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Safe Buildings Need Clean Air and Water

Maintaining occupant safety after long-term closures of buildings including schools, public offices and private properties.


  • Stagnant water can create a favorable environment for pathogens including Legionella as well as lead release within the water supply.
  • Buildings with stagnant or reduced ventilation could result in the accumulation of harmful pollutants.
  • Uncontrolled humidity levels can create favorable conditions for mold growth.
  • Dry sanitary sewer P-traps provide an unobstructed path for harmful vapors as well as airborne pathogens to enter the building.

这些问题中的每一个都可以影响饮用水,降低室内空气的质量 - 增加建筑物的风险。任何未充分利用的建筑房产,包括办公楼,学校,医疗建筑,酒店等公共和私人空间都可能影响。

Jacobs’ water and built environment teams have not only identified this concern but have developed guidance documents for owners and managers of properties to help communities safely re-open and return to work and school.

“这是一个需要解决的公共卫生问题,如果个人重新进入由于长期关断因水或空气而缺乏空缺的建筑物,则拥有公众兴处的潜力,”雅各布全球副总裁水彼得尼罗尔. “For example,Legionellacan cause pneumonia and flu-like symptoms that could be confused with COVID-19.”

Building Water Systems(Download PDF)

The first of the guidance documents addresses potable water quality in buildings. Water utilities continue to safeguard the water quality delivered to consumers via the distribution system by maintaining water flows, disinfectant residuals (chlorine or chloramines) and by providing water quality that mitigates corrosion and release of metals in premise plumbing such as lead and copper, for example. Safeguarding water quality within the building water systems within these properties is more challenging as currently, these properties sit nearly empty due to stay-at-home advisories in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that the water demands have dropped significantly.

The result of prolonged stagnation (weeks or months) in the building water systems has the potential to deteriorate water quality, creating the risk of health-related issues explained in the guidance document. This impacts hot and cold potable water systems which are used for drinking and washing, tepid water systems for safety showers, and water used in utility systems for humidity control in HVAC systems or evaporative cooling applications such as cooling towers. Older buildings which are not designed in accordance with the latest building codes may have systems with higher risk. As an example, some buildings may contain hot potable water systems without recirculation which would leave these systems more vulnerable with lack of use.

Air Quality(Download PDF)

Many building HVAC systems, during periods of no or limited occupancy, have reduced or eliminated operations. During this period of reduced operation, outdoor air ventilation is also reduced, allowing indoor air pollution to concentrate from chemicals, including VOCs, which are released from indoor furnishings, carpets, building materials and cleaners. Humidity levels left uncontrolled can also contribute to mold growth. Each of these left uncorrected can negatively affect the respiratory systems of building occupants.


According to theWorld Health Organization(W.H.O.,) “It has been suggested that the ‘faecal droplet’ route may have been one of several modes of transmission in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in early 2003. In this case, droplets originating from virus-rich excreta in a given building’s drainage system re-entered into resident’s apartments via sewage and drainage systems where there were strong upward air flows, inadequate ‘traps’ and non-functional water seals.”

It is imperative that building owners and operators consult with experts, industry organizations, public health officials and onsite personnel, in deciding what steps need to be taken to address the possible health issues associated with underutilized buildings prior to re-entry. Corrective actions can be taken during building shutdowns to minimize the effect of the shut down, or recommissioning may be required before re-entry.


“当我们浏览一个新的正常的wake of COVID-19, we’re all learning new and important ways we can make a difference. It’s imperative that we raise awareness of this critical buildings health issue so that we can continue to protect public health and safeguard our future as we get back to work,” adds Jacobs Global Vice President for Built Environment Monte Wilson.

For more information, contact:

雅各布全球建筑系统解决方案导演opebet专业版Charles Funk

Jacobs Global Surface Water Technology Leader耶稣加西亚 - 阿尔曼

Related terms: COVID-19, COVID, Coronavirus

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