The design, installation and maintenance of external steps, ramps and lifts should take into account weather, lighting and site conditions not experienced within a building.
External lifts may get wet from direct or transferred rainwater.
Wheelchair wheels may not have completely dried by the floor finish in the lift car. Where an external lift discharges internally, suitable internal floor surfaces need to be specified.
Lift controls and internal finishes may be subject to direct rainfall or wet hands.
As pedestrians may have to wait for the arrival of a lift in inclement weather the provision of shelter is important.
- Ensure that the slip resistance of the lift car and internal adjacent surfaces reflects the possibility of wetting by feet and wheelchair wheels.
- Specify appropriate water resistant lift controls and internal car finishes.
- Provide shelter for pedestrians waiting for lift arrival.
Steps and ramps
External steps should always be provided in conjunction with ramps to offer choice and to provide routes that are usable by all.
Where cyclists wish to wheel their bikes up flights of external steps, channels are sometimes included which can restrict the use of the handrail.
Externally, it is more likely that pedestrians may be distracted due to weather or light conditions.
There is greater opportunity externally to address minor level changes in pedestrian routes. To avoid isolated steps, walking surfaces could be gently graded to provide a near level approach. It is important to ensure that slopes are constant and consistent with other slopes where possible.
As external ramps may be used by service vehicles they need to be of the appropriate strength and size.
Cross-falls can cause stability and control problems for a range of building users but are important for drainage purposes.
Ensure that surface water is taken away in suitable drains and is not allowed to discharge down steps and ramps.
Handrail materials that in different weather conditions become either too hot or too cold obstruct their effective use and present discomfort to a range of pedestrians.
- Design external areas to provide adjacent steps and ramps. Wherever possible, the top and bottom of a ramp should be adjacent to the top and bottom of an associated flight of steps.
- Ensure that steps and ramps are well lit through all stages of darkness.
- Ensure channels on steps for the purpose of wheeling a bike up or down do not restrict the use of the handrail.
- Adequate visual warning of the start of steps and ramps is important. Tactile ground surface indicators are the internationally recognised warning of the presence of a hazard such as stairs.
- Ensure warnings of the start of steps and ramps (visual, tactile and environmental) will not be missed.
- There is greater opportunity externally to address minor level changes in pedestrian routes. To avoid steps, walking surfaces could be gently graded to provide a near level approach. It is important to ensure that slopes are constant and consistent with other slopes where possible.
- Size external ramps to take service vehicle where appropriate.
- Ensure cross falls are restricted to those required to clear surface water.
- Ensure adequate drainage to ensure that steps and ramps do not act as conduits for surface water.
- Specify handrail materials to be comfortable to use in a range of weather conditions.
Building code requirement
Building Code clause D1 Access routes:
D1.3.3 Access routes shall: (c) have a safe cross fall, and safe slope in the direction of travel, (d) have adequate slip-resistant walking surfaces under all conditions of normal use, (i) not contain isolated steps, (j) have smooth, reachable and graspable handrails to provide support and to assist with movement along a stair or ladder., Performance D1.3.3 (j) shall not apply to isolated steps.
D1.3.5 Vehicle spaces and circulation routes shall have: (a) dimensions appropriate to the intended use.
Building Code clause D2 Mechanical installations for access:
D2.3.2 Mechanical installations for access shall be provided with: (a) adequate control over normal use, to ensure people’s safety throughout any operation involving starting, stopping or changing the direction of travel.
Building Code clause E1 Surface water requires:
E1.3.3 Drainage systems for the disposal of surface water shall be constructed to: (a) Convey surface water to an appropriate outfall using gravity flow where possible.