In a charming town famous for its architecture, even accessibility upgrades have to provide visual impact.
New Canaan may have a population of about 20,000, but its outsized architectural reputation punches well above its weight class. This storied town, an hour’s train ride from Manhattan on Connecticut’s Gold Coast, was where the Harvard Five—Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John M. Johansen and Eliot Noyes—came up with what we now call mid-century-modern design. Several of the original homes designed and built by the famed group in New Canaan remain today, and many are protected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
So, it’s no surprise that when it came time to renovate a local office building, the project team used daylighting design, with large exterior windows and open spaces within the floorplan to allow natural light into the interior and provide an airy feel.
Accessibility meets aesthetics
But that design choice produced a potential quandary when it came to ensuring the building was fully accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)… How to maintain that modern, airy, light-filled design while including a centrally located elevator for wheelchair users?
The accessibility experts at Mobility Elevator & Lift of West Caldwell, NJ, were brought in and were able to suggest what seemed like the ideal solution: a Savaria Orion MRL limited use / limited application (LU/LA) elevator with a glass cab in a glass shaft.
“The newly renovated office building featured an array of large glass windowpanes on both the walls and as part of the entrance to the offices” says Kamran Shushtarian, Mechanical Engineer at Mobility Elevator & Lift Co. “Following this theme, the Savaria Orion MRL was the perfect choice. We used a glass cab within a glass shaftway to blend it perfectly into its surroundings and allow the light in from the large windows behind, transforming required accessibility into a desired architectural element.”
The Orion offers designers working on low-rise buildings like the New Canaan project with a high-rise look and feel—complete with a variety of cab styles—at a much more affordable price point.
“The minimum overhead clearance is just 108” to 134” depending on the project, and pit requirements are just 14”. That is much lower than traditional commercial elevators, and that translates to reduced construction costs. Its modular rail construction also makes it pretty fast to install,” says Shushtarian. “There are two drive systems available on the Savaria Orion, and on this project we went with the machine roomless geared traction drive. This model is suitable for high-frequency travel up to 200 trips per day and is an energy efficient option with no hydraulic fluid required, eliminating the need for a costly oil separator in the floor drain.”
Meeting both code and concept
The Savaria Orion delivers a professional appearance—the glass cab on this project was a custom upgrade—and comes value-packed with fully automatic operation, two-speed sliding doors and commercial grade fixtures. It’s also incredibly flexible, with four different optional cab sizes and entry/exit configurations that include single, straight-through and 90-degree options.
“The Orion, whether the hydraulic or machine roomless model, is a versatile answer to accessibility that meets all the requirements of both the ADA and ANSI A117.1. The fact that we’re also able to work with our clients and with Savaria to customize it, and make it really beautiful and part of the architecture of the building is not always something that comes up in conversations surrounding making a building accessible,” says Shushtarian.
“The New Canaan project was special to us. We got to walk into the birthplace of mid-century modern design and help echo those roots in a unique way, while also ensuring this building is accessible to everyone.”