Following Recent Updates in Elevator Code

November 3, 2023

The codes that keep elevators and escalators running safely are always changing, with many of those updates to requirements originating in two places, New York City and Florida, before spreading elsewhere in the United States.

What’s behind new code regulations

Florida and New York City’s code updates come from their unique needs as a city with 70,000 elevators and a coastal state, but there are many other factors that cause code updates. The ASME 17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators frequently updates alongside technology and building practices. The New York City Energy Code changes as the city’s power grid and energy sources evolve. Disasters can drive updates, too, as seen in changes made after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast in 2012 and Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana in 2017.

Notable trends include: 

  • Better energy efficiency
  • More stringent door requirements and protections
  • New considerations for the hard of hearing, disabled and nonverbal passengers 
  • Clarifications to existing rules (e.g., seismic requirements for both elevators and escalators)

Energy code requirements for elevators

In cities, energy often comes at a premium, especially in New York City, where riders take around 45 million daily trips. There’s a lot of potential for inefficient use of power, which is bad for the environment and possibly dangerous to riders. There are also missed opportunities to recapture potential energy. 

Recent New York City Energy Code updates reflect this. Regulation C405.8.1, 10.4.3 ensures that less energy goes to waste:

Lighting efficiency: If you divide the lumens of a cab’s interior lighting per watt. the amount of visible light generated must be greater than or equal to 35 lumens per watt. 

Ventilation fan power: When an elevator cab has no air conditioning, the vent fans can’t use more than 0.33 watts per cubic foot per minute (cfm).

Controls to de-energize: If stopped and unoccupied, with doors closed, for longer than 15 minutes, an elevator must automatically turn off its interior lighting and ventilation.

Elevator trips can also recapture energy using power conversion technology. Thanks to the New York City Energy Code’s regulation C4048.1.1.,, new traction elevators that go up to, or higher than, 75 feet in new buildings must meet these criteria:

Motor type: Elevators must have an induction motor with Class IE2 efficiency ratings—or an approved alternative like a gearless traction machine.

Efficiency: For elevators with a Class IE2 motor and a capacity of less than 4,000 pounds, power transmissions between the motor and the moving parts can’t reduce its overall efficiency. Gearless machines, meanwhile, must maintain 100% transmission efficiency at all times.

Regeneration: The elevator has to have a Regenerative Drive, recovering potential energy released as the elevator moves and supplying it to the building’s electrical system (like the brakes on a hybrid car).

As cities and states around the United States take steps towards more renewable energy, some are adopting similar energy code requirements. California, for example, also restricts vent fans to 0.33 watts per cfm and requires lighting and vent fans to shut down after 15 minutes.

Door lock monitoring requirements

Section 3.10.12 of the New York City Building Code requires passenger and freight elevators to monitor for faulty door contact circuits. If a fault is detected, the elevator can’t move. This code is understandably strict; there are very few exceptions and elevator directors must prove to a third party that their systems work before receiving an operating permit. 

For a solution that simplifies door lock monitoring compliance, look into the ADAMS Elevator Safe-T-Lock door monitoring system.

Passenger communication requirements

Until recently, safety codes did not standardize communication requirements or consider customers who might be disabled, hard of hearing, nonverbal or unconscious. The latest version of ASME A17.1 solves this.

Two-way communication: Any new elevator must have a panel for sending two-way messages between passengers and a monitoring company. Communication must be available 24/7, be possible without audio and be interactive, using visual, text or video elements.

Video elevator monitoring: A video feed of the cab must be available at all times for authorized personnel.

Internet connection: If your elevator operates at or above 60 feet, it must offer both voice and video communication through an Internet connection.

Panels can serve other purposes as well. They can show videos, advertisements or building guides for passengers, keeping them entertained while they ride and making it easier to get where they’re going.

As with energy codes, other towns and states are adopting these requirements. Currently, they are mandatory in Chicago, Illinois, Phoenix, Arizona and the entire states of Nevada, Alabama, South Carolina and Maryland.

Fire code compliance requirements

All buildings in New York City, as well as many throughout the United States, follow ASME 17.1’s Fire Fighters Emergency Operations requirements. There are many requirements in the code, but among the most notable are Phase I and Phase II.

Phase I: Once activated, Phase I forces elevators 25 feet or more above the main floor to return to a designated egress point or an alternate area. It’s activated manually using a special key, or automatically via fire sensors. This removes elevators from normal service so occupants don’t get trapped.

Phase II: This is an override used by firefighters after Phase I starts, operated cab by cab. If a hoistway is free of smoke and power is available, firefighters can operate the elevator using a key switch. The key switch activates a special operating mode, allowing the firefighter to direct the elevator to where it needs to go while reducing the risk of exposure to fire.

This process can be chaotic for passengers and firefighters alike. Products like the ADAMS GateKeeper™ MAX Infrared Curtain Unit, which meets all New York City Building Code and ASME performance standards, make it easier to comply with fire codes—and to keep everyone safe. 

General safety requirements

The ASME A17.1 has expanded significantly since 1920 and now spans over 500 pages. It sets safety standards for everything from elevators and escalators to dumbwaiters and moving walkways. Broadly speaking, it provides guidelines for:

  • Design and installation
  • Provision of maintenance and inspection
  • Emergency procedures
  • Accessibility requirements
  • Performance and testing
  • Compliance and certification
  • All updates to requirements

Thanks to the ASME A17.1, elevator operators across the country have a set of requirements they can reference to ensure passengers get the safest, most efficient, most comfortable rides possible. ADAMS products such as the electronic door restrictor HatchLatch™ and the SmartTork™ Elevator Hoistway Door Closer fall in line with those requirements, keeping up with code—and keeping elevators moving.

Potential new codes

It’s hard to predict what code updates are on the horizon, but industry trends offer a hint as to what the future might hold. Funding initiatives like the Department of Transportation’s RAISE Discretionary Grant program spur new construction throughout the United States. Some of those $2.2 billion dollars may fund new innovations in elevator technology. New buildings incorporating sky bridges and multidirectional mobility may require new kinds of elevators. Even solutions like virtual reality headsets could be used by elevator technicians as they track and maintain service in buildings.

Helpful resources to stay up to date with code requirements

In addition to purchasing the A17.1’s latest edition on the ASME website itself, you can keep track of code updates on these useful websites:

When the ASME, New York City or other entities update safety codes, it’s crucial to upgrade or replace your equipment as soon as possible. Get in touch with ADAMS or shop the online store to see how ADAMS can help.

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