The Importance of Staying Up to State, ADA Codes During Construction

by Nate Hunter

How Faneuil Hall in Boston was able to update its only elevator this year and stay open during that time.


Julian GordonConstruction is an inconvenient necessity for shopping centers everywhere, and Boston’s Faneuil Hall is no exception. Faneuil Hall is home to more than 100 high-end shops and dining establishments and is one of Boston’s top tourist destinations. Originally built in 1742, the 271-year-old marketplace has had its share of makeovers, including a major renovation to its only elevator earlier this year. The historical building knew it had to come up with a plan to provide equal access for the more than 100,000 daily visitors to the second floor or face the closure of half its shops for nearly a month.

Understanding the importance of abiding by Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 codes, as well as building codes enforced by Massachusetts to allow equal access to all shops is the first step in tackling a project such as this. We knew providing temporary access to this high-end shopping center while preserving the historic site was certainly going to be an engineering challenge.

When building a ramp to provide equal accessibility during construction, there are many factors to take into consideration, including: what is the maximum weight it needs to support, who will be using the ramp, will it be inside or outside, what weather conditions should it be able to withstand, what materials do you have to work with? It is also important to look at all ADA regulations in your state including how steep the ramp can be, the standard height of handrails, and area needed for a landing.

A few common rules are:

• Minimum width of a ramp must be at least 36 inches
• The maximum slope of a new ramp must be no greater than 1:12 (i.e. 12 inches in length for every 1 inch rise)
• Ramps must have level landings at the top and bottom of each run, at least as wide as the ramp leading to it and a minimum of 60 inches in length
• Handrails will need to be installed for ramps greater than 6 inches in height and must be provided on both sides
• Ramps must include edge protection, including curbs, walls and railings, to prevent patrons from slipping off the ramp

FanueilNEWSFanueil Hall during constructionThe elevation from the first to the second floor at Faneuil Hall is 14’8″, which required a ramp length of 174 feet and multiple landing areas to comply with Massachusetts ADA codes. Installation began within 48 hours of the initial request and we were able to engineer a steel ramp made with items found in stock at our warehouse in Boston.

It is also important to think about the surroundings and fixed architectural elements where the ramp will be built and adjust plans accordingly. In order to protect the remarkable granite floors in the marketplace, we built the ramp on protective wood surfaces to preserve the existing material.

Through Amramp’s creative engineering, Faneuil Hall had an effective and reliable ramp in place to provide equal access to the shopping center less than a week after the installation began. The quick turnaround avoided negative financial effects as upper level stores were able to maintain business as usual during the renovation of the single elevator.

After the project was completed, the Amramp team removed the ramp without any permanent alterations to the property, and all components of this large project will be used at other places of public accommodation.

To learn more about this project and for more information about Amramp, please visit www.amramp.com

— Julian Gordon is the founder of Amramp, a leading provider of modular wheelchair ramps and other accessibility solutions.


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