The challenges of listed buildings: installing a lift

Working in a listed building presents unique challenges, as the property needs to be maintained and its original structural design preserved, and yet improvements still need to be made. At Axess2 we understand the challenges of installing a lift in a listed building; to install an elevator in Durham Cathedral we had to take into consideration the restrictions applied to a Grade I listed building, which greatly influenced the project.

These restrictions apply to any other listed building, not just cathedrals. There are currently 376,470 listed buildings in England, although only 2.5% of those are Grade I, and therefore defined as exceptional interest. 5.5% are Grade II - particularly important buildings of more than special interest – and 92% are Grade III – special interest that warrants every effort to conserve them.

So while installing a lift into one of these buildings, special considerations always need to be made.

Preserving the Original Structural Design

One of the most important factors involved in the installation of lifts in listed buildings, if not the most vital, is the need to preserve their original architecture. In order to avoid disrupting the design and craftsmanship of the structure, the lift needs to be able to blend seamlessly with its surroundings and be as invisible as possible.

Bespoke lifts are usually the best solution, because they can be tailored to meet all the requirements of the building, including the need to conserve it. They should be able to operate in the smallest space possible, to minimise interference – one answer to this is to use a lift that works well in a shallow pit or without one, removing the need to hollow out part of the building.

The Design of the Lift

Finding the best location to install the lift might be a challenge, but it means that it won’t interfere with the features and character of the building. After choosing the right place, you must also think about the design of the lift itself, not just its functionality. For example, glass doors offer a touch of the contemporary to any building, and complement stone, tiles or bricks really well, meaning they’re suitable for a wide range of applications. This also means that the structure of the building is in the foreground, and the lift itself takes a back seat, as more of the architecture is visible.

Retaining the Status

Another very important consideration is maintaining the listed status, as buildings can be removed from the list if the original factors that put them there can no longer be supported. If, when installing the lift, the architecture is damaged or there are alterations to the original structure, the building can lose its listed status permanently.

In light of all this, it becomes necessary to choose the right lift for installation, preferably one that can be customised to fit the building to perfection. This was the case with our project with Durham Cathedral, and our understanding of the listed status, as well as our knowledge of bespoke lift solutions, meant we were able to install a lift that meets all the necessary requirements. The importance of using an experienced company to find the right solution for each individual project should never be underestimated, as they need to provide customised options that not only benefit their customers, but are completely specific to their unique requirements.


With years of experience and knowledge in the lift installation industry, Axess2 provides bespoke, highly-specialised lifts for homes and businesses across the nation, to suit all customers’ needs. If you’re looking for high quality custom-built lifts, contact the Axess2 team on 01200 405005.

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