BCO releases lift and escalator guidance for reopening offices

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BCO releases lift and escalator guidance for reopening offices

11 Aug 2020

The British Council for Offices (BCO) has today released new guidance for the safe use of escalators and lifts, as the country begins to return to the office.

The safe use of lifts and escalators has been a priority for the industry, with 90%* of decision-makers and influencers in the commercial office sector saying they were worried about their safe use.

To help solve these headaches, the guidance emphasises the importance of social distancing and strict hygiene measures.

For lifts, this means reducing the amount of time that doors stay open, implementing queue controls, marking where users should stand and upgrading controls to make them touchless – something which could see the introduction apps that allow users to select their floor by phone, or buttons which are pressed by foot.

Escalator riders, meanwhile, can also expect to be told where to stand by markings, and to be guided by upgraded antimicrobial handrails.

The guidance suggests that masks should be worn, particularly in lifts, and that hand sanitising stations should be provided at both entry and exits points for lifts and escalators.

All this will make the office experience feel very different. An average 2,000kg escalator carries sixteen people, but will now be capped at just four.

Change, however, shouldn’t just be for Covid-19. The paper states that even if a vaccine is found, a future pandemic would necessitate the ‘same response’. To mitigate against future pandemics, the paper suggests more substantial design changes, which include fitting wide doors to lifts and improving their ventilation.

Chris Richmond, Head of Real Estate, PwC, said:

“As one of the first corporate occupiers in the UK to reopen all our offices in early July, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our people and maintaining a Covid-19 secure environment within all our offices.

“Lifts and escalators provide specific challenges and I applaud this latest BCO guidance that provides an insightful, practical and considered view for occupiers and their advisers too. As purveyors of best practice, we will be paying close attention to its findings and recommendations.”

Richard Kauntze, British Council for Offices, said:

“As Britain’s offices slowly, safely reopen their doors, it’s vital that we think carefully about all of the different ways we need to change office life to protect people. Lifts and escalators are communal spaces – people are cramped together in lifts, escalator handrails can be touched by hundreds of hands a day – meaning they can present a real risk of virus transmission. This guidance helps make them safe and helps encourage employees back to the workplace.”

Neil Pennell, Chair of the BCO Technical Affairs Committee & Head of Design Innovation and Property Solutions at Landsec, said:

“Lifts and escalators are essential to many offices, but we barely think about them in our everyday lives. During these times they require a clear, process-driven approach to minimise the risk of virus transmission. It is essential that measures are put in place to ensure that social distancing is followed, and hygiene standards are high – this guidance will help to focus the response.”

The guidance, titled ‘Thoughts on lift and escalator design and operation after Covid-19’, is available here and is free to download for BCO members and non-members.

*Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (2020), Working Safely during Coronavirus (COVID-19).



Sam Barnett: 07768 866572, sam.barnett@teneo.com

Imogen Sackey: 07850 922332, imogen.sackey@teneo.com

About the BCO

The British Council for Offices (BCO) is the UK’s leading member organisation representing the interests of all those who occupy, design, build, own or manage offices in the UK. This year marks 30 years of the BCO providing thought leadership and best practice in all issues related to the creation and use of office space – through its research, awards, conference and events programmes. You can learn more about the BCO at www.bco.org.uk.

The paper was authored by Neil Pennell, Head of Design Innovation and Property Solutions at Landsec & Chair of the BCO Technical Affairs Committee, and Peter Williams, Technical Advisor to Stanhope.

The authors and the BCO would like to thank the following members of the BCO and leading consultants in the field of vertical transportation for their contributions to and peer review of the final publication:

  • Bill Evans – D2E
  • Paul Burns – D2E
  • Simon Russett – Hoare Lea
  • Michael Seddon -WSP  
  • Steven Truss – WSP 

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