Expert Tips for Creating Code Compliant Designs

Imperiall III lighting fixtures displayed on an elevator ceiling with silver paneling.

The fast-paced, challenging fields of architecture and interior design offer the chance to flex creative muscles, solve complex challenges, and work with innovative new materials and methods. But an equally important component of design, (though maybe less glamorous) is elevator code compliance. Failure to consider compliance at the time of design can lead to rejected projects, delayed timelines, and inflated budgets. So, what do you need to know before you start your elevator interior to ensure that you only have to design it once?

Rule #1: Compliance Isn’t An Afterthought

Designs should not be tweaked so they’re compliant; they should be created with compliance top of mind. When you consider elevator code compliance at the onset of a project, you do not face unpleasant surprises on inspection. Consider a few of these common compliance objections:

“This space needs to be widened to comply with ADA requirements.”

“These panels need to be removed because they’re too heavy.”

“This whole cab interior is non-compliant, because it hasn’t been fire-tested in its end-use configuration.”

This isn’t what you want to hear after you’ve spent your time and resources creating a design and seeing it through to fruition. So what elevator code compliance issues do you need to keep top of mind as you design?

The Golden 5%: Cab Weight

When remodeling an elevator, the cab has to be within +/- 5% of its previous weight. If it weighed 2,000 pounds, for instance, the final weight must not exceed 2,100 pounds or be less than 1,900 pounds.

Knowing how heavy your design is – which requires knowing the weight of its components– is critical, and not only for regulatory reasons. So keep weight considerations in mind as you select different materials.

Keep Every User In Mind: Meet ADA Requirements.

If the building you’re working on is more than three stories tall, or larger than 3,000 square feet per story, it must comply with American with Disabilities Act requirements. How does this impact your design?

ADA outlines a host of seemingly small regulations that can have a big impact on design. For example, call buttons have to be mounted 42 inches above the floor, and the cab must be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair’s 360 degree turn. Rather than making adjustments to your elevator interior after the fact, it’s better to keep these considerations in mind at the first design – so that you don’t have to scrap great ideas simply because they’re non-compliant.

Put Safety First – Always: Complying with Fire Codes

Most jurisdictions use ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. Among their requirements is end-use configuration testing. Say that you want to use a particular laminate for its sleek finish. It is fire-rated as is the adhesive and substrate. Good to go, right? Not so fast. The wall assembly has to be tested as a unit, in its end-use configuration. It is critical that these regulations stay top of mind throughout the design process, rather than becoming an afterthought. When that happens, a failed inspection and design becomes a likely, and expensive, possibility.


Glass can help create an elegant, expansive interior. But not just any glass. That, too, is regulated. Regular and plate glass is a no-go. Laminated glass is acceptable. Tempered glass is, too – but not if it is “stressed” with etchings, sandblasting, painting, or any other technique that can undermine its properties. You must also place a nonpolymeric coating or film on the glass so if it breaks, the fragments are held in place. For example, SnapCab panels featuring Corning® Gorilla® Glass meet these requirements and will always come with an ANSI Z97.1 stamp in the corner of every panel.

Your elevator interior company can assist you in choosing glass elements that comply with requirements and help you execute an exceptional, sophisticated design. This is just the transparency you need to ensure your project remains on track for successful completion.

Breathe Life into Your Designs with Proper Ventilation

During the remodeling process, it is not unusual for “decorative” toe kicks (the base below the wall panels) to cover over the existing ventilation. ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators requires natural ventilation equal to 3.5% of the floor area of the cab. The gap in the door and the ceiling fan opening can account for part of this – but A17.1 also mandates that ventilation be equally divided between floor and ceiling. Enter vented toe kicks.

Be sure that your design accounts for these critical elements so you meet ASME requirements and your project stays on track. Your elevator interior company can help you find the right look (including concealed ventilation gaps), and you can breathe a big, perfectly ventilated, sigh of relief.

Spotlight on Lighting Regulations

Lighting is always an important design element: the right light can create a sense of more space – or conversely, a sense of cozy welcoming. In elevators, though, it must also meet safety and code requirements. Your design has to include at least two lamps, with a minimal illumination of 50 lux or 5 foot candles with the door closed. Emergency lights are also a must: they need to provide 2 lux or 0.20 foot candles of illumination and have enough power to operate two lamps for four hours. LED lighting is typically the preferred choice because of its energy-saving powers and low heat generation. Your design can’t afford you staying in the dark about these regulations!

Architects and designers have the opportunity, with every project, to build a lasting legacy that welcomes, soothes, excites, stimulates, or inspires. Code compliance is an integral part of that legacy, one that can be streamlined and simplified with the assistance of a trusted manufacturing partner. When codes and requirements inform and guide vision, it helps ensure projects stay on-schedule, on-budget, and get the final stamp of approval from inspectors and authorities – and from clients.