An uplift in building accessibility

12 months on from the change in regulations covering the accessibility of buildings, as well as the standards covering lifts, Oliver Greening of LIFTEX 2019 looks at the implications for developers.

With regards to the current legal requirements for the accessibility of buildings, the most essential document is ‘Approved Document M Access to and use of buildings’, which was revised in 2015 and split into two sections.

The first is ‘Volume 1 – Dwellings’. This applies to new dwellings and those undergo- ing material alteration. It contains updated guidance and introduces three categories: Category 1 – Visitable dwellings; Category 2 – Accessible and adaptable dwellings; and Category 3 – Wheelchair user dwellings. It’s important to remember that the require- ments for category 1 always apply. Those for categories 2 and 3 apply when they are conditions of planning permission.

The second is ‘Volume 2 – Buildings’ other than dwellings – this now incorpo- rates previous amendments, but there have been no technical changes.

Understanding the categories

For category 1, ‘Visitable dwellings’, “a passenger lift is the most convenient way for many people to move from one storey to another”. The guidance lists the minimum requirements for a communal passenger lift which are met by a lift of type 1 complying with BS EN 81-70: 1,000 mm wide x 1,250 mm deep with 450 kg rated load 800 mm wide doors. However, it is recommended that at least a type 2 lift to BS EN 81-70 is specified (1,100 mm wide x 1,400 mm deep with 630 kg rated load), except where the constraints of an existing building prevent this.

For category 2, ‘Accessible and adaptable dwellings’, the guidance for communal lifts is that every passenger lift which gives access to the dwelling should be a type 2 lift conforming to BS EN 81-70. This car size, 1,100 mm wide x 1,400 mm deep, is recog- nised as the smallest which allows an accompanied wheelchair user to use the lift.

When it comes to category 3, ‘wheelchair user dwellings’, there are two groups of lifting appliances recommended. For the approach to the building, communal lifts should be a type 2 lift conforming to BS EN 81-70, as described for category 2 above. Within the building, the guidance differs according to whether the dwelling is wheel- chair adaptable or wheelchair accessible.

For wheelchair adaptable dwellings, it is sufficient to allow a space into which a lift could easily be installed, with minimum liftway dimensions of 1,100 mm x 1,650 mm. It should be noted that these dimensions, especially for more than two storeys, are likely to restrict the size of lifting appliance which could be incorporated at a later date.

For wheelchair accessible dwellings, a through-floor lift or lifting platform should be installed. Two types of lifting appliance are recognised (although a conventional passenger lift could be used):

  • A through floor homelift to BS 5900; suitable only for two floor applications
  • An enclosed lifting platform to BS EN 81-41; the guidance notes that the liftway dimensions stated may not be sufficient, so specifiers should allow for larger dimensions

For passenger lifts, Approved Document M references BS EN 81-70 Accessibility to lifts for persons including persons with disability has been revised. It now includes new car sizes which allow turning by passengers in wheelchairs, new requirements for the light reflectance values (LRVs) at lift controls, and will introduce requirements for lifts with destination control using new technology such as touch screens.

Draft New London Plan update

The latest Draft New London Plan was published at the end of November 2017 for consultation until 2 March 2018 and contains policies on inclusive design and accessible housing.

It also covers the importance of evacuation lifts in developments where lifts are installed. Evacuation lifts, along with lobbies and refuge areas, are protected from fire by the building struc- ture and provided with control measures to allow them to be used by attendants to evacuate people who would not be able to access the stairs.

The policy on accessible housing
would require new residential developments to include at least 10 per cent ‘wheelchair user dwellings’ and for all other new build dwellings to meet the Building Regulations requirements for ‘accessible and adaptable dwellings’.

Oliver Greening is show director of LIFTEX 2019, the exhibition dedicated to lifts, escalators and access products

Points to consider

The following checklist will prove useful when selecting products:

  • Make sure they are compliant with Building Regulations where applicable
  • Make sure they are compliant with product safety standards
  • Make sure the company you are using is registered with LEIA. Members are required to have quality system to ISO 9001 and health and safety systems to OHSAS 18001
  • Check fire resistance issues – while it is usual that any fire resistant enclosure for a lift or lifting appliances is part of the building, parts such as lift landing doors and the trap door/ under-floor seal of a homelift should be adequately fire rated
  • Consider what is happening with the sizes of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Are the lifts large enough to accommodate them? Look at building solutions to avoid mobility scooter impacts on lift landing doors