Elevator World Publishes RAM Article on CT-Lift Applications

Accessibility has become a more common topic in the design of buildings, both private residences and public/ commercial spaces as the population of North America ages. A key element of accessibility typically revolves around the use of some form of elevating device to transition from one level of a building to another as part of creating a barrier free path. Guidelines such as the American Disabilities Act (ADA) are often used to inform best practice for these types of accessibility designs in combination with specific codes that are applicable to different equipment options to accomplish the intent.

While traditional passenger elevators are well known to the public, there are a number of other types of elevating devices such as; stair lifts, inclined platform lifts, and vertical platform lifts that are more specifically applicable to accessibility and barrier free path design. These types of devices are used where the elevation change is greater than a ramp product would make sense for and before the travel distance, loads, or duty cycle would require stepping up to a full passenger elevator.

A ramp, for example, is often a good solution for travel distances under 24in and where the number of people needing accessibility is quite high but once the travel distance gets above 24in the 12in of length for each in of rise can become tougher to accommodate and quite expensive. Vertical platform lifts and other elevating devices then tend to become more economic and can save considerable floor space. While stairlifts can be used in numerous circumstances, but their use in commercial buildings is limited as they can’t typically accommodate a person and their wheelchair. Vertical Platform Lifts and Inclined Platform Lifts are more typical in commercial spaces to accommodate people with mobility challenges across the entire spectrum of need.

This article intends to look at a specific type of Vertical Platform Lift that is less well known and could help reduce the costs for accessibility in buildings that are not private residences. This type of lift configuration still preserves a high-quality aesthetic that would be above and beyond a typical vertical platform lift installation provides.

In some parts of the world a “lift” and an “elevator” can be considered the same thing; particularly in some parts of Europe. In Canada and the United Sates of America a lift, or more specifically a vertical platform lift (VPL) for accessibility, is defined by different codes than elevators. The codes that apply to lifts in Canada and the USA are CSA B355 and ASME A18.1, respectively, where elevators have a harmonized code that applies to both Canada and the USA under ASME A17.1/ CSA B44.

The main defining difference between a VPL and an Elevator is the type of operation. Specifically, an elevator is automatic and a lift is operated by constant pressure controls. Automatic operation is what most people are familiar with when it comes to elevating devices – you simply press the button and the device moves to the desired landing or level automatically while you wait (or as is more likely today, while you check your email or text messages on your phone). Constant pressure, on the other hand, requires that the user/ operator press and hold the control button continuously until the carriage arrives at the desired landing where the door or gate will then become unlocked and allow a passenger to enter the carriage area.

In addition to the difference in controls, VPL’s are more limited in the travel, weight capacity, and platform size than a passenger elevator due to the codes that apply. The history involved in deciding the amount of travel and sizes acceptable are not always clear but, from the perspective of this author, the VPL devices were specifically for single users or a user plus attendant and the carriages, with commensurate weight ratings, were then set up to match those requirements. The travel limitations were also considered with respect to the single user operation and thus additional travel to multi-stories is not considered logical for this type of equipment as more than one passenger would be unlikely to utilize the lift at a time. A nee for multiple mobility challenged people to utilize an elevating device simultaneously would then make a passenger elevator a more logical choice for the application.

That being said, there is a special classification of automatic elevator that can be used for commercial purposes, under section 5.2 of the ASME A17.1/ CSA B44 elevator code, called a LU/LA (Limited Use Limited Application); this elevator type is more limited, as the name implies, than a typical passenger elevator in size, weight capacity, and travel. Sometimes this type of elevating device is preferable as it has the automatic controls that might be more commonly understood by the public. It may also allow for voice activation where a lift would not have that ability.

A typical VPL, for commercial applications, has guard rails on the platform that are 42in high rather than a full height carriage that is required for elevator applications. A LU/LA elevator is no exception and has a full carriage requirement. The code for VPL’s does not, however, limit the guard rail height so a complete, full height, carriage could be attached to the platform. With a full height carriage, a user could certainly be excused for thinking a VPL looks identical to an elevator.


The rest of this article will focus on the differences between a full carriage VPL and LULA.

