How can escalators and lifts be adapted in light of Covid19?

Our Principal Vertical Transport Engineer, Mark Keane, explains how lift use is changing in response to Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all areas of the industry and vertical transportation is no exception. Lifts are a crucial part of modern society - put simply, without them, there would be no tall buildings.

As Andreas Bernard, a professor of cultural studies at Germany’s Leuphana University and the author of Lifted: A Cultural History of Elevators puts it: “Elevators are the epicentre of urban density.”

But in times of uncertainty when health concerns are paramount, fear of small spaces and potential risks are high. This is where technological change and new thinking must come to the fore. Here are some of the key questions being asked right now.

Q. Safely moving people around tall buildings is more crucial than ever. What measures can I take in my building as a tenant?

A. Feeling uncertain about using lifts at this time is understandable. But for many, there’s simply no other option but to travel through their buildings via lifts. As a tenant, there are a number of things your building control and lift maintenance supplier can do to reduce your risk by changing how your lifts operate. 

  • First, you can modify the lift car loading function so the cars can only be loaded to 1, 2 or 3 people at a time (depending on the lift car size and shape). The “overload” function would make the lift inoperable once above the set load. 
  • If the building has destination control technology, hands-free calls may be an option via a mobile phone app, which would reduce the need for touching surfaces. This option however is dependent on the lift supplier and the type of system in place.
  • Another measure is altering the control of the lifts so that lifts don’t accept any inter-floor calls during transit. In this case, calls would only be accepted once the lift car is empty, with priority being given to the main entry floors. The performance would be obviously be affected, so this would require simulation studies to determine waiting times and the number of people that this new lift system can handle.

Q. What else can building operators do?

A. All buildings are built differently, but it’s possible to assess the impact on lift performance through simulation software (used by Vertical Transportation consultants and certain lift suppliers). You can add variables to the model to determine the number of minutes it will take to fill the building and the impact on performance at peak times. This depends on what percentage of the building is populated and how many people can travel in a lift at the same time (usually 1 to 3). This will help you determine the maximum building occupancy and maintain acceptable waiting times for passengers. This will reduce queues in lobby areas - something that is especially important now. 

Q. What other measures around people movement should we be considering?

A. There are a number of things we can do to reduce risk when it comes to escalator and lift use. These include:

  • Continuing to promote and facilitate flexible working conditions and home working to avoid the typical office morning and lunchtime peak periods.
  • Promoting the use of stairs through signage in the lobbies. Lobby segregation at the main entrance will clear pathways to the stairs, reducing groups of people and maintaining the two-meter rule with clear floor markings.
  • Promoting stair use for inter-floor traffic (travel between floors) at all times.
  • Introducing air purifiers incorporating filters in lift cars may also be an option.

Q. What does the next six months look like for a vertical transportation consultant?

A. With a greater importance being placed on health and safety, VT is an area that’s gaining more attention. For us at chapmanbdsp, this is a busy time. Going forward, we will be analysing the impact of Covid-19 on lift performance within buildings for all of our clients and future tenants, expanding on the points outlined above.

For more information on how best to light your office workspace please contact Mark (pictured right).

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How can escalators and lifts be adapted in light of Covid19?