Lifts in schools

Design standards, maintenance and more information about installing lifts in your school.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • Project manager
  • Property manager
  • Product providers
  • Maintenance contractors

Boards must provide ‘reasonable and adequate provision’ for people with learning support needs to access your school buildings. A lift is often the best way to do this if your school is multi-storied. There are various ways lifts can be paid for, and they must meet specific standards.

Installing lifts

When you are building or altering any buildings at your school you must make sure people with learning support needs have access to every part of that building where it is reasonably practicable. This is required by section 118 of the Building Act. This applies even if there are no people at your school with learning support needs when you are doing the building work.

Section 118 of the Building Act – NZ Legislation(external link)

Installing a lift is one option when you have multi-storey buildings at your school.

Other ways of giving access to buildings

While a lift is often the most practical option for giving people with learning support needs access to multi-story buildings, there can be other solutions such as:

  • connecting the building to one that already has access for people with learning support needs
  • having access to each level from outside if the building is on a sloping site
  • making sure all activities that involve people with learning support needs are on the ground floor.

Meeting design standards for lifts

As a minimum, lifts for multi-storey school buildings should meet the requirements in section 9 of ‘NZS 4121: 2001 Design for access and mobility: Buildings and associated facilities.

Section 9 of ‘NZS 4121: 2001 Design for access and mobility: Buildings and associated facilities – Standards NZ(external link)

The Ministry recommends all new lifts meet the following specifications over and above NZS 4121:2001:

  • Lifts shall be commercial quality with a fully enclosed car (must have internal walls). No platform or stair lifts.
  • Internal lift-car dimensions are at minimum 1800mm x 1500mm to provide enough space for a student in a motorised wheelchair and a carer to be able to manoeuvre.
  • Lift controls should be mid-way on side wall/s (may be in addition to controls positioned adjacent to the lift doors).
  • Car entry doors should be bi-parting (have 2 doors that open from the middle). 

NZS 4121 does not allow platform or stair lifts as a means of compliance, however some consenting authorities (councils) have permitted platform or stair lifts to be installed at schools in the past. Although cheaper to supply and install than a commercial quality lift, they are not suitable in a school setting given lifts may experience extended periods without use, and the maintenance requirements that come with such a usage profile.

These requirements apply to passenger lifts providing access to upper floors. They do not apply to:

  • access to facilities such as hall stage or library mezzanine, where a platform or mobile lift may be adequate and cost effective
  • vertical transportation exclusively for objects, such as dumbwaiter elevator in a canteen area.

Paying for lifts

Installing a lift is usually part of a larger project. For example, when an upgrade to an old 2-storey block using 5 Year Agreement funding (5YA) triggers the need to install a lift, these costs must be met from 5YA funding.

5 Year Agreement funding (5YA)

If you are planning a multi-story building as part of a new teaching space project, you may be able to use the project funding to put in a lift. We will approve this on a case-by-case basis but only for one lift. You will need to make sure the lift will serve the entire space (including a number of buildings, if there is natural flow across the buildings).

New teaching space project

Using learning support property modification funding

You may be able to use learning support property modification funding to install a lift if a student or staff member with learning support needs begins at your school. It can also be used for modifying an existing lift.

We will approve this on a case-by-case basis. The decision to fund a lift will be made as part of the property modification process.

Maintaining and servicing lifts

Your lift must be regularly inspected and serviced to keep it safe. We have a national contract for lift inspection and maintenance in schools. This is part of our the building warrant of fitness scheme. We pay for this at no cost to your school.

Building warrant of fitness scheme

The contract covers:

  • servicing
  • maintenance
  • safety inspections.

It does not cover damage from misuse or vandalism. These costs must be met by you.

Lifts are only accepted into the building warrant of fitness scheme if they comply with the standard they were installed under (eg NZS 4332 pr EN81-70). If your lift does not comply, you are responsible for upgrading your lift before is accepted into the scheme.

Informing the Ministry about new lifts

If your school installs a lift, you must tell us so it can be added to the national contract.

Send the details to:

  • Argest building and compliance management at
  • your property advisor.

Include the make, age and location of the lift.


If your school lift isn't working, phone Kone on 0800 775(external link) 663.  This service is available 24 hours a day.

Response times

When someone is trapped:

  • During working hours: 30 minutes.
  • After hours: 45 minutes.

When a lift is non-operational, but no one is trapped:

  • During working hours: 40 minutes.
  • After hours: 60 minutes.

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