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Elevating Your Home



Living and working in Marin for twenty years, hillside construction with two- and three-story homes was common. Every so often, a client would ask for an elevator. Often the cost and home requirements would scare them off, but I tried to talk people into keeping that option available.


Many of my clients are of the age that thinking of the future is easy in regard to our space, barbecue areas, how the great room will look for the kitchen will function. But they often don’t want to think about getting…… old or senior. The reality is we all will be there at some time or we might have a melody that requires us to do early be in a wheelchair on crutches. Perhaps it will have an elderly family member visit them, and they need to have that option.


Some years ago, Napa had a City Council person in a wheelchair. A good friend of mine, I could never have him visit my home because I had too many steps.


When I designed a luxury community of condominiums overlooking the bay to San Francisco, I included elevators to the ground floor units. They were the first to go sell. Interestingly the community was anticipated to be mostly seniors and retirees, but it became a magnet for young families as making an entry into the fast price escalating North Bay home market.


Today’s new homes are rarely one-story, mostly two and three stories are common. Just providing the shaft space is an easy solution. That space might be a closet in the entry room, and later converted to a shaft.


Recently, I had a young couple at one and a one-story house with a loft for future family members. They asked for an elevator. The idea initially seemed odd, from a young family, but it made sense to, provide the space on two level, the power and if necessary, the foundation clearance for the future well.


From an architect one of you, we have to design the elevator as if it’s going to be filled tomorrow, because we have to include all the details, clearances and power requirements. It could be built in the future, but it might be a little more difficult and expensive. It’s all a matter of personal needs.


There are variety of elevators out there: some are simple, some are utilitarian, and others are cool to a point of wanting to have them in your living room as a showpiece.


Elevators have actually been around for over 3000 years. The Egyptian’s use simple devices to raise their huge stones for the pyramids and the first elevator using Archimedes principles was in 236 BC. Roman Colosseum was completed with 25 elevators to raise animals from the floor. The 19th century industrial revolution saw crude steam driven elevators, but the most important invention was by Elijah Otis. The safety lock of 1852 allowed passenger elevators of multi stories. Arguably, the safety lock on elevators what is the father of the American skyscraper.


Today machine room less elevators are being momentum because:

  • Require less space

  • Use significantly less energy

  • No hydraulic oil

  • All components above grade

  • Cost significantly less

  • Can operate at faster speeds

  • Low noise levels


For those that have no room for an elevator, a stair chair climber is an option. With a cost of $2000-$5000, they can easily accommodate a straight run stair.


Chris d Craiker /AIA

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