Ultimate Elevator Upgrading Guide

A building with numerous storeys can be traversed vertically by people or goods using an elevator. However, one of the most intricate equipment systems in contemporary structures is the elevator.

When weighing the advantages and disadvantages of selecting an elevator system, building owners who are considering the integration of elevators into their projects frequently want assistance. This article is intended to assist folks who are thinking about doing an elevator project and are attempting to comprehend the fundamentals of modern elevator systems with a focus on passenger elevators. To decide what’s ideal for your project, speak with a design expert as the information is just meant to be used as general reference.

Elevators demand the integration of every significant building system, including the structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire alarm, and fire suppression systems, unlike other building equipment.

Why do I require a lift?

Transportation of persons; ADA compliance; accessibility; fire safety; and evacuation

Having an elevator makes sense in a variety of circumstances, and it is also necessary in a variety of circumstances in order to comply with building codes. The most frequent (and obvious) justification for desiring an elevator is to conveniently transfer people or goods. Aside from being convenient, an elevator could be needed to comply with building codes and make sure your building is accessible to people with impairments. An accessible route can be made available for buildings that are two to four levels above grade using ramps, stairs, or an elevator that has been specially engineered. Most of the time, an elevator is needed for accessibility if a building has four or more storeys above grade. Elevators may also be necessary in high-rise structures to assist fire fighters in an emergency or to aid occupants in evacuating the building using specialized occupant evacuation elevators.

Which type of elevator do I require?

Elevator systems need to be carefully chosen depending on a number of factors, such as those mentioned in this article. Before going into great detail on elevator systems, let’s first go over a few straightforward situations that many building owners will encounter. Assume that the building owner only considers cost and technical viability or practicality when choosing an elevator system to transport people or light objects vertically through the structure. Given these fundamental presumptions, you can typically choose an elevator system type based on the number of stories served as follows:

  • two to three floors: hydraulic elevator (holed or hole-less)
  • four floors Holed hydraulic elevator or traction elevator without a machine room
  • 5 to 25 floors Traction elevator without a machine room
  • 25 floors or more: Traction elevator in a machine room

Depending on the floor-to-floor height of the particular building and the elevator manufacturer used, the number of stories served in a given situation may be a little bit more or less than indicated above. The required speed, traffic analysis, noise needs, ride quality, load requirements, energy use, life-cycle cost, maintenance requirements, building types, and other considerations can all have an impact on the final elevator choice. But this is a terrific starting point for a lot of building owners. The interested building owner can read more about this topic in this article.

Terms to understand while talking about elevators:


This is the device used to transport people and goods vertically inside a structure; it is also referred to as a cab. The car moves vertically within the hoistway while being propelled by an elevator machine system and being guided by rails.


The vertical enclosure through a building that houses the elevator car or cars is also known as a lift parts shaft.


a location inside a hoistway that is situated between the level of the hoistway and the lowest floor landing the elevator serves. The pit serves as a storage area for crucial elevator components and provides the space required for the elevator to operate correctly and safely.

Travel Altitude

the distance that an elevator car must travel in order to serve a building’s lowest and highest landings. The only difference between this and the amount of floors served is that different buildings have different floor-to-floor heights. Therefore, a preferable marker is the actual journey height.


an area inside a hoistway that lies between the ceiling of the hoistway and the highest floor landing the elevator serves. In order to accommodate elevator equipment and to provide the space needed for the elevator to operate correctly and safely, overhead height is necessary.

Hold Time

the period of time starting when you first call the elevator before it responds.


a set of two or more elevators that are all accessed via the same call station.

Lifting System

A comprehensive system, encompassing architectural, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, technology, fire prevention, and fire suppression support systems, is needed for an elevator conveyance system to operate in accordance with building codes.

What kinds of elevators exist?

Passenger elevators, freight elevators, limited use limited application elevators (commonly known as LULA’s), and residential elevators are the four types of elevators that are currently available.

Small loads in passenger elevators, 25 to 55 square feet

A passenger elevator, as its name suggests, is made to transport people or small, lightweight items for purposes of convenience, accessibility, or life safety. Normal load ratings for passenger elevators range from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, while some can be customized to have higher load ratings. These weight ratings correspond to car proportions that range from 25 to 55 square feet in terms of size.

Size of freight elevator depends on cargo, big industrial loads, and designed to accommodate equipment being transported

Only large or heavy industrial cargo and equipment are moved using freight elevators. When conveying automobiles or large industrial equipment, freight elevators might be massive, or they can be around the same size as a passenger elevator. When moving lightweight supplies in private building spaces, building owners occasionally mistakenly refer to passenger elevators as freight elevators, but real freight elevators cannot be used in the same way as passenger elevators. Typically, freight elevators include distinct buttons for calling the car, opening and closing the doors, etc. To allow the user more control over the elevator operations, a freight elevator is, in other words, less automated. You have probably seen a freight elevator if you have ever seen an elevator door that opens vertically, has a cage door, and has tough but ugly finishing. Additionally, freight elevator specifications must be made to accommodate the anticipated loads. This involves taking into account how a cab is loaded (such as using a large forklift), as well as whether or not the weight on the elevator platform is distributed uniformly or eccentrically.

