Preparing Your Elevators for Infection Control

Implementing infection control technologies and strategies throughout your building, including elevators and conveyance systems, is key to creating safe facilities as the world looks toward a post-pandemic future.

Research has shown the three main modes of transmission for infection are:

  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Droplets from being in close quarters with someone
  • Airborne particles

Since elevators and conveyance systems are a concern with respect to all three vectors, below our conveyance experts have laid out what measures building owners can take to mitigate these concerns.

Cleaning Protocols When pandemic concerns began rising, most facilities began increasing or enhancing their cleaning protocols. While there are many technologies that exist to support infection control, they are not a substitution for continued cleaning.

  • Clean high-touch areas like handrails of elevators and escalators regularly with general purpose cleaner.
  • Buttons should never be sprayed with cleaners directly as this could cause shorts that require expensive repairs. To keep buttons clean, instead consider installing plastic tear-off covers over buttons to reduce physical contact with the actual buttons.
  • Hand sanitizer should be provided in elevator lobbies and cabs for riders to use before and/or after pressing call and floor-selection buttons.

Restricting Access If stairs or other conveyance systems, such as escalators, are readily available to building occupants, limiting access to elevators is the lowest cost strategy for infection control.

  • Limit elevator access in accordance with ADA requirements so that only those who need elevators can use them.
  • If limiting access is not a viable option, create and enforce capacity limits to allow for social distancing within the cab. Current guideline from CDC suggest that smaller cars be limited to two passengers per trip, with larger cars above 4000 lb. capacity, limited to as many as 4 persons per trip. Signage with these limits should be provided in elevator lobbies.
  • Escalators and moving walkways should be provided with signage for social distancing and marking on the treads indicating safe social distancing ridership.

Touchless Controls The buttons, used both to call the elevator and to select the desired floor, are high touch surfaces that could be a point of viral transmission. There are several strategies to address this concern, but keep in mind, that considerations to maintain ADA compliance would still be required when considering touchless controls.

  • Provide single use implements, like cotton swabs, that riders can use to push the buttons and then discard without having to meet a contaminated surface.
  • Discuss with your elevator consultant and provider to set the elevators to automatic operation with elevator stopping at each floor or specific floors per elevator to eliminate the need to operate the controls.
  • Foot operated or toe-touch elevator buttons are a more immediately available limited-touch solution and can be installed with modifications to the car operating panel and with limited additional wiring/back boxes mounted in the hoistway. The modifications can be done on any modern elevator but may require modernization of older elevator systems.
  • Using voice recognition in place of buttons is intriguing but would likely require a substantial investment in controls upgrades. This technology is also still being developed and has extremely limited availability for elevators at this time.
  • Bluetooth touchless elevator controls are also a new technology that is testing well. Like voice recognition however, this will require controls upgrades and would fall into the category of a long-term goal for a facility to be added when they modernize elevators.

Air Filtration Airborne transmission is the most difficult vector to control against in elevators without some investment since the elevators and hoistways are typically not conditioned and are only ventilated with an exhaust fan on the top of the car. Hoistways are generally open to atmospheric conditions and allow unconditioned air, pollen, dust, and other contaminants to be introduced into the elevator cabs.

  • First and foremost, ensure the existing exhaust fans are working properly. This helps to cycle the air in the enclosed cab by drawing in unfiltered, untreated air from the hoistways through the toe kick and expelling it out the top of the car back into the hoistway removing some infectious particulates from the air.
  • A HEPA grade filter unit can be installed relatively quickly and typically with no modifications to the cab. The filter system would replace the current exhaust fan on the top of the cab and would work by pushing purified and filtered air into the cab while exhausting contaminated air out the bottom. This will increase the number of air changes (ACH) significantly and could work with the power systems already in place in the elevator cab.
  • Ducted or semi-ducted air conditioning systems on each car with HEPA filtering and/or UV is a comprehensive response to airborne contaminants and rider comfort. This undertaking would boast filtration as well as increased air changes (ACH) within each cab, but would require a fair amount of work and changes to the elevator cars and controls as well as require additional power be supplied to the elevator cars.

Ultraviolet (UV) Lighting A technology commonly used in medical facilities, other industries are now considering utilizing UV and UV-adjacent light in spaces to destroy microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses in the air and on surfaces. When considering ultraviolet lights, keep in mind the materiality within the elevator cab’s interior; just as the sun can degrade finishes next to a window, the finishes within the cab could be damaged by repeated and extended exposure to artificial UVc light.

  • UVc light, ultraviolet light with a wavelength between 200–280 nm, has proven to be an effective technology for infection control. While UVc has been shown to be minimally harmful to humans, installing this lighting requires an occupancy sensor to operate the lights only when the cab is empty though, since direct exposure to UVc lighting is still not recommended.
  • UVc lamps can be installed in the pits of escalators and other conveyance systems to be used in sterilizing the handrails without posing a threat to riders when installed correctly.
  • A similar option that has been applied in various markets is 405 nm light. 405 nm light is just outside the ultraviolet range and is not harmful to people and surfaces; however, current research supports its effectiveness against bacteria with ongoing research for the effectiveness against viral contaminants.

All the technologies discussed above can be applied to a building’s existing conveyance systems. While many can be implemented independent of other upgrades or changes, some of these solutions may necessitate a modernization. So, if an elevator or escalator modernization was already in the plans for your facility, consider bringing infection control into the conversation. Having a trusted independent elevator consultant can be helpful in navigating larger conversations about what technologies to implement and avoiding unnecessary expenditures.

The goal during these challenging times is to make buildings safe, so that as societies begin reopening, facilities are ready. To discuss what options make the most sense for your building or to schedule a facility assessment, contact us today.



Written By

Electrical & Elevator Technical Leader

Written By

Client Sector Practice Director


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