Re: elevators
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2005 10:20:38 -0700 (PDT)

On Oct 20, 2005, at 3:48 PM, Patricia Chadwick wrote:

We are planning a cohousing development in California and are committed
to universal design. Because we have a fairly small plot of land we
discussed building some units over the common house and therefore
installing an elevator. Has anyone included an elevator in their plans
and if so, can you give me a rough idea of the cost, including
maintenance? The elevator would only be going up one floor. Is a
commercial elevator required or could a residential one be used?

Ann is our elevator expert on maintenance and I'm sure she will respond as well so I won't address that.

My experience is from living in several buildings of 4+ floors, some with elevators and some without. We do have an elevator at Takoma Village and we have three floors. I once lived in a 4th floor walk up and several friends could not visit me and many just wouldn't. And age had nothing to do with it. I lived in a 7th floor apartment when the elevator was out of service for over 4 months. Many people were prisoners in their homes. Above 4 floors, you really have to have two elevators.

With two floors and no elevator, you will wish you had one and if you don't, it will limit sales. It will also cost residents more to move in and out as moving companies charge extra per flight of stairs. Some delivery people do as well. Some people will not be able to visit people on the second floor. This is not a huge problem if your residents routinely socialize in the commonhouse and it is accessible. Guest rooms on the second floor will not be accessible.

Elevators make life much easier for those with infants, heavy boxes to carry (like groceries), temporary infirmities like broken legs or sprained ankles, etc. People will use them for many, many things. At 63, I limit stairs to 6-8 flights a day. Stairs are very hard on the knees. We recently put in an electric door and many people are very grateful as it makes it much easier to get kids and stuff in and out the front door.

Elevators are not expensive to use -- the weights and balances of the modern units make them very energy efficient compared to hot tubs, trash compactors, etc. Gravity is used to lift the elevator. They do add expenses for an emergency phone, alarm monitoring, regular inspections, etc.

They do raise the viability of building vertically. I would suggest building higher if you are going to put units on the second floor -- why not do 3 or 4 floors? This gives you a smaller foot print (and a bigger shadow) but makes everything upstairs accessible. With one elevator, you don't want to go too high because they do go out of commission and after many years will have to be serviced seriously. This may take a few days, so you want to stay within walkable limits.

You want a commercial elevator. I'm assuming you mean by residential one of those little ones put in homes sometimes? You need a regular condo elevator because it will need to hold bikes, carts, strollers, moving trollies, etc. It will need to hold weight -- several people and their stuff. A good elevator will also be more energy efficient and probably last longer since it will be built for the traffic it will get.

Sharon Villines
Building Community: A Newsletter on New Neighborhoods

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