Lifting architectural barriers

Sean O’Sullivan explores how platform lifts can overcome architectural barriers and help create inclusive design solutions within workspaces

Achieving the Government’s target to get one million more disabled people into work by 2027 is largely dependent on the number of companies that are making reasonable adjustments and also the availability of accessible offices.

The challenge begins with having clear access into office buildings from street level as many have steps, which is true of most period style properties. Installing a stair riser is one answer but perhaps not the most dignified way of entry. A ramp or an open style platform lift that gives a better user experience isn’t always possible due to space restrictions.

As an alternative, there are now different types of platform lifts to reach heights of two metres, which can be used for internal and external applications. For example, we recently installed a cantilever platform lift to overcome steps from the forecourt to the main entrance door of a multi-let commercial five-storey Regency style property. When not in use, this type of lift remains flush with the surrounding floor surface until it is activated. With a touch of a button, the cantilever platform lift will rise out of the floor and over the steps until it reaches the next level. It can then be lowered back into the pit using the control panel.

The other option is a two in one platform lift that can be configured as a flight of steps and transformed into a platform lift. This type of lift is particularly effective in tighter spaces and it can be easily integrated with existing steps by using the same material for the tread and handrails.

Inside an office building, physical barriers such as steps and difference in level can be overcome with a variety of different types of platform lifts – without affecting the integrity of the building. There is also a huge range of materials available that can blend in with both modern and traditional interiors, making it easier to integrate a platform lift to create an inclusive environment. When it comes to a complete office fit-out, there are a large number of possibilities and the results can be highly impressive.

ThirdWay Interiors appointed the Platform Lift Company to come up with an unobtrusive design solution that would fit in with the modern office interior, and mirror the sophisticated upmarket appearance of Wharf Studios commercial units in London. The scissor lifts – featuring a black and stainless steel finish with glass panels – have remained in keeping with the balustrading at the entrance of the office building. Equally, the platform lifts finished in black with stainless steel match the ultra-modern interior design of the office units, and the glass shafts create a seamless finish. The self-contained office units are now complete and boast modern, industrial-style working spaces which are DDA compliant.

We also worked with ThirdWay Interiors to provide a bespoke access solution that would blend in with the appearance of Schueco London’s new multi-purpose premises including offices, meeting rooms, conference facilities and a showroom. With a multitude of functions being spread out over the different levels, a universal design was required to create an accessible environment. The chosen design needed to reflect the quality of the brand. It was important that the materials used for the platform lift matched the monochromatic colour palette, which had been selected as a simple backdrop to showcase Schueco’s own products. Using a black finish with a silver trim for the platform lift and creating two metre high steel shaft panels, for a seamless effect, achieved this goal.

“The new lift has perfectly fitted within the sleek monochrome look of the showroom. The matt black finish allows it to blend into its environment and the glass fronted entrance looks clean and modern – a great match for this scheme,” concludes Martyna Skoczek, technical design manager of ThirdWay Interiors.

Bespoke installations offer complete design flexibility and provide an opportunity for companies to personalise platform lifts with brand colours and integrate them with an existing or new office interior. While this may be easier in a new build or modern building, giving careful consideration to the right design will allow the clean lines of a modern platform lift to blend sympathetically into a historic building. In this way, creating access to overcome architectural barriers within an older style building without disturbing the fabric, integrity or aesthetic appeal of that building should be totally achievable.

Sean O’Sullivan is managing director of The Platform Lift Company