Alastair Stannah, Managing Director of Stannah Lifts Ltd reflects on lifts in housing as Stannah celebrates its 150th anniversary.
In 1860, London’s first passenger lift was installed in the Grosvenor Hotel and referred to as an ‘ascending room’. In 1867, Joseph Stannah established a hoist and lift company in London. His first passenger lifts were ornate hotel lifts, referred to as ‘moving cages’ as the open metalwork avoided the feeling of claustrophobia experienced by many lift users. Today, five generations on, Stannah remains a family business supplying lifts across the UK.
Lifts in housing – a fascinating history
Before elevators, housing was restricted to seven storeys. The poorest residents lived on the top floor, and had to climb the most stairs. Social standing reversed with the advent of lifts, and the penthouse was born.
Post-war, high-rise housing boomed and many of these developments still exist, refurbished, today. Refurbishment applies to the lifts too. An elevator is an engineered product with a finite life-span, after which it can be refurbished in part, or removed and replaced with newer, more energy efficient equipment. At Stannah we always ensure homes remain accessible and will install temporary lifts during the down-time of lift equipment. Safety for lift users and engineers is central to a decision to replace lift equipment, but building owners must at least arrange for regular maintenance and inspections of their lifts. Stannah currently look after over 91,000 lifts right across the UK, every type of lift from all manufacturers.
When does a housing development require a lift?
Managed housing over two floors and suitable for all occupants, including people with restricted mobility, should provide a vertical lift. If there are thirty or more units above the ground floor two lifts are recommended. More recently lifts are being utilised to access underground storage areas for refuse clearance and bike stores.
What types of lifts might be applicable?
Every passenger or platform lift we supply for housing is manufactured to the latest standards and will accommodate a person using a wheelchair, a parent with a buggy or several standing people. Part M of the Building Regulations recommends passenger lifts should always be a first choice, particularly considering fire-fighting and vandal-resistant options. Platform lifts used infrequently by a small number of people, are recommended for low-rise housing. Your lift supplier will advise you of the types of lifts suitable for your project after analysis of your building users, frequency of travel and budget. In addition to vertical lifts, we provide other lifting options; step lifts to provide external level access, stair or ‘through-the-floor’ lifts for accessible living over two floors and goods lifts for easy maintenance and services, such as refuse.
Local authorities and housing association lift portfolios
Our 360 highly trained lift engineers are based in 11 locations across the UK. Within their region each service centre looks after local authority and/or housing association lift portfolios, including hoists, stairlifts, platform and passenger lifts, goods and service lifts and ‘through-the-floor’ lifts. We collaborate with developers, managing agents, architects, facilities managers, housing officers and lift consultants.
Lifts in private housing stock
New town-house style homes with several floors are increasing the need for vertical lifts in private dwellings. Home owners are ‘future-proofing’ their property. Our homelifts for high-end housing are the ultimate luxury, often accompanied by the convenience of a service lift or dumbwaiter.
Who knows what the future will bring for business, for homeowners and for housing managers. We can be certain that the pressure for more housing will increase and along the way there will be challenges. Over our 150 years we have overcome two world wars (one in which our entire factory was destroyed) and numerous recessions by diversifying, innovating and working smarter. We will continue to meet the needs for accessibility in the built environment, with housing at the forefront of our market areas.