice, future-proofing any home - why not read more about the rising trend of lifts for houses. 

Who knows what the future will bring, for business, for homeowners and for housing managers, Why not find out more about the work we do within the housing sector?

find out more about the housing sector

With nearly 50,000 installations across the UK and over 92,000 units in our service portfolio, we offer a wide range of lift solutions and services to move people and goods. Take a look at our product range or simply get in touch.

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