For access between floors and different levels in buildings, a ladder, stair or ramp is used. Lifts and escalators are also used for vertical circulation, and are covered in Barry’s Advanced Construction of Buildings (Chapter 9). Accessibility for all building users, regardless of disability, must be addressed when considering changes in level, no matter how small the difference in the height of finished floor surfaces. Although it has become common practice to use prefabricated timber and concrete staircases, the traditional way of constructing staircases is illustrated to help provide an overview of the principles and terminologies used.
A ladder is made as a series of narrow horizontal steps (rungs), fixed between two upright pieces of wood or metal, on which a person usually ascends (climbs up) or descends (climbs down), facing the ladder. A ladder may be fixed in an upright, vertical position, or more usually at a slight angle to the vertical for ease of use (Figure 9.1a). Approved Document K recommends that a ladder only be used for access to a loft conversion of one room, where there is not enough space for a stair, and that the ladder be fixed in position and fitted with handrails on both sides. Ladders are a common feature of construction sites, providing access for site operatives to different working levels. The ladders must be securely tied to the scaffold or to a secure element of the building.