Floor Area: The floor area on a LU/LA is limited to 18 square feet by code and in the USA a VPL is also limited to 18 square feet but in Canada the code allows VPL’s to have as much as 21 square feet of floor space.

Drive types: Virtually any drive type can be attached to a VPL or LULA and the options available on the market are extensive. They range from simple screw type devices, hydraulic, and even MRL Traction devices.

Weight Capacity: Weight capacity for LU/LA devices is typically 1400lb and where a lift is 1400lb and 1050lb for Canada and the USA respectively, unless a variance is obtained.

Travel Speed: LU/LA elevators are limited to 0.15 m/s (ASME A17.1 section travel speed by code where VPL’s can be equipped to operate at up to 0.25 m/s for Canada (CSA B355 section 4.3 ) and 0.15m/s for the USA (ASME A18.1 section 2.7.1) .

Travel: LU/LA elevators are limited to 25ft of travel in both Canada and the USA. VPL’s are limited to 23ft (CSA B355 4.2.1) and 14ft (ASME A18.1 section 2.7.1) in Canada and the USA respectively. Depending on the type of device, many jurisdictions in the USA will grant variances for full height carriage VPL’s up to the 25ft.

Stretcher Access/ Use: Depending on the building, there may still be a requirement from local authorities for the elevating and accessibility equipment to be deemed “stretcher ready”.

Section of the ASME 17.1/ CSA B44 elevator code states that a stretcher, with a patient in the prone position, is 2010mm (79in) x 610mm (24in) in size. According to CSA B355 code the maximum platform area on an accessibility lift is 21 square feet (3024 square inches). Similarly, the limit on platform area in the USA, under ASME A18.1 code, has a limit of 18 square feet (2592 square inches).

Doing the math, both platforms can theoretically handle a stretcher if they are built with a long skinny platform. Whether a particular product can be arranged this way and still met the rest of the testing, stress, and code requirements is outside the scope of this article and will vary from product to product as well as manufacturer to manufacturer.

That being said, in both the Canadian or American case, the platform gets quite skinny and in the case of Canadian code an 80in long platform would then have a maximum width of 37.8in. If 24in of that is taken up by the stretcher then there would only be 13.8 inches left for an attendant. This is even further reduced in the USA where the platform width would only be 32.4in.  In both cases, this is quite limited and a likely scenario is that the stretcher would travel on its own without an attendant. While this is possible it may present safety risks that a paramedic or ambulance service could be concerned about.


At least one elevator authority has tried to provide guidance on this issue and document on their perspective can be viewed at the following link:

Each local authority may have a different perspective and ultimately RAM would suggest you work with your local building permit office to determine if stretcher ready service is required, your local elevator branch to get their interpretation on what is acceptable, and apply for permits in advance of any construction so that there are no surprises.

Pit Depth: Depending on the product, the pit depth can be significantly reduces for a VPL with a full carriage and there are products on the market that will allow a full carriage on a VPL with no pit and only a small threshold ramp on the exterior of a shaft. This can be a significant advantage for retrofit applications where an existing foundation is already in place and digging a pit is problematic but accessibility is needed.

Operation: As noted earlier in this article the operation on a VPL is constant pressure where an elevator is automatic. Constant pressure operation can be confusing to some users that are more familiar with typical elevator equipment and this is one of the main reasons some developers and owners consider LU/LA or passenger elevators instead of VPL’s. However, VPL’s are typically equipped with signage to explain constant pressure usage and since they are primarily for accessibility many of the actual users are familiar with VPL’s operation.

Doors and Shaft Considerations: One of the other main differences between elevators and VPL applications is the shaft/ door arrangement. The way the safety code has been arranged for VPL’s the shaft construction and door arrangement is required to be “flush” on the interior. This flush arrangement avoids issues with shear hazards and eliminates the ability for persons, objects, or pets to remain in place on a landing threshold behind the door but not fully onboard the actual carriage before the door safety device is engaged and allows operation of the lift. This arrangement reduces the cost profile for the equipment and installation on a VPL when compared to a LU/LA.

