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Use of lifts/elevators

Lifts for apartments were the key in the development of modern the high-rise buildings without them moving to the high floors would have been too arduous. The history of lifts in flats can be traced back to a now demolished block of flats in Victoria which set benchmarks and highlighted the problems of being London’s first high rise block of flats – Queen Anne Mansions, Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0HX.

The Mansion flats were erected between 1873 and 1890. They quickly attracted opprobrium from many including the Queen who resented them blocking her view of London. Such was the furore about their size served as a catalyst for the introduction of height restrictions in the London building Acts of 1890 and 1894.

The block was originally 10 storeys high (116 feet) building. In 1877 an additional story was added to continue the building up to 12 stories (140 feet). In 1888 – 1890 another storey was added extending it to 160 feet.

The developer – Henry Hankey – set out to test the borders of what was legal for the construction. Under the 1855 Building Act, new buildings exceeding 100 feet in height required consent from the Metropolitan Board of Works but this was purely a safety regulation: the board had to be satisfied that the walls of tall buildings were sufficiently thick to support their weight. There were a number of fears about safety; a building labourer was killed by falling timber while using the hoist during gale force winds and an unfinished observatory on the roof was destroyed by fire.

Fire was a constant source of anxiety given the famous Tooley Street fire in 1861. It became apparent that fire engines could only send water up to the fifth storey and not to the top of Queen Anne Mansions. Consequently the building would be destroyed if it depended upon a jet being thrown from the ground level to the top stories.

To guard against fire rooftop water tanks, were installed New York’s style, contained 40,000 gallons of water fed by a 6 inch main from Chelsea water works. There was much faith that the entire building would be drowned in a few minutes and sufficient to power several hydraulic lifts and a high-pressure domestic supply.

Queen Anne’s Mansions became a byword for monstrous and overgrown ugliness and by the 1970s Queen Anne’s mansions were replaced with offices.

Due to the various problems that his highlighted both practical and technological as well as legal such as; structure, fire, air, light, appearance– The London County Council applied in 1894 new legislation restricting the height of new buildings to 90 feet (apart from two additional stories allowed in the roof space) and this was further reduced to 80 feet (plus attic stories) in 1994.

Presently new passenger lifts are equipped to conform to the British standard EN 81-73: behaviour of lifts in the event of fire. This means the lift must be connected to the fire alarm system and in the event of fire would travel to the ground floor with doors remaining open and will not take any further calls.

Ideally in any multi-storey housing there should be two lifts serving all floors as a lift being out of action causes disruption to residents. The second lift reduces any disruption while awaiting delivery of parts.

While lisps are engineered products they have a finite lifespan although they can be refurbished impart or removed and replaced with newer or more efficient equipment.

British standard EN 81-72 compliance with firefighting lists: lifts must feature: an interface between the lift control, fire detection and alarm system; track doors and ladders for rescue operations; electrical components in the lift shaft and on the car must be protected against water; emergency intercom system and lift operation; separate power supply to enable the lift to remain in use even if the building electrics are compromised.

More recent safety features include, computer systems in the elevator to check the safety chain i.e. a series of checks to ensure the elevator performs automatically; if anything goes wrong when the door is open the elevator detects an overspeed or someone presses an emergency button the system automatically cuts power to the motor and applies the brake.