Building Shutdown and Re-opening during the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the extended “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary to periodically close public buildings and facilities, followed by re-opening when safe again. Periods of low or no occupancy can be challenging for building systems as deviation from standard operations may increase the risk of water system failures, fires, mould growth, pest infestation, and other complications. Reduced consumption of water can cause stagnant water to accumulate in building water systems where taps, showers, ice machines, fountains, or other water features are not in use. This can lead to reduced water quality and other hazards such as Legionella exposure once buildings are reoccupied.
The resources provided on this topic page are intended to assist property managers with enacting a temporary closure, as well as cleaning, re-initializing, and safely operating public or commercial facilities under pandemic conditions. The resources are examples only and additional considerations may be required for specific facility types and site conditions. This information is current to the date at the bottom of the page.
- Environmental Health Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic (NCCEH, 2020)
This topic page provides on overview of COVID-19 resources as they pertain to specific environmental health subject areas.
- Physical barriers for COVID-19 infection prevention and control in commercial settings (NCCEH, 2020)
This blog synthesizes information from public health and industry sources to provide guidance on the design, installation, and cleaning of transparent barriers or partitions intended to protect staff and clients.
- Legionella (NCCEH 2020)
This topic page provides resources for those responsible for managing water systems in buildings to understand the risks associated with exposure to Legionella bacteria and key approaches to manage Legionella risks in buildings.
- Mould (NCCEH, 2020)
This topic page provides resources on mould as an indoor air quality hazard, as well as information on assessment and mitigation.
- Reducing COVID-19 Transmission Through Cleaning and Disinfecting Household Surfaces (NCCEH, 2020)
This guidance document provides information to public health professionals who may be consulted on the appropriate use of cleaning and disinfection products as well as frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in homes to protect the health of the public.
Shifting to low- or no-occupancy operations
- COVID-19 – Building Extended Closure Checklist (Building Owners and Managers Association of Toronto, 2020)
This checklist summarizes the actions necessary to ensure a facility has been left clean, secure, and operating as necessary to prevent fires or other emergencies. Hayes Companies has provided a similar checklist with supplementary information.
- Building Water Systems Minimum Requirements – (COVID-19) (Public Services and Procurement Canada, 2020)
This guidance document specifies water temperature and flushing requirements for buildings that are being operated at low or no occupancy for more than a week.
- Building water quality and Coronavirus: Flushing guidance for periods of low or no use (Environmental Science Policy Research Institute (ESPRI), April 3, 2020)
This guidance document provides advice on preparing a building water system for re-occupancy. This includes recommendations for both large and small buildings with advice on flushing and other actions including inspection of equipment, cleaning and disinfection.
- Information on maintaining or restoring water quality in buildings with low or now use. (US EPA, May 2020)
This website presents a guidance document for building owners or operators for maintaining water quality in buildings by minimizing stagnation during closures, and a checklist for restoring water quality for reopening.
Re-opening and operating under pandemic conditions
- Safely Re-opening Buildings: a Fact Sheet for Building Owners/Operators(Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, 2020)
This factsheet explains the risks of stagnant water in buildings operating at low or no occupancy, including the risks of microbial growth, heavy metal leaching, and disinfection by-product formation, and provides detailed guidance on developing a risk mitigation and reopening strategy.
- Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020)
This webpage provides guidance on assessing and remediating mould growth, as well as mitigating Legionella risk for buildings that have been shut down for days to months.
- Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020)
This webpage provide general guidance on cleaning and disinfecting public facilities after a prolonged closure, and on developing a sustainable, flexible long-term plan to maintain the facility in an enhanced state of cleanliness.
- COVID-19 education response: Preparing the reopening of schools: resource paper (UNESCO, May 2020)
This resource paper synthesizes information on school closures and provides an overview of the status of school reopening globally. The document provides recommendations for policy decisions based on the timing, conditions and processes for school reopening.
- Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Minimum Requirements – (COVID-19) (Public Services and Procurement Canada, 2020)
This guidance document provides basic guidance on operating building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to generally enhance occupant health and comfort through improved indoor air quality during pandemic conditions. This document is consistent with ASHRAE’s recommendations for non-healthcare buildings operating during the pandemic.
- Guidance for managing Legionella in building water systems during the COVID-19 pandemic (European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESGLI), 2020)
ESGLI has produced guidance documents for various types of buildings. The link above provides guidance applicable to hotels, campsites, cruise ships, residential and office buildings with similar water systems. Guidance is also available specific to dental practices, with dental unit water lines, nursing & care homes and hospitals.
- Making a Splash with Safe Water (CDC 2020)
This fact sheet provides a reminder for hotels and resorts of where Legionella can grow and spread in buildings including cooling towers, unoccupied floors, hot tubs, decorative fountains, or during events that can interrupt normal water supply.
- Considerations for large building water quality after extended stagnation (Proctor et al. pre-print, 2020)
This pre-print of a literature review by researchers at Purdue University, Centre for Plumbing Safety, summarizes challenges, current practices and knowledge gaps for recommissioning water systems following extended periods of reduced use. The document refers to existing guidance on building commissioning, and start-up following seasonal shutdowns as examples of current practice to reduce health risks.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.
|Last updated||May 12, 2020|