Limited Use/Limited Application (LULA) elevators have many advantages that make them an ideal elevator solution for low-rise projects. They help building owners comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines, they can be less expensive than a commercial passenger elevator, and the smaller size might be just right for the space. However, it’s important to remember one important aspect of LULA’s. As the name implies, they come with limitations.
Before buying a LULA, make sure there is a clear understanding of use and application. More than once, we have seen a perfectly good LULA succumb to the constant need for attention and unusual wear patterns in places where there shouldn’t be any. Often, this is due to an unrealistic understanding of the LULA’s capabilities when purchased.
One particular case was an elevator installed for an older, two-story fraternal lodge that hosted wedding receptions and parties. To accommodate guests with disabilities, they started to shop for vertical transportation. To save money, they went with the LULA thinking that people with disabilities would use it occasionally. Limited use, right? But, after multiple return trips for repairs and frequent breakdowns, we placed a video camera inside the elevator car and in the machine room to gather information about the circumstances around the breakdowns.
The video results were revealing; the actual use was more appropriate for a freight elevator. We watched the video of a typical Saturday evening as heavy sound and lighting equipment, chairs, food carts and caterers avoided the steps and used the little LULA that could.
So much for limited use and application. This was no minimally used elevator for people with disabilities, but a lift used by many for convenience, to avoid trudging up a flight of steps. In one day, there were over 100 trips logged, which exceeds the rated capacity of a LULA.
Ultimately, the owner had only 2 options: limit use to disabled people only, or purchase a beefier commercial elevator. The first is difficult to implement and police, and can lead to customer dissatisfaction. So the better option would have been to install a commercial elevator in the first place.
To avoid a similar fate, here are steps to take when choosing the right elevator:
- Be realistic about the use. Know that unless the elevator is supervised, people will use it for nearly anything.
- Pick an elevator that meets the needs of the use. This may mean a LULA , a commercial passenger or freight elevator. Keep in mind that there are several capacities for LULAs and all elevators. Pick an elevator that fits your needs, and if you aren’t sure, ask a professional.
- Listen to experts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding use and suitability of the particular model you are looking at. Call several companies that install elevators, not just sales representatives for LULA companies.
- Shop carefully. There is more than one elevator company in the world and several LULA companies. Find the right one for you with a certified installer you can trust.
If you have a LULA and the problems are starting to pile up, think about your use. Consider that use may be outside of the abilities of the elevator, and limitations or even an upgrade are needed. The bottom line is that you need to be clear minded about your needs, so you can get the right elevator to start with. That way, you can avoid a replacement that drives up costs, a multitude of repairs and the inconvenience of unnecessary shut downs.