Building Shutdown and Re-opening during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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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.

NCCEH Resources

  • 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.

External Resources

Shifting to low- or no-occupancy operations

Re-opening and operating under pandemic conditions

  • 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