Important Regulatory Change For Lift Installations For Existing Buildings

If you have tried to install a new lift to an existing building, but were unable to because of pit depth or head height restrictions, or if you have in the past been told to seek ‘derogation’ from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), then you will need to be aware of recent changes to the EN 81-21 Regulation. 

Here are Premier Lift Group, we are very familiar with the regulations around lift installations to existing buildings, and to help explain the recent changes, we spoke to Paul Holliwell, who has over fifteen years experience in the lift industry, to help make sense of it for you. 

EN 81-21 Regulations Explained:

This change has to do with the regulation EN 81-21. In full this regulation is named – “Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts. Lifts for the transport of persons and goods. New passenger and goods passenger lifts in existing building.”

This regulation relates to the installation of new lifts in existing buildings. If you are putting a lift into a new building, this regulatory change does not apply. When installing new lifts, certain standards and conditions must be met. These conditions including pit depths and head heights are put forth in the previously mentioned regulation (EN 81-21) and the current Principal Lift Regulations – BS EN 81-20/50.

So what is “derogation”? At a basic level, ‘derogation’ is an exemption from, or relaxation of, an existing rule or law. In the construction of lifts, derogation allows a project to advance even when all rules and standards are not meet in full. In a very broad sense, a derogation is almost like being given a ‘pardon’.


Regulatory Change to EN 81-21 Explained


We contacted Paul to find out what the regulatory change means, who it affects and the impact it will have on lift construction.

“Quite simply, the main difference is as follows. In the past, if you were planning on installing a new passenger lift into an existing building and didn’t have the capacity to meet certain head height or pit depth standards, you would seek derogation from BIS (now BEIS).

You would write to BEIS and say, “I have an existing building and I need to install a lift. However, I cannot meet stated pit depth, head height or a combination of both. The reason I cannot do this is because of X.” Here, X could be number of eligible reasons. It could be that the building does not have proper foundation. It might be an obstruction caused by a sewage system positioned underneath the proposed shaft area. It could be that the building you are working on is a listed building.There are a number of reasons that would be deemed acceptable.

This letter would be the first step of an altogether lengthy decision making process.”

Last year however, the regulation EN 81-21 was amended which, as Paul explained, somewhat simplified the process.

After this change, derogation from BEIS is no longer necessary for existing buildings. The decision is now based more on experience, architectural judgement and, in many ways, common sense. You still need to receive the correct permission, just not in the form of derogation from BEIS.

This has simplified the process but hasn’t dropped standards in any way. There still must be good reason to go ahead without meeting specific head height or pit depth standards. That is very important to reiterate – there must be good reason to gain exemption.


No Longer a Need for Derogation


It must again be noted that this regulatory change only applies to installing new passenger lifts in existing buildings. With this change to EN 81-21 the onus is no longer on the BEIS to grant derogation. But where does the responsibility now lie? The decision to go ahead with construction, even without meeting initial standards, is placed in the hands of architects, building designers and third parties such as SGS and Veritas Consulting.

Removing the need for derogation could well lead to a smoother planning process. Although good reason is still required to receive exemption, the decision can happen quicker and should result in more options for the existing building owner.


Additional Safety Features and Good Reason


With this regulation change there are a two final points to recap and introduce.

The first is that there must be good reason to go ahead with the construction of a new lift in an existing building without full meeting with standards. These standards are there for a reason and every attempt must be made to comply with them. Sometimes however, like in the cases mentioned above, meeting minimum standards is just not possible.

Once you have received the go-ahead to proceed with the construction of a new lift in an existing building, there are additional safety measures to meet. These items are additional to the current lift regulations BS EN 81-20/50. These additional safety features help to compensate for the reduced pit depth and head height. On top of this, these safety features are there to protect engineers and construction crew from harm when installing the new lift.

As these additional safety features only need to be considered after you’ve received the exemption, we can save the details for another day. However, we strongly encourage all parties affected by these safety features to contact Premier Lift Group and arrange a consultation.


The Next Step – Contact us Today


After reading this post, if you find that this regulatory change directly impacts you, your existing building and plans, we encourage you to contact us today. As there is no longer a need to receive derogation from BEIS, there is a greater emphasis to work with an experienced lift provider. One that knows the landscape and understands the impact of regulatory neglect.

One thing that is clear, with this new regulatory change, more options have become available for all existing building owners looking to install new lifts. To find out what options you have, contact us today.