Russ Ward

Elevators Per Building A Personal Guide

This blog post contains my personal cheat sheet or guide of determining the number of elevators per building. Whether you are an architect or a building owner these rules or thoughts are important to consider and apply, but are not hard and fast dictates. You get enough of that from the building code. They are however considerations based on experience.

With that said, keep in mind that the number of elevators per building has long been debated and argued, discussed and researched. Friendly forces on a project often work in opposition when deciding on the number. Initial installation and long-term maintenance costs are the concern of the building owner. The architect may be thinking about the traffic flow or the aesthetic. Finally, the code contains rules that must be followed.

These three forces and others must be melded into one decision and I hope this list can help explain or enlighten.

Lastly, a word about the list. It was developed over several years from all sorts of sources, from online white papers to personal conversations with architects, consultants and others. I supply the list when asked by anyone and have done so for years, however, today I am willing to share this information with you to better assist in answering the important question, how many elevators does my building need?

Before the Nitty-Gritty

Keep in mind the number is not just a function of simple math, that would make this easy. But instead, it has to be based on a lot of information including the type of building to the expected traffic patterns.

Complicating this effort is that you may not know crucial information when still in the planning stages. But, you need to make a decision or there you will remain. So, to get the ball rolling you need to clearly think about the following questions. After the questions will be my general guidelines. Consider the items listed below to help sharpen your focus on the actual need.

Here’s the list of questions to consider:

  1. How will the elevator be used? Is it a small office complex? Or for a safe and vault company on a third floor? Many people go too small and then are stuck with work-a-rounds. Would it be more cost effective to have a small elevator for passengers and a second freight elevator? Or service elevator? Going cheap on a real small unit could cost you more in the future.
  2. What wait time are you willing to have? That is a huge factor! If 30 seconds is too long, does that warrant a second unit? Hotels and offices generally want the visitor to wait under a half a minute. Apartments not so much. How much more are you willing to pay up front and then in maintenance fees in the future to keep wait times low?
  3. How high is it going and how many stops will it make? As we will see below that is a big determining factor. Can there be fewer stops or floors in the building design? The difference in hydraulic generally (2 to 5ish floors) versus traction (6ish and higher) can be $100,000 up front and double maintenance costs.
  4. What are your anticipated peak hours of usage? Should another elevator be considered if you are extremely busy for one hour in the morning? Is it an even flow all day? Is the elevator for code compliance only and usage will be extremely light?
  5. Built in traffic patterns, do they exist? Is there a cafeteria on the third floor? An observation room and restaurant on the twelfth? A fitness center on the 10th? As an example in the extreme, an international hotel has the lobby on the 95th floor of a skyscraper. Do you need a designated elevator for that kind of known traffic flow?
  6. Who are the primary users? An elevator that is only ADA compliant is fine for many applications, but they will not accommodate a gurney. You may be required to have a larger elevator depending on the number of floors. What if it is used for student housing? For senior citizens? For upscale housing? Etc.
  7. What is the total square footage being served and how many people are in those square feet? In a small building the footprint of the elevators can be limited. Especially true if the distance to the elevator from an occupied room is short and space is at a premium. A big sprawling complex may need several additional units. That is despite low usage because of the distance from the elevator to the rooms occupied.
  8. How do local, state and national building codes apply? This questions is more crucial than almost all the others. You can have a dozen elevators, but if they fail to meet code they will not be approved for use.

The answers to those questions will guide you in your choice. Just remember your ultimate goal is to…provide the most cost effective elevator service to the greatest number of occupants, with the lowest possible wait times, when traffic is at its highest, to allow flow for the passengers as rapidly as possible.

With all that up front, here are the promised general guidelines or rough estimates for the number of elevators you need, based upon the type of building that you are considering.

Commercial Buildings:

  1. One elevator for every 50,000 square feet in use for commercial applications. For every two floors or two and a half floors consider adding an additional elevator.
  2. Never exceed eight elevators in a single group or bank. Remember that no bank of elevators should serve more than 16 total floors or more.
  3. A service elevator must be considered if the building is over four and a half floors. At over ten floors a service elevator is a general requirement. At that number of stops without a service elevator, traffic will not be effectively moving in the building.
  4. Consider that specialized floors may increase vertical transportation needs. A common lunchroom contained on a single floor may force the need for another elevator due to specific traffic.


  1. The rule of thumb is one elevator for every 75 to 80 hotel rooms for hospitality. There should a minimum of one elevator for even two or three-story hotels.
  2. Add an additional elevator for four floors.
  3. The distance between the elevator and the most distant room should not be beyond 150 feet.
  4. For more floors just remember to add an elevator for every additional 75 to 80 rooms.
  5. For every two – standard passenger elevators, a service elevator should be added. Maintenance, moving furniture, laundry and other services make this necessary.
  6. Keep in mind that special event rooms, convention areas and especially big lobbies or meeting room areas can expand the need for elevators to keep the distance to the room from the elevator small.

Multi-Family Complexes:

  1. For every 90 – 100 units there should be an elevator in multi-family complexes. The greatest distance between the elevators and the farthest living quarters should not be greater than 150 feet.
  2. High-end, multi-family complexes should have available one elevator for every 50 to 60 units for convenience and to reduce wait times.
  3. Ceilings need to be higher (9 to 10 feet) in at least one elevator to accommodate furniture or other large items. The capacity for one of the elevators should no less than 3500 lbs. When over 9 floors a freight elevator is definitely recommended to ensure better traffic flow, but consider one for four floors or more.
  4. The building code generally requires at least one stretcher model for 4 stories and above.


  1. Especially in light of current issue with infectious diseases, when possible a separate elevators for visitors, patients and staff in healthcare facilities.
  2. At least two elevators should be provided for every 100 hospital beds or 50 patient care rooms for the patients and visitors.
  3. Separating patient use from visitors may also be a consideration depending on the purpose of the medical facility regardless of size.
  4. Elevators should be designated as to whether they are clean or soiled. This may mean adding an elevator for hazardous materials or moving medical waste.
  5. Add elevators if warranted for operating areas; kitchens, cafeterias, laundry, medical supplies, etc.
  6. Due to security concerns additional limited access elevators maybe warranted.

Changes Do Happen

Keep in mind that these numbers can and will change based upon many factors including current affairs. I change these considerations often and most recently did so based upon some issues in dealing with Covid-19. Based upon usage, infectious diseases and technology developed, I am sure the list will change again in the near future. On a side note, in use and in development are elevators with foot pedals, or no touch buttons. We may see a jump forward in technology in the medical field especially. Self-disinfecting elevators may need further development.

Remember to be thoughtful, ask plenty of questions and if you need the help contact a qualified consultant. Elevators per building can be tricky. So, if you have a project in mind and want to ask questions feel free to contact us at your convenience. We will always discuss elevators in general as a service. However of course, for thumbnail pricing for your project just click the Fast Track button below so we can help take you to a higher level.

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3 thoughts on “Elevators Per Building A Personal Guide

  1. Pingback: Elevator Placement - Modular Elevator Manufacturing

  2. Jeff

    Thank for being upfront on the elevators required for most building projects. For our next project we will be tapping your brain and knowledge again.

  3. Shaniqua Tillet

    This is great information that I never knew. When I meet with people on my projects I feel I am always at their mercy. You have helped equip me with some great knowledge! Thanks sooooo much.

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