We don’t all take the stairs. And we can’t all take the stairs. So church staff must often consider the mechanical people-moving options when planning new facilities or remodels. Here are some items to keep top of mind when shopping elevators, escalators and lifts, according to architecture and manufacturing professionals.
According to Craig Dice, CAD manager with Crawfordsville, Indiana-based Myler Church Building Systems, a company that offers planning, design, finance and construction services for churches, elevators and lifts are particularly popular in his firm’s designs. And he advises church staff to consider the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that has, since 1991, stipulated that handicapped access be provided in all public buildings.
As Dice says, when churches remodel facilities built before 1991, they must bring those buildings up to code in accordance with ADA requirements. “Churches need to reach out and make sure that everyone can use their facilities,” he emphasizes.
Another important consideration for any new building is to plan systems for moving people — whether escalators, lifts or elevators — from the get go, while the building is in the design phase, and not as an afterthought. This way, the chosen system will work well as a functional part of the overall architectural building design.
Michael Bolton, market manager with ThyssenKrupp Access Corp., a Grandview, Missouri-based manufacturer of accessibility products, reports that local codes often require modifications for equipment placed in a public setting ? modifications such as key locks which secure the unit when not in use, as well as a back-up braking system. In addition, mechanical devices such as stair or wheelchair lifts that move people are often subject to local inspection and approval from a governing board, so it is important to have a unit installed by a licensed professional, Bolton says.
Ken Segel, vice president – new installation marketing & national accounts, with Schindler Elevator Corp. of Morristown, New Jersey, a manufacturer, installer and servicer of elevators, escalators and moving walks, says some good first questions, beyond typical code requirements, involve the overall utility of the equipment.
For example, in the case of an elevator for a worship facility, Segel recommends the following questions as a good start in the design process. “Will the elevator be used strictly to carry a limited number of passengers for specific occasions? Will the elevator also carry equipment and supplies? Will the elevator function during special ceremonies and events?” he says. And he adds, “Those considerations will influence the size [of the equipment chosen], as well as the location within the structure.”
Elevators, Escalators & Lifts
Anyone who has stepped out into the modern world knows the difference between the three, but which ones are best suited for particular applications? The professionals make some general recommendations.
Bolton reports that stair lifts — like a chair with a rail, so that people don’t have to walk ? will typically carry up to 300 pounds and will move a person up a short flight of steps or over an obstacle. Wheelchair lifts, on the other hand, are flat so that a wheelchair can access the lift and be transported up the short flight or over the obstruction.
“Chair lifts can be customized for outdoor or indoor use,” Bolton says, and canvas covers are available for the outdoor variety.
Escalators, on the other hand, are best at moving groups of people for extended periods. As Segel describes, “Escalators are typically used to move high volumes of people over longer periods of time. Depending on its step width, an escalator can move 5,000 to 7,500 passengers per hour,” he relates.
The ideal application for a pair of escalators would be when a facility encounters very high volumes of foot traffic over short periods of time, such as before and after worship services, Segel reports. “It is crucial to locate escalators where they will not interfere with other functions,” he shares. “Escalator traffic flow is reversible. Keeping that in mind, perhaps a single escalator adjacent to a fixed stairway could be the best and most economical solution.”
Elevators have a totally different forte. The typical elevator’s capacity is 13 to 19 passengers per trip. “If one needs to move a relatively small volume of people a couple of floors, an elevator makes more sense, because it requires less space and its cost is approximately ¼ that of a pair (up and down) of escalators,” Segel says.
An elevator option that is both economical and somewhat convenient for church remodels is the holeless hydraulic elevator. As Bolton states about a new pitless version that his company is soon to introduce, “You don’t have to tear through the foundation to install these elevators.”
Segel finds the new holeless versions environmentally friendly. “Holeless hydraulic elevators are an eco-friendly option that completely eliminates the inconvenience of drilling a below-grade [hole],” he says. “These elevators can comfortably carry 13 to 19 passengers per trip.”
Consider Uses Upfront
No matter what people-movement system a church chooses, the professionals also say it’s important to consider if more than people will be moved by the system. In the case of the elevator, for instance, church staff will get longer life from the elevator if they consider its uses up front, and whether or not it will haul cleaning supplies and band equipment, for example, besides just people. If so, a commercial-grade elevator for that type of job should be considered to improve the overall life of the elevator, Bolton suggests. Special access cards with scanning codes may be distributed to allow only authorized church personnel to use the equipment.
Segel advises church staff that if remodeling may come in the future, holeless hydraulic elevators are a good fit with most retrofits. “There are often requirements to retrofit an elevator within an existing church. The location, either within the existing structure or in the elevator shaft constructed on the outside of it, is an alternative. With the holeless hydraulics … retrofitting is much easier. With solid walls or even glass walls, they can be easily integrated to harmonize architecturally with the existing surroundings,” he says.
And he adds, “Machine and control equipment can be located up to 50 feet from the elevator shaft so that the disruption to the immediate area is minimal.”
Today’s options for moving worshippers up and down throughout a facility can be work-able within any given structure, can be efficient and economical, and can help churches reach out to serve communities even better.