Lula Elevator is a compact, cheap, passenger-style elevator that can go up to three stories. It has a modest overhead speed of 30 feet per second and less building-related restrictions.

A LULA elevator is a compact, passenger-style elevator designed for specific uses. A LULA typically has a cab only big enough for one wheelchair and can only reach up to two or three stories. In addition to being slow, LULAs only rise 30 feet per second. A LULA is operated similarly to a passenger elevator and has many of the same options, with the exception of its smaller size and limited capacity to serve a few levels. Because of their lower cost and less building-related constraints, such as shallow elevator pits and low overhead requirements, LULAs are frequently sought after.

Single-family homes alone, residential elevator, smallest of all elevators

The smallest of all elevators, the residential elevator is only designed for use in private single-family homes. Typically, residential elevators are erected to make a home accessible for elderly or disabled people.

The installation, operation, maintenance, and inspection requirements for each of the aforementioned elevator systems are governed by various building code regulations. Various building codes have regulations governing elevator systems. The main source of reference for those working in the design sector is specifically the ASME A17 codes.

Are the equipment and all passenger elevators the same?

Although there are various machine types available for passenger elevators, they all function similarly and must adhere to identical building code standards. The two most common machine kinds are traction and hydraulic.

Elevators with hydraulics

A hydraulic pumping unit is used in hydraulic elevators to force hydraulic fluid into a piston, which raises the car. In most situations, the pumping unit and/or control unit for hydraulic elevators must be housed in a compact chamber (about 75 square feet) that is located next to the hoistway. There are two types of hydraulic elevators: “holed” and “hole-less,” based on where the piston is placed. Each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.


  • low upfront cost and overhead
  • Time-tested, compact hoistway with simple maintenance access


  • competitive bids
  • low rate
  • noisy
  • least energy-efficient distance of travel

Elevators with traction

Traction elevators, as opposed to hydraulic elevators, use steel cables or steel reinforced belts attached to a vehicle and counterweight that are raised or lowered by a motor driven sheave. There are configurations for traction elevators with or without machine rooms:

Mechanical elevators

The traction machine and control equipment are kept in a separate room, which is often placed above the hoistway, in machine room type elevators. If your project can handle one, a machine room is the best option for controlling equipment temperature ranges, offering flexibility to meet most performance needs, and providing easy maintenance access. Elevators of the machine room type can reach as many floors as needed, up to 100 floors. The machine room type elevators are often the sole choice for serving extremely tall buildings with more than 25 stops because other elevator kinds are constrained in their range. The costs associated with providing the machine room and the potential aesthetic impact that a machine room or penthouse may have on the building when viewed from the outside are the main disadvantages of machine room elevators.


  • bid competition highest speed, riding quality, and distance traveled while being tested over time


  • initially more expensive penthouse needed a bigger hoistway
  • MRLs (Machine Room-Less) Elevators

Machine room-less elevators, or MRLs, have grown in popularity recently primarily due to the limitations of machine room elevators. A motor at the top of the hoistway is used in machine room-less elevators, which do not require an expensive or ugly machine room. These elevators use traction units that can be serviced from inside the hoistway and are modified for use in constrained places. The maintenance team must enter the hoistway at the landing above where the car is stopped, ride on top of the vehicle to the top of the hoistway, and then operate on the machinery from the top of the vehicle inside the hoistway. The use of machine room-less elevators has the problem of allowing this kind of access to the machine.

Additionally, even though a machine room is not necessary, most situations still need for a separate controller room that is around 50 square feet in size. Very tall buildings cannot make use of this type of design since machine room-less elevators can only be constructed up to about three hundred feet or 25 landings of travel distance depending on current technology.

Machine room-less elevators also have the disadvantage of being a relatively new technology in the United States, which has led to some snags with building inspectors and officials as a result of their market integration.


  • energy-efficient, no need for machine space, bid competitiveness, average speed, ride quality


  • wider hoistway, larger overhead, proprietary technology, and bad maintenance

What variations of finishes are offered for elevators?

For many building owners, finishes could rank among the top priorities. The sole feature of the elevator design that is open to personal preferences and taste is the finish choices, in contrast to the majority of performance-based elements. When used to emphasize company brands, ambiance, or innovation, elevator finishes can affect how a user perceives a building.

All manufacturers provide broad selections of standard finish options that are appropriate for the majority of applications. There are other user interfaces for operating panels and signals, flooring, wall and ceiling panels, and door finishes. Wood, plastic, metal, carpets, resilient flooring, and ceramic tiles are examples of common finishes. Naturally, a more expensive elevator system will be the outcome of the cost of better end finishes.


There are also businesses that specialize in reasonably priced semi-custom elevator finishes, which can be better suited for harmonizing with the architecture of old buildings.


