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What Is a Hoistway?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Also known as an elevator hoistway or elevator shaft, a hoistway is the shaft constructed to allow elevators to efficiently move between the floors of a building. The shafts are typically constructed so that an elevator may move smoothly from one floor to the next, while also allowing room for the use of ancillary equipment to manage the opening and closing of doors as the elevator reaches a given floor. It is not uncommon for an elevator shaft to be constructed so that access to strategic points along the shaft is possible in the event of a mechanical failure.

In many public buildings equipped with elevators, each hoistway provides easy access to each floor in the structure. There is also what is known as a blind hoistway. In this design, the shaft is not equipped with access to every floor in the building, so there may be several floors without an exit door.

The construction of a hoistway usually includes ventilation equipment, making it possible for maintenance workers to comfortably correct any issues with the hydraulic system or other equipment used to operate the elevators. Another common feature of the hoistway is a set of sliding doors that are found at each floor where the elevators stop. Sensors that are mounted in the shaft signal those doors to open just as the elevator arrives at the floor, making it possible for people to enter or leave the elevator at will. A hoistway is also sometimes equipped with emergency ladders along one wall of the shaft, making it possible for workers to enter the shaft and use the ladder to reach an elevator that has stopped between floors due to some type of mechanical failure.

While the basic design of the hoistway has remained constant for decades, advances in technology have aided in making it easier to monitor the condition and status of equipment that is contained in the shaft. The end result is that maintenance tasks for elevator systems, including conducting safety checks, is easier to accomplish than in decades past. Today, the use of robotic technology has minimized the need for workers to physically enter the shaftway to perform some maintenance tasks, which in turn has helped to reduce the potential for physical harm during the repair or replacement of key components housed in the shaft.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon1005925 — On Dec 20, 2021

Thanks for an informative article. In this piece the terms "hoistway," "elevator shaft," and even "shaftway" are all used. Are those terms completely synonymous in this context, or are hoistways something more specific, found within an elevator shaft? I'm imagining perhaps the hoistway is specifically the bounded area within which the elevator cars move, i.e., the guide rails, etc., but the elevator shaft is the entire space, with which is found the hoistway. I.e., an elevator shaft would typically be larger in horizontal footprint, in order to contain the hoistway within. Thanks, Mark

By anon322274 — On Feb 26, 2013

How do you choose the right elevator for a mid-rise building?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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