Ontario announces a three-step plan to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions on 31rst January 2022. As public places and buildings continue to open, people are wondering if they should avoid elevators right now? The answer is no! As elevator rides are relatively low risk for Covid-19 exposure. Having said that, there might be some challenges that are not health-related but can be stressful, as long waiting times.
Elevator Installation Study:
Prior to the commencement of most elevator installations, detailed engineering assessments are conducted to provide specific factors for the overall operation. Every building is different with respect to the number of floor landings, the number of people expected to be using the elevators, and the frequency of elevator use. These factors are key elements of the algorithms that are commonly used when determining the number of elevators, their speed of travel, and the number of people that can safely use the lift. Unfortunately, most of these factors had never been considered with relation to the pandemic, and protocols that are now in place require greater levels of physical distancing with a reduction in the overall capacity.
Long Waiting Time Challenges:
Now, people experience greater waiting times when requiring the use of an elevator. Normally, the standard elevator allows for a capacity of 12-16 people. However, during the pandemic, this has been drastically reduced to 3-4 patrons at a time. It is unclear whether the physical distancing protocols will be gone anytime soon, causing many delays with higher traffic demands.
So, as more people ultimately return to their places of work, this can be a recipe for long waiting times, lobbies full of people and you can be assured that this will result in the inability to properly distance oneself in the common areas when waiting for their ride, creating even greater issues in terms of bylaw infractions.
The Good News – Low Risk for Elevators:
Elevator manufacturer Otis Worldwide Corporation released the results of a three-month academic study that it commissioned Purdue University to conduct, investigating the riskiness of elevators regarding COVID-19 exposure. The study was led by Dr. Qingyuan (Yan) Chen, the James G. Dwyer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue, who is widely recognized for his research into the spread of infectious disease through indoor air systems – and how to prevent it. Dr. Chen uses sophisticated computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modeling in his research, which has focused on indoor environments, aircraft cabins, and building design and analysis. The study proved that:
- Elevators have significant air exchange by design with ventilation openings required by code.
- Findings conclude that air circulation within the elevator is key, placing elevator rides on the lower end of the exposure risk activities scale.
- Exposure risk is reduced by an additional 50% when all passengers properly wear masks.
Air exchange is important. Our findings concluded that the higher ventilation in an elevator, relative to the compared activities, results in lower exposure opportunities. If all passengers properly wear masks, the relative exposure risk drops 50%” said
– Dr. Chen.
As the pandemic continues, it is imperative that we continue to adapt our operations. With newer challenges to elevator operations posed by the situation, come new solutions. Now more than ever, it is important to get a consultation to ensure your elevators are going to be able to meet these new demands.