Overhead Clearance: is the distance between the finished floor at the top landing and the ceiling inside if the shaft. For a  LU/LA the overhead clearance is typically a minimum of 134in whereas a VPL has no specific overhead clearance and is simply limited to practical human height restrictions and machine envelop. There are numerous products on the market that can be as little as 92in of overhead clearance. This can be a significant point for design consideration/ product selection, depending on the project and building arrangement. Building modification or retrofit projects often raise the profile of the overhead clearance of concern more frequently but even new building construction can be challenged by the overhead clearance required by a LU/LA device or a passenger elevator.

Aesthetics/ Appearance: One of the main issues clients, owners, and architects have with VPL’s is the appearance. The devices often look less refined and more utility based than a LU/LA or passenger elevator. In many applications, the code will require accessibility and the travel requirement between levels is excessive for a ramp of some kind but the building is also intended to look more polished. A full height carriage VPL with a full hoistway will give the accessibility device the same appearance as a LU/LA and in many cases other finishes, such as glass and stainless steel, can be employed to match up with other modern design aesthetics.

Initial Installation Cost: Depending on the exact configuration a full height carriage VPL will be between 30% to 50% less expensive than a LU/LA device for the equipment and installation. For some projects this can be substantial amounts of savings and also mean the difference between a building with accessibility that preserves the architectural appeal and one that simply meet the code.

Inspections, Service and Maintenance: Initial inspections are required on all commercial elevating product installation across the USA and Canada. Once an initial inspection has been passed, VPL’s and LU/LA’s typically have an annual inspection so the type of equipment selected does not affect costs initially. Once in operation, LU/LA’s typically require preventative maintenance inspections 4 times per year where VPL’s are typically once per year. Depending on the provider of the service and maintenance, this can be a substantial operating cost difference.




Glass Elevator Rennovation with a View

This is a home in Edmonton, Alberta where they decided to do a significant renovation to enable aging in place. They wanted to add an elevator and the best way to accomplish that was to actually add a shaft on the outside of the house.


They enlisted the assistance of an architect and RAM to talk about the best options for them and this was the result.


Mark Zeliger 2

mark Zeliger


Alberta Bill 5 – Seniors’ Home Adaptation and Repair Act Passed

The Alberta government wants to offer seniors low-interest loans for renovations that will allow them to keep living in their homes.

Bill 5, the Seniors’ Home Adaptation and Repair Act, will offer loans to seniors for repairs and renovations that improve the health, safety, accessibility and energy efficiency of their homes.

Renovations could include walk-in tubs, ramps, lifts, accessibility modifications, etc.

The loans will be no higher than $40,000. Interest will be set at the prime rate with repayment due only when the home is sold or the senior passes away.


Qualification and an outline of the plan can be viewed at: Link to Bill 5


The program is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. If passed, the bill has taken effect as of July 1, 2016 as noted on the Alberta government proclamation website.

Gordon Voth, president of Seniors United Now, said the program will help seniors on a fixed income who may not be able to afford renovations like wider doors to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

“Those are the kind of things that allow seniors…to remain in their home, even if it’s just one year,” he said. “Then they’re not in a facility that’s consuming more dollars.”

The government estimates approximately 145,000 households or 260,000 seniors will be eligible for the program.


CTV reported on this in April 2016 and their article can be found at: CTV New Article on Bill 5


Interesting Glass Traction Accessibility Lift Project with Uppercut Elevators

This is another great example of the quality work being done by Uppercut Elevators in conjunction with the RAM Commercial Traction Lift (CT-Lift) product. There are a few interesting things about this project but the shaft construction is a real highlight.

This project is located in Calgary at Southland Court and has a number of aspects. For one, the exterior of the shaft they constructed is a really beautiful addition to the building and we’re proud to have our product included as part of their accessibility plan.

They have also included the RAM Bi-Fold Door product. This product has a very low swing dimension that makes it a really nice option for tight spaces and in this case it was equipped with stainless steel skins to provide long life and a great appearance.

The Commercial Traction Lift (CT-Lift) is a full traction counter weight design that is also machine roomless and has a minimal pit requirement of 3in. This is very low and for retrofit projects this can be a substantial point of consideration.




