How your building elevator can help your building be AODA compliant

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How your building elevator can help your building be AODA compliant

With Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) mandating all buildings in the province to be fully accessible by the year 2025, the clock is ticking for many property owners to get into compliance.

Elevators are essential features of accessibility, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to get where they need to go inside the building. However, not all elevators are created equal. In fact, choosing the wrong model can create major problems for your compliance, your tenants, and visitors in the long run.

How do you determine which elevator is right for you?

Elevator Type

“A common mistake that many commercial property managers make is assuming that all elevators are built the same,” says Florence Facchini, Business Development Director at Mississauga, Ontario-based Federal Elevator.

Facchini cites three of Federal Elevators’ own models to demonstrate the differences between elevator types, organized from low to high in terms of usage, capacity, and speed.

  • Wheelchair Lift: A wheelchair lift is a constant pressure elevator requiring keys. It’s designed primarily for accessibility purposes for individuals with mobility issues and is the lowest cost on the pricing scale. Hydraulics-based, a wheelchair lift is not designed for high usage, but only as needed. “At Federal Elevator, this model is called a ‘Carelift’”, says Facchini. “It’s great for churches because they can give a designated person the key to operate it on Sundays. An attendant can bring people from the upper floor to the lower floor and back again.” As wheelchair lift elevators are not designed for general public access, they are often offline, which helps save on electricity usage and wear-and-tear compared to other models.
  • LULA (Limited Use, Limited Application). “The Serenus LULA is a midpoint between larger capacity and faster passenger elevators and the Carelifts requiring keys and a lower lift,” says Patrick Piatti, Vice President of Operations at Federal Elevator. “It’s an automatic elevator that has the look and feel of a full passenger elevator, but moves much slower in compliance with the B44 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators.”   Designed for smaller office buildings and schools with lower traffic, the LULA has a maximum capacity of 1400 pounds and moves at 30 feet per minute, with a low overhead clearance and requiring a pit depth of only 14 inches. “Buildings and owners love the LULA because they don’t need to dig far into the ground to achieve a 14” pit,” says Piatti. “The LULA is ideal for low-rise buildings that require accessibility to all levels of the building. There are no restrictions on total travel a LULA can service in Ontario but we recommend 2 to 4 storeys as the sweet spot”.
  • Passenger Elevator: This is the most typical model and the one most people think about when they hear the word “elevator”. Commonly found in medical buildings, shopping malls, and condo towers, passenger elevators are hydraulically-powered and designed for a minimum of 6 floors, travelling at 100 feet per minute or more with capacities anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds. “You can create different configurations for passenger elevators,” says Piatti. “For example, a hospital will need to fit stretchers and paramedics into the same space. You can design the unit to be longer with more starts per hour, and to deal with larger capacities and higher speeds.”

Building Type and Use

The next task is to assess the building property where the elevators will be installed.  Questions to consider:

  • Will the elevator be installed in an existing building or a new building?
  • How many storeys is this building?
  • What city/province is the building located in?
  • Provide per day average of how many rides elevator will take?

elevator“We need to understand the capacity of the building and how busy the location is to recommend the proper model,” says Piatti. “If you have a six-storey building with housing, you can use a LULA, but it will take quite a long time to get to the sixth floor. If you have a high-rise condo, you would use a passenger elevator.”

The space requirements for the elevator of choice aren’t simply based around the internal room or door, but on the overhead as well as the pit, which contains mechanisms essential to the elevator’s functions.

“A passenger needs 12 feet of overhead,” says Facchini. “A LULA is 9 to 11 feet, and a Carelift is 9 feet of overhead.” When retrofitting an existing building, Facchini notes that choosing the wrong model may require you to reinforce the roof structure and perform rebuilds, which can drive up costs. “If you have a building with existing roof structure and you only have 11 feet, you won’t be able to go to passenger. A LULA would be a better fit than a Passenger, as their dimensions are smaller.”

Further, the pit – a void dug into the ground to help the floors be flush with each other upon landing – requires different measurements depending on the model. “A passenger pit requires 5 feet. The LULA needs 14 inches, and a Carelift requires only 8 inches.”

The building use is also a major consideration for selecting your elevator model. Consider these questions:

  • What is the function of the building?
  • How many people will be visiting?
  • What type of business is conducted in the building?

“Many companies have had their staff working remotely during the pandemic,” says Piatti. “If someone has a two-storey building and the offices upstairs are not always occupied, you might want a LULA rather than a passenger. On the other hand, if you’re a small church or hall with a two-storey building that needs to help people travel on Saturdays or Sundays, you’d use a Carelift or, if you’d prefer to have an automated service, a LULA.”


Finally, consider the amount of money you want to invest in your elevator. Passenger elevators can cost upwards of $90,000, and are more expensive due to their capacity and larger space requirements. If accessibility is the primary concern, then Carelifts ($20,000-$30,000) or LULAs ($30,000 to $48,000) are more cost-effective and require less maintenance.

Piatti and Facchini note that other factors to consider are service shutdowns, quarterly servicing, annual testing, etc. “If you’re in a critical function like a hospital,” says Facchini, “you’ll definitely need multiple elevators, but a doctor’s office for non-urgent care can get away with one or two for accessibility, while others can take the stairs. Schools will tend to opt for LULAs for the same reason.”

Do you have additional questions or concerns about meeting your AODA 2025 requirements? As one of Canada’s largest commercial property management companies, Armadale can help you. Contact us today!

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