How much does an elevator cost?
June 27, 2011 8:56 AM   Subscribe

How much would it cost to install an elevator in a five-story commercial building?

So there's this awesome nineteenth-century building near where I work. The first floor is a retailer, but the top four floors are empty. Turns out there used to be an elevator going up the whole way, but it was removed years ago for tax reasons. There's currently a stairway going up to the second floor, but access to the top three floors is by ladder and trap door.

I think this 1) is a shameful waste of space, and 2) would be a fantastic building to re-hab into mixed-use commercial/residential. I'm pretty comfortable estimating the cost of remodeling the upper floors for residential use, but I've got absolutely no idea how much it would cost to install a new elevator. I've found a bunch of estimates for residential elevators, i.e. handicapped-access stuff for private homes, but little on institutional-type commercial elevators.

The thing should be big enough to move standard furniture, but we're probably not talking about an actual freight elevator here. The 1500-2000 pound capacity of most elevators I've seen should be plenty.

posted by valkyryn to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the elevator shaft still exist? Does it look to be a similar size to most current elevators, or is it some tiny 2 person thing? Assuming its already there, then presumably its just a matter of putting in a new mechanism.
posted by Joh at 9:16 AM on June 27, 2011

I would talk with architects and engineers familiar with rehabbing mixed-use space, and ask them who you need to talk to.
posted by dfriedman at 9:20 AM on June 27, 2011

I'd guess that the elevator is the tip of the iceberg here. For example, I'm not aware of anywhere in the US where you can use an elevator as primary egress, so you'd also have to remedy the trap-doors-and-ladders issue. That there used to be an elevator means there's a shaft and machine room somewhere. If there isn't equivalent pre-existing infrastructure for stairs, that could easily become the more-expensive problem.
posted by range at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Good questions.

There may need to be lots of structural rehab to accommodate an elevator shaft.

The shaft itself has been removed, but the space where it used to be is still evident and largely undisturbed. I don't see there being all that much of an issue, but yes, getting a bid is clearly going to be important.

If there isn't equivalent pre-existing infrastructure for stairs, that could easily become the more-expensive problem.

Actually, there did used to be stairwell access to the whole building. Getting that reinstalled shouldn't be too difficult.

Really, my question is whether this is going to be more like $10,000, more like $50,000, or more like $100,000+, just for the elevator.
posted by valkyryn at 9:36 AM on June 27, 2011

Maybe do something like this?
posted by beerbajay at 9:45 AM on June 27, 2011

Best answer: A good bit more than 100K, especially given that all of the hoistway and machine room and pit equipment have been removed. Best guess, more like 200K.

Keep in mind that ADA requirements can't be met by a 2000lb car, and newest building code requires a fire service elevator serve all floors of the building, so if your jurisdiction is following that code you need a variance or more space.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:48 AM on June 27, 2011

Really, my question is whether this is going to be more like $10,000, more like $50,000, or more like $100,000+, just for the elevator.

If you're looking for ballpark figures, it'll be more like $100k+. My church hopes to install one someday in our rental property and we had our architect look into it, but the cost is prohibitive for the time being.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:51 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

For perspective, a major renovation (without needing all new pit and hoistway equipment) is more like 180K, including all of the related building work - you will need more related building work as well as more elevator work.

Also, a 2000lb car isn't going to accommodate a lot of furniture - it won't accommodate a stretcher, so probably not a couch either.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:54 AM on June 27, 2011

Best answer: This could end up being wildly expensive (your "wildly" may vary from mine). Horselover Phattie, Joh and range all bring up good points:

1. Since there used to be an elevator, you could suppose that there is existing elevator infrastructure within the building, like a shaft and machine room. However, those spaces may have been repurposed for other uses and would need to be reclaimed. It's also possible that those spaces no longer meet sizing requirements for modern elevator machinery (probably not so much of a problem for the machine room, since the latest elevator designs generally do not require machine rooms - see a Kone EcoSpace for an example). If the shaft or pit isn't big enough for a standard elevator, you'll either have to enlarge it or get a custom elevator size built - which is more expensive between the two of those options will depend on how the building was constructed. You'll have a hell of a time enlarging a steel or concrete-framed elevator shaft, which is likely with a 5-story building. There are smaller residential-style elevators, but I don't think those are generally able to have 5 stops.

2. The elevator shaft will not qualify as an egress, so if the upper levels are limited to access by ladder at the moment, you'll have to add at least one stair, most likely two.

3. It's probably worth a call or visit to your building department to see what they'll require, especially with regard to items 1 and 2. You might just want to put in a small elevator, but they may require you to put in one that will accommodate an ambulance stretcher, which means you'll be looking at the 3500lb model. You'll get some leeway on this in an exisitng building, more so if it's a designated historical existing building, but less so because the spaces on the upper levels are currently unused and you'll be changing their occupancy/intensifying the building use by adding the elevator.

4. Opening up the upper levels again could bring in a whole host of other issues, like how much parking the building has, exiting issues other than those mentioned in item 2, or any other number of things.

All that said, I got a bid on the smallest elevator available from Thyssen a year or so ago to go into an existing building with 7 stops - yours would likely be similar. The bid came in at $250,000, just for the elevator alone.
posted by LionIndex at 10:03 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should note that the figure quoted would have included all the machinery and everything on the elevator manufacturer's side of things.

Keep in mind that ADA requirements can't be met by a 2000lb car

Generally, it seems like the smallest "commercial" elevators by the big manufacturers (Otis, Kone, Thyssen, Schindler) are designed to the minimum elevator dimensions required by accessibility standards, but those are typically 2100lb models.
posted by LionIndex at 10:07 AM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Sounds like an elevator is going to be prohibitively expensive. $150k-200k is way too much to spend on an elevator for a building that would only have three or four apartments.

Walk-up it is.

Thanks guys!
posted by valkyryn at 10:23 AM on June 27, 2011

Is the building in an historic district or have other recognition? If so, and even if not necessarily so or so at this time, it may be possible to finance a rehab using historic preservation tax credits, available at the federal and state level. Projects like this are often also eligible for various local development monies, e.g. such as may be available through inclusion in a TIF.

It would probably be advisable in any case with a project of this magnitude to partner with an existing knowledgeable developer, who would have the resources and relationships to make deals and compromises.

Fort Wayne has an Historic Commission that would be a good place to start asking questions.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 AM on June 27, 2011

I work for a contractor and we recently priced a job with an elevator that went up one floor in a brand new building. We were quoted $70,000 from Thyssen Krupp - just for their part of it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2011

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