Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reaching heights with newer technologies

Home elevators, dumb waiters, ramps, chute, escalators ... let us see how vertical movement devices have been developed and made more versatile for residential use.

VERTICAL CHALLENGES: Reaching the top is easy and fun as versatile designer devices in elevators and dumb waiters hit the market.

Many a times you might have thought how difficult life would have been without electricity, without a mixer grinder, without washing machine and many more such inventions. When it comes to a home, there are several such inventions that remain un-explored and un-used.
Technology can be used to make life easier. Electrical devices like elevators, dumb waiters and escalators are definitely new to the residential buildings category: Let us see how vertical movement devices have been developed and made more compact and versatile for residential use.

Home elevators

When we intend to install elevators for residential use, the need may be just anything... old people living in the house, catering for special people, health aspects, or just for comfort. Ordinary elevators have huge machinery and conventional machine room requirements. "Home elevators," on the other hand, have smaller shaft requirements (around 1350 mm to 1500 mm by 1450 to 1600 mm) and these lifts are also special, in the sense, they do not have a machine room above because the lift machines are floor-mounted or in some cases wall-mounted, which means the machine room is not seen above the terrace level making the lifts presence not very obvious. If the CMDA planning permits these lifts to be ideal for basement, ground and first floor buildings, it would help making these floors more accessible and connected.
The landing-to-landing heights have to be a minimum of 2300 mm to 2400 mm depending on the lift brands and the topmost landing needs 2400 mm clear from the roof. Since these lifts are very compact, the carrying capacity is only 200 kg and it runs on a single phase. OTIS, MITSUBISHI and KONE provide these lifts in India, laying importance to its power requirements.

Dumb waiters

These are small service-lifts, which serve the purpose of moving goods from one floor to another. They generally have a carrying capacity of around 100 kgs to 400 kgs. They are ideal for houses that have the kitchen in one level and most of the bedroom or living rooms on the other level. Just like any other elevator, the dumb waiter needs a lift pit and also a machine room with all the other standard features for comfortable usage.

Wheel chair movement rails

As home elevators are a costly affair, provision for wheel chair movement from one floor to another can also be thought of if required, by means of an electricity driven rail along the staircase. This can be provided on one side of the staircase but the staircase has to be planned structurally for the appliances.


If it is intended to reduce the cost of construction, a ramp is a good alternative to lifts. It may occupy some space but may be very useful for special people. The ramp needs to be ideally 1:8 gradient which means, for every one feet you climb you need to travel 8' 0" and 4' 0" wide. They can be used as a good architectural element as well.


Though not an electrical gadget, a chute helps in moving the dirty linen and clothes from one floor to another. If planned properly, the chute can be linked to all floors and the clothes can go directly to the house-keeping room. Certainly, this may be a luxury as space is very tight in urban sites, but it is worth the effort.
(The author is the Chief Architect of Murali Architects, Chennai)

No comments: