Guidelines to Reopen Buildings During COVID-19 Pandemic

Reopening buildings after COVID19 MAGENTA

Many buildings, including Schools, Universities, Hotels, Resorts, and Museums have not been operating the past few months due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As restrictions are slowly being eased many Schools, Universities Hotel buildings will start to re-open in September 2020. 

Building Owners, Operators and Facility Management contractors need to make an action plan. They should be ready to ensure that various systems deployed within the buildings are thoroughly checked. The health and safety of the occupants should be considered the highest priority. 

We discuss some important systems deployed in the buildings that get affected due to non-operation and building shutdown.

1. HVAC System comprising of:

  • Air Handling System
  • Chilled Water System
  • Cooling Towers

2. Hot Water System

3. Domestic Water System

4. Plumbing System

5. Swimming Pool System

Some of the important actions to be taken in to account before the building is re-opened for occupation are mentioned in the table below:

SystemsMinimum Actions to be Performed
Air Handling System1. Dispose of all dirty filter and replace them with new filters
2. Remove dirt and clogged water. Thoroughly clean and disinfect all interior surfaces of air ducts and air handlers.
3. Verify coils and drain pans are thoroughly cleaned and are free from any debris.
4. Prior to occupancy, ensure the air handling system is operated with 100% outside air for at least 10-12 hours with full exhaust after replacing the filters in AHU’s and FAHU’s.
5. Once a building is re-opened for occupants, operate the building with 100% outside air for a minimum of one hour for one week (if possible).
6. Consider adding an active system to boost the IAQ and neutralize any dangerous virus and bacteria.
Chilled Water System1. Check and verify all the chiller safety and operating controls thoroughly.
Cooling Tower1. Thoroughly check all surfaces for algae and biological growth.
2. Confirm the chemical treatment process for water is operational.
3. Check water distribution systems, spray nozzles and water basins are clean. 
Hot Water System1. Ensure the central boilers, calorifier system along with their safety controls is operational.
2. Storage water heater system water shall be flushed out completely.
3. Check the temperature set point of the storage water heater to avoid legionella diseases.
Domestic Water System1. Flush out both hot and cold water completely as stagnant water is best for bacterial growth due to a lack of chlorination and water movement.
2. Once water is flushed out, testing should be carried out for bacterial growth, and absence of biofilms due to levels of chlorine
3. Ensure the chlorine test is carried out as per the local authority’s requirements.
Plumbing System1. The complete plumbing system should be checked including supply and drainage lines.
2. Ensure bacteria and biofilms are absent in the supply lines.
3. The entire building system within the building should be completely disinfected by Chlorination.
Swimming Pool System1. Remove the water and clean the complete water plumbing system.
2. Ensure all the dosing plants and chemicals are properly calibrated.
3. Water should be sampled and checked for the presence of microorganisms before opening the swimming pool to use.

Keep in mind:

1. Do not defer schedule maintenance as this may lead to reduced/ decreased system performance and lead to increase in airborne organisms.

2. Coil performance changes as outside air is increased. Technical due diligence is needed to ensure coil performance while increasing the outside air percentage.

3. Disinfection of all systems within the building facility is the key.

4. Be mindful. Any changes made will affect another part of the system.

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