Elevator Car Sizes

Over the last several years, a major issue of concern with regard to inside dimensions of elevator car sizes has been a topic of hot discussion. Two different areas of concern must be met; wheelchair access and stretcher access. Typically, elevators provided with side opening doors do not pose a problem with meeting these requirements. It is when an elevator is provided with center opening doors that a more careful selection must be made.

Wheelchair Access: Every elevator must meet the intent of the ADAAG regulations
for the accessibility of a wheelchair. ADAAG Regulations as amended January 1998, Article 4.10.9 indicates the following:

    4.10.9 Floor Plan of Elevator Cars. The floor area of elevator cars shall provide space for wheelchair users to enter the car, maneuver within reach of controls, and exit from the car. Acceptable door opening and inside dimensions shall be as shown in Fig. 22. The clearance between the car platform sill and the edge of any hoistway landing shall be no greater than 1-1/4 in (32 mm).

The letter of the ADAAG regulation and Fig. 22 dictates that when an elevator is provided with center opening doors, the minimum inside dimension of the elevator must be 6'-8" wide by 4'-3" deep. The industry standard platform size for nearly all manufacturers is
7' 0" wide by 5'-1" deep for the 2500 pound capacity elevator; 5'-6" deep for 3000 Pound capacity and 6'-2" deep for 3500 pound capacity. These configurations will allow a maximum of 1/2" to 3/4" of interior wall finishes on each side and rear wall to maintain a minimum inside ADA width of 6'-8". The clear front to back dimension will be 4'-3", 4'-7" and 5'-3" for the respective capacity. Should the design of the interior wall finish require more than 3/4"-7/8", the inside clear dimension will be less than 6'-8" when using the industry standard platform configuration. The elevator inside dimension will therefore be in violation of the written letter of ADAAG Regulations.

ADAAG Regulations Article 2.2 "Equivalent Facilitation" reads:

    2.2* Equivalent Facilitation. Departures from particular technical and
    scoping requirements of this guideline by the use of other designs and technologies are permitted where the alternative designs and technologies
    used will provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability
    of the facility.

Based on this Article 2.2, one would surmise that it is acceptable to have any inside elevator size and door configuration that would provide equivalent facilitation for the accessibility of a wheelchair user. Figure 3a of ADAAG (attached) indicates that the minimum wheelchair turning space is a 60" diameter circle. Figure 3b of ADAAG (attached) indicates a square of 60" by 60" when used in a T-shaped space that is 36" at the top and stem. Figure 3b most closely resembles the configuration that would apply to equivalent facilitation within an elevator.

An industry standard 3500 pound capacity elevator utilizing 42" center opening doors with an outside platform dimension of 7'-0" wide by 6'-2" deep and utilizing an interior millwork wall finish thickness of 1 3/4" on each wall, will yield an inside car dimension of approximately 6'-6" wide by 5'-2" deep. These dimensions will exceed the minimum requirements outlined in Figures 3a and 3b.

Since ADAAG is a Civil Rights Act and not a code, it is difficult to conclude if the equivalent facilitation rule would survive in a court of law. It is recommended that legal counsel review this approach before moving forward.

Stretcher Access: The 1997 Uniform Building Code (UBC) Section 3003.5 stipulates the following minimum requirements for stretcher access in case of medical emergencies.

    3003.5 Stretcher Requirements. In all structures four or more stories in
    height, at least one elevator shall be provided with a minimum clear distance between walls or between walls and door excluding return panels, of not less than 80" by 54", and a minimum distance from wall to return panel of not less than 51" with a 42" side slide door, unless otherwise designed to accommodate an ambulance type stretcher 76" by 24" in the horizontal position.

    In buildings where one elevator does not serve all floors, two or more elevators may be used. The elevators shall be identified by the international symbol for emergency medical services (Star of Life). The symbol shall not be less than 3 inches and placed inside on both sides of the hoistway door frame. The symbol shall be placed no lower than 78" from the floor level or higher than 84" from floor level.

If the minimum size car and door configuration as indicated in 3003.5 is provided, the code requirement is met. If any other car size and door configuration is provided, it must be demonstrated that it will accommodate the ambulance-type stretcher of 76" by 24" in the horizontal position. The intent of "horizontal position" is keeping the stretcher horizontal at all times. This includes rolling the stretcher through the doorway without tipping it.

If the project is provided with a hospital shaped service elevator, serving all floors, and where the stretcher can be rolled straight into the elevator, compliance is met. Where only passenger shaped elevators are provided for the project a word of caution is offered.

The center opening door configuration is of great concern when utilizing industry standard car sizes and door opening widths. Any capacity under 4000 pounds of a manufacturers standard package unit, will not provide the stretcher accessibility in accordance with the code. The 3500 pound capacity elevator provides an inside car dimension of 6'-8" wide by 5'-3" deep and is provided with a 3'-6" center opening door. The inside car dimension will accommodate the stretcher, however, with this configuration, the stretcher must be tipped through the door opening which does not comply with code.

The attached figure of the Stretcher Accessible Options is a study of the 3500 pound capacity elevator with various platform sizes and door sizes to demonstrate the maneuverability of the stretcher into the elevator. As demonstrated in this sketch, the code compliant options are:

    Standard Size 2500 Pound Capacity Elevator With Side Opening Door.

    Standard Size Car with Non-Standard Door Opening (6'-8" wide by 5'-3" deep
    car inside with 4'-0" door). These dimensions allow for a maximum interior wall finish of 1/2" to 3/4" on each wall.

    Non-Standard Size Car with a Standard Size Door Opening (7'-0" wide by 5'-5" deep car inside with 3'-6" door). These dimensions allow for a maximum interior wall finish of 1/2" to 3/4" on each wall.

The only option that fulfills the stretcher accessible elevator, while utilizing a center opening door and a manufacturers standard platform/door size configuration is a 4000 pound capacity passenger elevator (not shown). This elevator provides a platform size that produces an inside car dimension of 7'-8" wide by 5'-3" deep and a standard 4'-0" wide center opening door.

So why not just design the special sized non-standard 3500 pound capacity elevator?

Manufacturer's have developed standard sized cars to produce a product that is most economical from a manufacturing aspect. Staying within a manufacturers standard package size provides the most competitive bidding environment which benefits the developer or owner of the project. Designing around a product that is not standard minimizes the competition. During the bidding process, bidders may either take exception to the non-standard size (which places the elevator in non-compliance with code) or offer the non-standard size for a substantial cost increase over their standard product. The end result; non-compliance with code or additional cost.

So what is the best way to proceed?

If aesthetics is of no great concern, design at least one elevator that serves all floors around a standard size package with side opening doors. The down side of this choice is that the door operation is slower and must be factored into the traffic analysis of the project to ensure acceptable service will still prevail.

If it is desirable to utilize a center opening door, the 4000 pound capacity passenger elevator with a center opening door will encourage competitive bidding and produce a code compliant installation. The down side of the 4000 pound capacity elevator is the additional building core space that will be increased due to the wider platform size. An additional 1'0" of hoistway width is required for each 4000 pound elevator when compared to the standard 3500 pound elevator.

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