An uplift for inclusion


Mark Chapman of Stannah Lifts discusses the specification options available to provide access for all users of new and retrofit schemes using space-saving platform lifts

Platform lifts are governed by the Machinery Directive (note: not the Lift Directive) which means they are restricted to a maximum speed of 0.15 m/s. (approximately 20 seconds per floor). Most platform lifts have continuous pressure controls; apart from cabin models. 

There’s a wide array of platform lifts in the market, but these types of lift can be grouped into five categories.

Open platform lifts

Also called step lifts, these are typically used over short rises, they vertically move user(s) on a guarded platform from one level to another. They travel up to 3 metres and are best where there is a small change in floor level or a mezzanine level. They are most often used where it’s not possible or practical to provide a ramp.

Enclosed platform lifts

This is the most common type of platform lift installed. The lifts are composed of a moving platform and control panel moving inside it. As users travel up or down on the platform they are able to see the inside of the structure. These lifts typically serve up to two or three floors but can go up to five floors, or 7 metres.

While some conventional platform lifts are marketed as capable of serving up to six floors and/or 12 metres or more, we’d recommend fewer, as a platform lift travelling 12 metres would take 80 seconds or more to go from top to bottom – a long time for the user to hold the button (especially if this person is elderly and/or easily fatigued).

Cabin platform lifts

These lifts are built within a structure, with passengers travelling in a cabin with automatic lift operation. Cabin lifts include cabin walls, a ceiling, and a ‘virtual’ or physical cabin door on the sides with an entrance and exit. Unlike the other platform lifts, automatic controls come as standard, (rather than constant pressure controls) meaning the user does not have to continuously press and hold a button to operate the lift.

Low-pit lifts 

Also called pitless lifts, these platform lifts are wall-mounted or in a structure – and have the look and feel of a traditional passenger lift, with automatic car and landing doors, cabin and operation, but like other vertical platform lifts travel at a reduced speed of 0.15 m/s. These features make the lift easier to use, and more appealing, with no encroachment onto landings.

A relative newcomer to the platform lift market, these lift types are growing in popularity, due to the minimal landing encroachment, small footprint and easy operation.

Inclined platform stairlifts

These lifts have a platform that follows the curve of the stairs and are suitable for a seated or wheelchair user. These lifts are a platform mounted on a rail. The rail mounting can be placed on either the floor or wall, or a mix of both, but needs to be suitable for the loads. 

The lift can be operated by either the wheelchair (or seated user) or a nearby attendant through remote controls. As they encroach, they are not suitable on stairs used for emergency egress.

Most inclined lifts are placed into existing buildings and as they are not suitable for pushchairs or standing users they are often used as a last resort. They neatly fold away when not in use, making them a good solution where there is an infrequent requirement for accessible use. 

All these lifts provide disabled access in low-rise buildings where a passenger lift is not available (or it is impractical to install one). These lifts can also be used for passengers with buggies and luggage, subject to weight limits, but typically aren’t suitable for mobility scooters. 

Lead times for platform lifts vary, but typically take between 12 to 16 weeks from approval, a key difference from passenger lifts is the quick installation time, which is between one and four days. 

Platform lifts are equipped with safety edges, emergency lowering and auto diallers or intercoms for vertical platform lifts. Most platform lifts also have a battery backup for emergency lowering. Where, in the event of an emergency or power failure, the lift returns to the nearest (or ground) floor, enabling the user to exit safely.

While best practice states it’s always preferred to install a passenger lift if possible, platform lifts have a small footprint, single phase power requirements, modular design with minimal builders’ work and self-contained structure options. All features which make them a popular option for ensuring inclusive design.

Mark Chapman is general manager of the platform & microlift division, Stannah Lifts