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.