Why Don’t Hotels Have Prominent Staircases?

Today I went to the doctor for a checkup. The office had moved to a new building, and as I entered it, I was greeted with a beautiful sight: A wide, carpeted staircase right next to the elevator.

You see, I love taking the stairs. It’s exercise, it’s often faster than taking the elevator, and I feel free on the stairs. Also, I know that not everyone can physically walk up and down stairs, so I don’t want to take it for granted.

It’s a rarity to see such a prominent staircase in an office building. Even in the building where I live, the elevator is front and center, and the staircase is tucked away like an afterthought.

But the biggest places I’m always surprised to see a lack of prominent staircases are hotels. I go to a big gaming convention in Indianapolis each year, and I’ve stayed in three different hotels. In all three, I’ve had to hunt down the staircases to get some exercise–they’re always concealed, and you feel like you’re sealed in a concrete chamber when you go up and down.

I understand that stairs aren’t for everyone, but at these conventions, the elevators get REALLY crowded at peak times. Sometimes they take a long time to show up at all, and when they do, they’re full. I bet there are a number of people who would choose to take the stairs during those times if they were easier to find.

So why is this? Is it architecturally difficult to put a staircase next to an elevator? Is there a logistical reason why hotels and office buildings don’t do this more often?

9 Responses to “Why Don’t Hotels Have Prominent Staircases?”

  1. Hạnh Nhi says:

    Probably because stairs kill more people than elevators do so hotels and office buildings try to hide them away! Just kidding, even though that’s a true fact I don’t actually know the reason why. ?

    I always make it a point to locate and take the stairs just in case there’s a fire and the work out is a plus. Maybe stairs are on the outside edges often because if there’s a fire or there’s more structural integrity.

  2. RodeoClown says:

    I work in an office that spans 4 levels of an office block. My company had stairs installed between floors, but due to fire regulations, we have to be able to close off each of the floors entirely to prevent fire spreading. We’ve had a bunch off issues around it because having an open area between floors causes air-pressure problems that would cause fires to spread faster.

    So that might be why your hotels don’t have prominent staircases (also, if they are hardly used, because most people have luggage, then they might just be more expensive as they need to be kept clean, and they take up a bunch of space).

  3. So do hospitals. Of course, patients mostly need elevators, but when I was a pastor frequenting hospitals, I always sought out the stairways for the excercise. And I generally had to ask to find them when visiting new hospitals.

  4. dmvp says:

    RodeoClown has an excellent point, and I’m guessing that is the case. The ability to close them off during a fire. I prefer taking the stairs whenever possible too, and as a woman I really dislike the closed off staircases just in fear of being attacked. It’s probably an irrational fear, but it’s always in the back of my mind. It’s also the reason I don’t walk through parks or hike through the woods by myself.

  5. Nik says:

    Stairs are generally fire egress and need to be separated from the rest of the building. In order to have a grand stair case in the middle of the entrance, which wouldn’t count as egress,you would still need the 2 enclosed stairs at either side/end of the building. I believe ADA requirements require an elevator if its more than 2 stories so now you have at least 4 methods of vertical conveyance. That’s wasting space that could be used to make money.

    In a hotel the whole lobby is wasted space. Generally if the 2nd floor is accessible from a lobby staircase it isn’t a floor with rooms on it so it’s a wasted floor and not making money. Pretty much everyone at a hotel is going up to a floor a decorative staircase won’t reach so nobody would take it anyway. Add in luggage and it’ll never get used.

    It all boils down to $/SF. Stairs don’t make $ but take up considerable SF.

    • Nik says:

      Oh and the reason why the stairs are usually out at the edges of the building instead of next to the elevator is that your two fire egress paths need to be as remotely located from each other as possible so it is less likely that both will be cut off by fire. The minimum separation distance is usually 1/2 the length of the diagonal of the building. There are ways around this but that’s a fairly standard estimate.

  6. Chris Broadbent says:

    My two thoughts are that there must be a stairway that will remain accessible in case of emergency (in a concrete box) and pretty staircases take up lots of space that could be revenue-generating space otherwise.

  7. I appreciate you all responding to this! Your answers make perfect sense. I still want more prominent staircases, but I now understand why more buildings don’t provide them.

  8. Tom Thumb says:

    I like to think of the stairs as a small adventure at hotels. First you need to find them, I always see something interesting in them, and they exit at some unusual places.

    But if you are familiar with the stairs at your hotel it might actually save your life in the event of an evacuation.

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