Attic space – how do you make it accessible?


Published April 26, 2019
More and more housing associations want to utilize and rebuild drying and storing attics for habitable areas. It is a really good idea as there is often a good business for both contractor and housing association in rebuilding the attic for residential areas. But how do you actually go about it and live up to the accessibility requirements?

The attic direcly below the roof is often unused in many old storey buildings, if it is used it is normally as a laundry drying room or storageroom. But within the last few years, modernizations of the attic space has grown increasingly. And that's a good idea. Especially in the metropolitan areas, where the demand for the habitable square meters is large. Furthermore, its not not a bad investment for the housing associations to look at the modernization and utilization of the attic. In most cases the optimization is done in connection with other much needed modernizations such as a roof replacement. But with habitable square meters there are also requirements from the building regulations regarding accessibility. A requirement that in several municipalities cannot necessarily be dealt with through a dispensation and therefore must be taken seriously and thought into the overall solution right from the start.

Elevator lift in attic appartment | HYDRO-CON Elevator A/S

Elevator solution – despite space problems

There are several elevator solutions that can be used to create the necessary accessibility to the newly created square meters in the attic. For example, a durchsicht solution where the elevator is built into the front stair area or an external location where it is placed outside the building in the backyard is also a possible solution. But in a number of cases, these presentations for solutions are beyond the reach of the housing association as they are stranded with problems of lack of space. In many cases, there is simply no room to install an elevator shaft in the mentioned places. In practice, this only leaves the option to place the elevator inside the apartments with the disadvantage that it takes square meters from the already often relatively small apartments. A solution which often is unacceptable for the residents of the existing apartments and whom will put an end to the entire project.

Elevator replacing staircase is a realistic option

However, as a realistic option, several housing associations have recently moved towards an elevator solution in the back stairway area. As a replacement for the rear staircase, the elevator shaft is placed where it does not occupy habitable square meters and the repositories on the rear staircase can be maintained and act as distribution entrances from the elevator and into the various apartments. The rear staircase room is usually a cramped space with small dimensions, but with our customizable elevator shaft solutions this is not a hindrance, further more the products are quiet and won't disturb the residents. These elevator solutions are even optimized to minimize the related building work in connection with the installation, cutting costs!

Escape route and fire conditions are manageable 

Since a lift solution on the rear staircase removes an escape route from the apartments, it is of course important to take into account all fire conditions. Depending on which municipality you are in, the conditions may differ depending on the local fire authorities. But as a rule, it is enough to have the main stairway be fire safety proofed. This can be done with either sprinkling or gypsum cladding, and in some cases it has proved to be sufficient just to replace the apartment's door with a classified fire door. You also have to consider the  fire conditions in the rear stairway area. If a resident in a given situation can get caught on a rear staircase in front of the elevator, it is important that assistance can be called at all times. However, this is not a big problem as an alarm systems in connection with the elevator can be used when it can be accessed from the different floor repositories.

Elevator in back staircase | HYDRO-CON Elevator A/S

But what about the cost?

If you look at the cost to the housing association, which may wish to establish an in the back stairway, then there are many advantages to combining it with a renocation of the attic. Firstly, it will obviously meet the requirement for accessibility from the building regulations to a new livable attic space, which
increases the value of the attic apartments, compared to apratments without elevator access. Secondly, it will also ensure both an increase in the poroperty value and an increase in demand on all the apartments in the complex which now have an elevator entrance direclty from their back stairway area. Demand for accessibilty in apartments and storeybuildings continues to increase as an ever-increasing proportion of older residents fint it difficult to climb the stairs.  A resident group whose number is expected to increase in the coming years and constitute a significant proportion of the residents in storey complexes in the future. Conclusively, combining the establishment of attic apartments with the installation of a minimal and easy elevator solution on the back stairway, leaves a housing association with a project everyone in the complex can benefit from both financially and access wise in the long run.

Elevator on balcony | HYDRO-CON Elevator A/S

A manageable project

A project like installing an elevator in the rear stairway in combination with the establishment of attic apartments can, for most housing associations, be an unmanageable project. For the most part, the commitment lies with one enthusiast in the association that drives the project forward, with the help of an external architect or engineer as an advisor to get the project started. But that doesn't have to be the way. Today, there are system suppliers who specialize in establishing elevators in back stairways as a turnkey solutions from a to z. In combination and collaboration with a contractor who takes care of the establishment of the attic apartments, it is an easily accessible project where the timeline and technical solutions fit together.

An example from Frederiksberg

A few years ago, a housing association in Frederiksberg wanted to expand their 7 complexes with the establishment of attics suitable for living. The association started the project but soon found that the building regulations required accessibility and hence elevators for such a project. The municipality refused to be flexible regarding this requirement, therefore the solution became a project where the rear staircases were demolished and elevator lifts from HYDRO-CON were installed in the 7 rear stairway areas. The stairways were different sizes and some of them were such narrow dimensions that it was impossible to install an off the shelf normal elevator solution. But with our customizable elevator lifts made especially for these very narrow installation, together we found a solution. At the same time, the association avoided both having to make foundations in the basement or expand the roofing to make room for the elevators, as this is not necessary for this type of elevator lift which is self-supporting in its own shaft. So no further adaptations were required for the rear staircase, which saved the housing association a great cost. In order to optimize safety, alarm systems were installed on each rear staircase in front of the lifts in the event that a resident for one reason or another had been locked out or trapped. For fire protection, fire-proof BD30 doors were installed by all the apartment entrances as the municipality did not require sprinkling. With the lifts serving all the floors and not just the new roof dwellings, the whole association got the benefit of the new lifts that were built in combination with the renovation of the new livable attics.











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