Thyssenkrupp Elevator, one of the largest elevator manufacturers, has begun installing air systems that pull in purified air straight from the elevator shaft. In another, the air is treated with ultraviolet light (passengers are not exposed) and hydrogen peroxide that neutralize bacteria, mold and viruses. One model introduces ionized particles into the cab to disinfect the air. The products range from $3,500 to $4,000 per elevator.
They have devised a smartphone app that lets users call an elevator without pressing a call button, and also sell a low-tech alternative: “toe to go,” a foot pedal in lieu of buttons at the base of the elevator.
“These were not on the radar whatsoever,” said Jon Clarine, the company’s head of digital services, noting that Covid accelerated the release of several products. But the speed at which some of these technologies were deployed demands more scrutiny, said William P. Bahnfleth, a professor of architectural engineering at Pennsylvania State University, and chair of the epidemic task force at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
“It sounds more like marketing to me than science,” he said of some claims about ionization and other products. “The question is, ‘How much risk is there, and how much do these mitigate it?’”
They are nevertheless in demand. Adam Berenson, the vice president of Dermer Management, a property management company, just installed a similar ultraviolet-light system for $5,000 in the elevator of a prewar co-op in SoHo. Many of the loft apartments open directly to the elevator, and residents were concerned with lobby air seeping into their space.
“I don’t think Covid is going away anytime soon,” he said. “And I also don’t believe that this is going to be the last one.”