Elevator Airflow Study Findings

What is the exposure risk of a short elevator ride?

As the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, people naturally have questions about the risks of congregating in common spaces, including elevators.

At Otis, we’re committed to providing guidance and solutions to keep people on the move informed. That’s why we partnered with experts at Purdue University to conduct a study investigating elevator airflow, how it affects the risk of exposure to COVID-19 among passengers and how to mitigate those risks.

Here, you can explore the findings and access resources and information about the study.

Study Results

The study findings show that exposure risk on a short elevator ride is lower compared to many other everyday activities – and the proper use of masks and air purification further reduce that exposure.

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Elevators have a higher level of air exchange, lowering the exposure levels

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Average elevator ride poses less exposure risk than a one-hour bus ride or day in office

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Proper mask usage by all riders** reduces exposure risk by 50%

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Purification solutions* reduce exposure by an additional 20 to 30%

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Proper mask usage by all riders combined with air purification* can reduce exposure risk 60 to 65%

*Needlepoint bipoloar ionization (NPBI) as compared to no air purification device
**Proper mask usage compared with no masks. Assumes proper mask wearing of typical surgical style mask per WHO and CDC guidelines

What is the exposure risk of a short elevator ride compared to other activities?

Qualitative comparisons place riding in an elevator with mitigation in a lower-exposure category

Variation of intensity, frequency and duration of exposure contributes to different relative risk even within each activity category.
Adapted from relative framework originally proposed by Julie Marcus at Harvard and Eleanor Murray at Boston University.
Elevator risk can be lowered by applying proper mask usage, air purification (like NPBI), physical distancing, etc.


The Science of Elevator Airflow

Over three months, study experts used state-of-the-art modeling to simulate airflow and various elevator scenarios. The study yielded a significant amount of data that we can use to provide science-based answers and guidance. Below, you can access various materials related to the study.

For additional information, please contact us if you have other questions in advance of wider publication.

Watch a presentation on the study methods and results by Otis Innovation Leader Stephen Nichols.


Executive Summary

Get a high-level look at the goals and key findings of our elevator airflow study.


Airflow and Elevators White Paper

Take an in-depth dive into the full study background, methodology and findings.


Air Purification in Elevators Today

The study indicated that air purification technologies can play a role in risk mitigation. This technical brief takes a close look at elevator airflow and specifics of purification options.


“Elevators are an essential part of everyday life for many, often the first leg in your journey and the last on your route home. We know many passengers have questions about exposure risks associated with riding an elevator, and we want to provide answers verified by science.”

-Robin Fiala, Vice President, Otis Marketing & Sales


Solutions and Guidance

As we continue to move forward, a layered strategy that encompasses both behavioral and technology recommendations is essential to keeping the riding public informed. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Otis has been here to provide support.

Rethinking the Way You Ride

Access recommendations on hygiene best practices for a safer ride, along with toolkits and signage for building managers.


Clear the Air

See how the new Otis Cab Air Purifier uses bipolar ionization technology to neutralize viruses, bacteria and fungi in air droplets and on surfaces.


What’s Next

This study and its findings are just a part of our commitment to safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. We will continue to bring you additional information and resources regularly, and we are in the process of launching additional studies. Please check back soon for more.

Read more news or watch Otis President & CEO Judy Marks comment on study results on CNBC's Mad Money.