Interesting Stratus Elevator Installation in Texas

The Stratus™ home elevator product has been on the market for roughly 18 months and the feedback continues to be positive. This latest installation example is in Texas, USA. Our local dealer partner, Hunter Contracting, did a great job helping this client get a cost effective home elevator installed in a very interesting shaftway that is right off the outside of their deck.

If you want to see more projects that Robert and his team of dedicated contracting pros have done check out their Houzz site listing!


Frontier Stratus 1 - small


Frontier Stratus 3 - small

Frontier Stratus 2 - small




Interfacing Fire Alarm Systems and Elevator Controls

“The relationship between fire alarm systems and elevator control systems, and how these systems interface with each other, has had a long history, one that is still evolving. The following supplement summarizes the historical development of these relationships and provides insight into the requirements for firefighters’ recall and elevator shutdown.”


This would typically only apply to RAM’s LULA elevator products but could apply to our Commercial Traction Lift products from time to time as well.


NFPA Guidance




RAM and Home Healthsmith help Boys and Girls Club in Rhode Island

As part of the RIBA (Rhode Island Builders Association) show this year there was some local involvement from various trade schools and high school students. The result of their efforts was an amazing tree house structure that was set up at the show. The project was conceived to highlight trades in Rhode Island.


The Tree House will also be dismantled at the end of the show and donated to The Boys and Girls Club.


One of RAM’s Sealer Partners. Home Healthsmith, got involved with the project and donated a lift to accompany the treehouse. The team from Home Healthsmith did a great job installing the lift at the show and some images of the project are shown below.


RAM is pleased to be associated with this event and cause as it was also highlighted with the State Senator and Both Congressmen who attended the show for the ribbon cutting event!


Tree House Collage RIBA 2016 - small




Stratus Home Elevator installed in New Foundland

The Stratus™ home elevator product has been on the market for roughly 18 months and the feedback continues to be positive. This latest installation example is in NewFoundland, Canada. Our local dealer partner, Fusion Elevator, did a great job helping this client get a cost effective home elevator installed.


“The customer was able to match the doors to the other doors in his house. It was an easy product to install and the customer is happy with it.

Have a Great Weekend”

Mark (Fusion Elevator)

Fusion Elevator Stratus 2


Fusion Elevator Stratus 1


Another great installation in Rhode Island

RAM is pleased to announce that in cooperation with a local dealer Partner, Home Healthsmith, there has been another great accessibility installation in Wakefield, Rhode Island. This was a quick project where RAM and Home Healthsmith were able to help make the client’s needs happen pretty quickly. We hope the Mazzeo’s enjoy their lift and the accessibility to their summer home!

Bill and Linda have been steadily growing their support for accessibility in the region and this is another example of their commitment to supporting our products and their customers.


Mazzeo 22


Concerns over Hydraulic Elevators

“Is there a good reason why hydraulic elevators do not need to meet the same codes as a traction elevator? In the US there are about three times as many hydraulic elevators as traction elevators. Yet very few of these elevators have safety devices to stop them in an uncontrolled fall or unintended movement. There is little information available about how many accidents there are from people tripping in or out of a mis-leveled elevator, but this is the most common occurrence.

Consumerwatch states The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is not authorized to regulate elevators as it does other products such as automobiles or personal equipment. CPSC which reports on injury and death associated with elevators. Report injuries from elevators affect about 10,200 people per year, with the majority of these accidents being related to elevator door malfunction and elevator misalignment with floors.

Hydraulic elevators are slow moving. They are pushed up by hydraulic fluid that is contained in a closed system. If there is a small leak in the system the elevator will have the tendency to sink and move away from the floor level creating a trip hazard. In some cases when there is a large leak from failure of a packing or the jack assembly itself ruptures. A hydraulic elevator will fall at an uncontrolled speed causing severe damage to passengers and the equipment.

Many states and cities are moving to replace any hydraulic cylinders manufactured prior to 1972. These hydraulic cylinders were typically a single bottom design and are more prone to catastrophic failures. Jack assemblies after 1972 were of a double bottom design and less likely to have this type of catastrophic failure.”


Traction elevator designs do not have these problems as they are inherently required to have unintended car movement sensing in most cases. RAM prefers to offer the traction counterweight design we helped pioneer over 20 years ago for this and many other reasons.


Link to Article