Lifts – which way is up Part 1

  • July 12, 2012
  • Bruce Bromley

This blog post was released in 2012 and the NCC / BCA was amended in 2013 to remove the prescriptive requirements to use passenger lifts that comply with Australian Standards referenced within this web page. New passenger lifts must however continue to be provided the same level of accessible features. If in doubt, please contact this office.

Lift Compliance DDA Disabled Disability AccessPrior to the introduction of the new access standards – Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) and the Building Code of Australia 2011 (BCA) in May 2011 – there were limited ‘deemed-to-satisfy’ lift options in the building regulations to cater for people with a disability associated with Class 2 to 9 buildings.

The introduction of the new access standards now allow for a number of lift options, but care is required to ensure that the correct type of lift is selected.

The problem that we have experienced is that some lift suppliers are promoting a number of lifts that are not appropriate to the proposed use of the building or fail to meet the requirements of the relevant Australian Standards and the new access standards.

In some cases, lift companies have made false claims of compliance or have demonstrated a lack of understanding (or awareness) of the new access standards. This has caused confusion and frustration with many of our clients.

I will run through the key access provisions for lifts and share some of our experiences with selecting the right lift.

Previously, traditional commercial lifts (AS1735.1 and AS1735.2) were the only option for passenger lifts for Class 2 to 9 buildings, which also required a selection of additional accessible features under Clause BCA E3.6 (now superseded) – mandatory handrail, specific floor dimensions and door openings and car control buttons in accordance with AS1735.12, as well as particular door sensor provisions.

What are the options now? Clause E3.6 of the Premises Standards and the BCA outline a number of passenger lift options. Traditional commercial passenger lifts (AS1735.1 and AS1735.2) are still an option, but there are a number of new options:

  • Electrohydraulic lifts (AS1735.3)
  • Stairway platform lifts (AS1735.7)
  • Inclined lifts (AS1735.8)
  • Low-rise platform lifts (AS1735.14)
  • Lifts for people with limited mobility – non-automatically controlled (AS1735.15) and automatically controlled (AS1735.16)

In selecting a lift under Clause E3.6, there are two critical aspects:

  1. You need to ascertain the suitability of the lift based upon the limitations of Table E3.6 (a).
  2. Ensure that the lift has all of the accessible features outlined under Table E3.6 (b) and if a fully enclosed lift is adopted, it must not rely upon a constant pressure device for its operation.

The first part of this blog (this newsletter) will look at the various lift limitations. The second part of this blog (future newsletter) will look into the pitfalls with ensuring that the correct accessible features are incorporated into lifts.


There are no limitations to traditional commercial lifts (AS1735.1 & AS1735.2), electrohydraulic lifts (AS1735.3) and inclined lifts (AS1735.8).

The other lifts all have varying limitations on their use, which is outlined within Table E3.6 (a).

Let’s quickly look at the limitations of these other lifts:

AS1735.7 Stairway platform lifts

AS1735.17 Stair liftStairway platform lifts are typically the most economical lift option, but they have a number of limitations on their use. There are not many suitable applications for these lifts in Class 2 to 9 buildings, which is consistent with the view by many disability access consultants as they represent the least dignified of the lift options available.

These lifts are not appropriate for buildings with high population numbers (more than 100 occupants), buildings with high public traffic use areas and they are limited to only connecting 2 storeys.

As they are designed to be attached to stairs, they must not adversely affect the egress width of stairs when in the folded up position.

But the most significant limitation with these lifts is that they ‘must not be used where it is possible to install another type of passenger lift’. In other words, they can only be used if there is physically no other option. This limitation presents a very interesting dilemma as it could be argued that in almost all cases it is ‘possible’ to install another type of lift, even though other lift options may be more expensive or more difficult to install. This limitation virtually eliminates this lift for consideration in Class 2 to 9 buildings.

Bottom line, there needs to be an exceptional set of circumstances to justify these lifts – an absolute last resort.

But if the circumstances appear to be justified, there is another hidden limitation with their use.

Stairway platform lifts usually require a side rail being fixed to a wall along a stairway. If the stair is required for egress, it will require a clear width of 1 m (this is based upon a limit of 100 occupants, which is one of the other limitations of these lifts) and the stair will also need to have accessible handrails on both sides in accordance with Clause 11.2 (b) of AS1428.1.

Taking into account these requirements, the stair would need to be about 2.5m in width. The considerations contributing to this enhanced width are as follows:

  • Handrail on the outer edge (minimum 30 mm diameter) + the required handrail clearance if bound by a wall (50 mm minimum) = 80 mm total.
  • Minimum required egress width (1000 mm).
  • Second accessible handrail (minimum 30 mm diameter).
  • A clear space between the lift platform and the second accessible handrail, which needs to allow enough space to avoid the lift platform from hitting the second handrail when it is in the folded down position – typically between 900 mm and 1000 mm.
  • The width of the railing system – typically between 300 mm and 400 mm.

This equates to roughly 80 + 1000 + 30 + 1000 + 400 = 2510 mm. In many cases, this additional stair width is not workable and other lift options will provide a better spatial solution with only a minor increase in cost.

AS1735.14 Low-rise lift platforms

These lifts are limited to a travel height of no more than 1m.

AS1735.15 lifts

These lifts cannot be used in high traffic public use areas, such as theatres, cinemas, auditoriums, transport interchange buildings, shopping centres or the like.

If a Part 15 lift is enclosed, it is limited to a travel height of not more than 4m. If a Part 15 lift is not enclosed, it is limited to only 2m.

AS1735.16 lifts

These lifts are limited to a travel height of no more than 12m.


Next blog…

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