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Elevator and Escalator Consultants

Code Corner

Code Corner 2008.1

Code Corner by Patrick J. WelchWhat is the Performance Based Code (PBC)?

Headline in New York City: MTA's Energy-Efficient Subway Escalators Unveiled. The concept is that New York City Transit determined that a "sleep-mode" for their escalators would save energy and wear and tear on heavily used escalator equipment.

This technology is not new. It is in use all over the world, from Canada, to Europe to Asia. Hundreds, if not thousands of escalators use this technology to effectively save electricity in installations across the world. How does our national code, ASME A17.1, address this issue?

This is a violation of all known United States codes and standards. Does this mean that it is a bad or unsafe idea? Absolutely not! Technology is advancing faster than most building codes can keep up.

The elevator/escalator industry has a national safety code since 1921. This Code has done an excellent job of establishing and improving safety requirements for decades. The process to develop new requirements however, can take years.

Once adopted and approved by the ASME A17.1 Standards Committee, each jurisdiction in the United States has the authority to determine if that edition will become part of their local building code or not. Some jurisdictions adopt each edition quickly, while others can be five to ten years behind the latest edition of the ASME A17.1 Code.

We are all well aware of how quickly technology advances. Think about the power of your computer from 1998 and compare it to the power of the computer you are using to read this. How then, does the industry keep pace with technology while addressing the very real need to provide the safest elevator and escalator designs possible?

There is a new ASME publication, ASME A17.7: The Performance Based Code for Elevator Safety (PBC). According to their website,, "Advances in technology continue to lead to remarkable feats of architecture and engineering. New technologies yield buildings that are taller, more efficient, more resistant to natural forces, and offer better indoor air quality. Elevator technology is also advancing. However, while new, safe, and efficient elevator designs are available, building developers in the United States are limited in their ability to deploy these new technologies due to prescriptive design limitations imposed by older versions of the Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. When adopted, the PBC will allow the United States to keep up with elevator technology while maintaining or exceeding the safety and performance requirements under the current code."

We urge all of our readers to visit this site and give serious consideration to supporting adoption of this standard in your local jurisdiction. VTX

We at VTX® deal with code issues on a regular basis. It is very likely that your question is not new to us, and we can help quickly. It is not uncommon for us to bring a request for interpretation for our clients before A17.1. Just remember that ASME wants the requirements to be clearly understood, so get it clarified, it could dramatically affect your project or operation!