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You have an older two-story commercial building and the question is whether you are required to install an elevator. The answer to this, of course, is it depends.

If your building has less than 3,000 SF per floor or is a 2-story building, generally an elevator is not required. But this is based upon what types of tenants are located on the other floor(s). If there are any medical offices an elevator is required. Also, if there are any retail shops, an elevator is required. And last, if space is provided for a public agency, an elevator most likely will be required. There are a few more exceptions where an elevator is required as well such as for an airport passenger terminal or specified public transportation.

This is the requirement for new buildings. But let’s say the building was built pre-ADA without an elevator and there are medical offices on the second floor. If you are doing an alteration on the second floor you are required to spend an additional 20% on the path of travel supporting this altered space which could include an elevator. In California, if the remodel is over the Valuation Threshold which for 2012 is $136,060, then all path of travel items will need to be made compliant. The exception for this is the elevator. The path of travel obligation whether above or below the Valuation Threshold for the elevator is limited to 20% similar to ADA.

So unless you are doing a substantial alteration where the 20% additional expenditure can buy you an elevator, you will be putting the money into other upgrades for the path of travel. Of course you can always choose to make the facilities more accessible than the minimum required and if the space is used by a public agency you may be required to in order to have them as a tenant. Then one small additional note, even if other levels do not have elevator access, you are still obligated to make each element on these levels accessible.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

© 2012 Janis Kent, Architect, CASp