At our SVU stages, we have five elevators on set that avid viewers may have spotted: two in the squad room, two outside the courtroom and one in the hospital. What you may not have seen it what lies beyond those elevator doors (hint: it's not an elevator carriage).
Three of the five elevators (one in each location) actually have working doors. They're attached to a manual pulley system so that they can be opened and closed on cue by someone off screen. Inside, we've built what look like elevator carriages - except there are no ceilings. And none of the buttons work. And they don't move. But they look real! The walls of the elevator are removable as well, for those rare scenes that take place inside - we have to remove the walls in order to fit the camera (and crew) inside.
The other two elevators (in the squad room and outside the courtroom) are even less real. The outside of the doors looks the same as their counterparts, but they don't open the way elevator doors really open. Instead, they swing in and out on a hinge. This is easier to construct, and it allows the crew to go in and out quickly (the squad room elevator is a heavily trafficked passageway during production), but it also means that we can never open these doors on camera. So if you've watched the show for years and wondered why they always get into the elevator on the left, now you know!
Because we don't shoot too many scenes that incorporate the elevators, they often serve as storage space. Right now, the squad room elevator is home to some old dry-erase boards, the courthouse elevator is doubling as a wardrobe closet and the hospital elevator has too much stuff in it to recognize.