Designers can also request completely unique finishes. The sky is the limit when it comes to originality and ingenuity with custom designs. But in order to comply with building codes, unique designs also need to be given extra thought regarding material weights, ventilation, flammability, and other related factors.

What else do I need to think about while choosing an elevator?

Shape | Service or Passenger Elevator

Numerous optional performance requirements could influence your choice. Vehicles can be either passenger or utility-shaped. Because they are deep and narrow, service form elevator cars (which should not be confused with freight elevators) make it simpler to fit long cleaning carts, supply carts, and other lightweight equipment within the elevator car. In contrast, passenger elevator cars are often shallow and wide, which makes it simpler to cycle people into and out of the front of the elevator without their being stuck far in the rear. The option of a rear door in addition to the front door is offered for both passenger and service car forms.

Hold Time

Wait times are an important factor to take into account in tall or busy buildings. The average person will wait for only around 30 seconds before getting impatient. The number of floors served, the amount of persons expected to call an elevator at a given moment, the elevator’s speed, its capacity, and the number of elevators in an elevator bank are all factors that affect wait times. A skilled design professional should conduct a traffic analysis for situations where wait times may be a significant influence.

Comfortable Ride

Considerations for riding comfort include a quiet, smooth ride with few bumps. When using hydraulic elevators, ride comfort is typically less favorable than when using traction elevators. In addition to being noisy, hydraulic elevators can occasionally emit an odor that some people might find repulsive. However, if the owner places a high priority on trip comfort, a traction-type elevator might be something to think about. To further improve ride quality, specific guides, rollers, and other similar equipment can be ordered.

Support for Structure

Another crucial factor is structural support. The selection of the elevator type can be influenced by the building’s construction because different elevator types distribute gravity loads differently. Once more, seeking advice from a design expert, such as a structural engineer, is a crucial first step.

Requirements for upkeep

Passenger elevators must undergo annual inspections and pass them in order to keep their elevator operation certificates current. Elevators also require maintenance in order to remain reliable and safe, just like all other building systems. You may need to take into account the manufacturer who currently holds the institutional elevator maintenance contract if you are an institutional client with numerous elevator systems to maintain. This might influence the new elevator system you like. Additionally, some businesses provide non-proprietary control systems that can be maintained by a wide range of vendors; nevertheless, mentioning these in writing when describing performance and warranty requirements requires extra care.

Modernization of elevators

A modernization project can be necessary for elevator systems that have been in use for ten years or more. All components of the current elevator system must normally be assessed for safety and compliance with the most recent building codes as part of elevator modernization projects. All the elements crucial to the elevator’s safe operation and performance are examined during evaluations. They also involve assessing essential engineering support systems and accessibility provisions. When the objective is to extend the lifespan of an existing elevator system, modernization projects are done.

Measurements and Bidding

Dimensional planning can be difficult when several elevator vendors are vying for the same business. Manufacturers of elevators may have quite different specifications for hoistway dimensions and machine or control space dimensions. In some circumstances, modifications to the construction documents are necessary to take the chosen manufacturer into account once a winning bidder has been chosen. It’s also possible that there won’t be enough room for a new elevator in an existing building, in which case it might be necessary to rule out manufacturers who need more complex systems. Additionally, using faster elevator speeds calls for deeper pits and higher overheads. In the event that the car significantly overtravels at the highest or lowest landings while moving at greater speeds, this will assure passenger safety. The construction code also stipulates that an ambulance stretcher must fit in at least one elevator in buildings where elevators connect four or more stories above ground. Larger cars and hoistways might be needed as a result of this requirement.

Are elevators advancing as quickly as other industries in terms of technology?

Elevator systems are continually incorporating new technologies. In comparison to early elevators, modern elevators have greatly improved. By introducing cutting-edge features, designing configurations that reduce procurement costs, and designing systems that function more effectively, manufacturers employ technology to achieve a competitive edge.

Regenerative drives on traction elevators are one example of this technology. Regenerative drives on elevators gather heat energy during braking and convert it to electrical energy that is delivered back to your building’s power grid, similar to how a hybrid car creates power through the braking system. Elevator makers are gradually programming their elevators to be energy efficient, just like they are doing with buildings. Energy can be saved by setting cab lights to turn off automatically when not in use, entering “sleep” modes, and configuring dispatch software to reduce the number of required stops. Additionally, all modern elevator systems use microprocessor-based controllers, which significantly improves energy efficiency compared to earlier elevator control systems.

Manufacturers who have created elevators that can travel both vertically and horizontally through a building are definitely pushing the envelope. Although this idea is still in testing, if it is successful, it could alter the field of elevator design. The Wonkavator from the film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a far cry from what we have today, but its innovation is a thrilling step in that direction.

Note that although the 2017 Ohio Building Code and associated reference standards served as the foundation for this article, these standards are subject to periodic revision. The most recent codes and standards for your project should be obtained from a design expert. To decide what’s ideal for your project, speak with a design expert as this material is just meant to be used as general reference.

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