covid in the same tower block

by John Herbert

Tower block at Richland Gardens Estate ,Kowloon Bay,Hong Kong 13-12-2020
COVID Vertical spread at Richland Gardens Estate, Block 6, Kowloon Bay,

UPDATE: 14 December 2020

different building – new vertical cluster

A residential building called Kwai Tung House in the Tung Tau Estate, Nga Tsin Wai is reported to have nine cases in six different units, where most of the patients come from flat number 15 (on different floors). CHP said maybe a structural problem (meaning drainage system) Dr Yuen will investigate.

UPDATE 11 December 2020

Environmental samples were taken from Block 6 apartments, COVID19 positive results were discovered on the piping, floor drains, and exhaust fans

Logically, it appears that COVID19 entered through the floor drain trap into the space (bathroom?) exposing the residents to the COVID19 virus.

The positive results discovered on the exhaust fans is a new development. Perhaps the exhaust fan handling contaminated air with suspended droplets itself becomes contaminated, and potentially discharges contaminated air. And when the extract fan is switched off, its a contaminated surface, risking touch/contact transmission. Safety precautions are needed for handling and cleaning exhaust fans.

RTHK has now issued a news report with video (ENGLISH): https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1564832-20201211.htm

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan (11-12-2020) mentioned in passing that earlier investigations also found COVID19 in the fan system, although I don’t recall any announcement.

#exhaustfan #ventilation #HVAC


10 December 2020

Richland Gardens is a residential housing estate located in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong comprising 22 high rise tower blocks, a small outdoor public transport interchange, and a medium sized shopping centre.

RTHK and SCMP have reported seven covid19 cases so far, located on different floors of the same tower, all in Block 6, and all residing in flat D. In addition, one case was reported in Block 4, and one case in Block 18.

https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1564579-20201210.htm

CHP requires all residents in Richland Gardens Block 6, all floors, flat D, and Block 18, all floors , Flat E, must be tested, to me that indicates potentially more cases in Block 18 will emerge in the next few days.

After the horse has bolted, experts turned up to visit the Block 6 with microbiologist Dr Yuen, after the inspection Dr Yuen stated the drainage could be the source, because all the cases were in flat D, on different floors, but not every U trap could be seen (no access?)

RTHK managed to interview several Block 6 residents, who stated that the Block 6 drainage system was leaking!

Strange that BD, EPD or Dr Yuen didn’t mention leakage that in their post-inspection press conference. Dr Yuen did suggest pointed out that all residents in Block 6 should be quarantined, but the quarantine accommodation is already full, another no room at the inn story ✨✨✨

From bitter experience (e.g. SARS 2003) and other buildings, we know that sub-standard drainage systems can spread disease in the same high rise building, for Richland Gardens the early evidence tends to indicate that the cause is probably the poorly maintained drainage system (again). Has nobody heard that Prevention is better than the cure!

As shown in previously posted photos, it is easy to find located drainage systems that have not been properly maintained, but we have to wait for the next batch of people to be hospitalised before BD, EPD and HA pay a site visit.

Fingers crossed this cluster does not expand across the other 22 tower blocks in the estate.

#drainage #sewerage #conditionsurvey #buildings #kowloonbay #plumbing #buildingmanagement #plumbinginstallation #floordrains

No lockdown for Legionella Getting Back to Work

During the lockdown thousands of workplaces, restaurants, offices, factories, and buildings are empty but remember that means the drainage systems may have dried out “U” traps, plumbing systems may have hot water heaters and potable water piping with stagnating water, whirlpool spas may have stagnant water, and building air conditioning cooling towers may contain stagnant condenser water.

Legionella risk assessment

Every risk and possibility cannot be listed here, therefore it is essential that the employer arrange for risk assessment to plan your start up.

Your plan needs to review and prepare an action plan to mitigate risks to ensure that all the systems are cleansed and checked BEFORE restarting, that means managers need advance notice, before for the opening date, to facilitate a safe start up procedure.

Bad Design

To understand valuable design we also have to identify and flag cases of bad design. We find from the recent heath checks conducted at the Hong Kong International Airport that health professionals working on the frontline have inadequate facilities, was this foreseeable certainly, every border has provision for handling health checking.

The RTHK report [link] states

She said there were other problems concerning protective clothing, for example, no designated locations for workers to take off their gear.

In this context, their gear means their PPE. So the frontline nurses and doctors facing thousands of passengers, potentially carrying the infectious diseases including COVID19, don’t have adequate changing facilities risking themselves, and other employees at the airport.

After the shift, the PPE including a n95 mask for sale that I found, a gown, an apron, glove, face shield, etc. are considered contaminated, therefore, an appropriate space clearly identified, should be provided for healthcare workers to doff (remove) and don their PPE, but it seems the border control design did not provide such space, even a temporary space, and a frontline doctor tested positive for COVID19.

Design means considering reasonably foreseeable usage and planning according, health checks at borders are routine and commonplace for many years. If you are old enough to remember some countries made visitors present health records, but in this case, the designers ignored or overlookedthe healthcare workers.

In engineering terms, located transformers and switchgear underground is a risk, in the event of a blocked sewer pipe, flooding, or water leakage the building power supply or back up generator could be compromised. Of course, architects say oh that will never happen, until it does. In a recent Hong Kong incident, water leaking on the upper floor of the building flooded the corridor and the electrical meter room, water travelled down the building using the 2500 amp TPN busbar as the conduit shorting each floor, and continued to the LV switchroom in the basement, causing a disastrous short circuit, shutting off power to the entire building.

The takeaway, engaging and listening to people outside your field, outside your silo, gather views and ideas, consider future events and scenarios, while the building plans are still on the drawing board.

COVID19 and Buildings – Tai Po

UPDATE: 15-3-2020

Apple Daily front page news – 15 March 2020

A resident on the top floor (34th floor) of Heng Tai House, Fu Heng Estate, Tai Po has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus COVID19 today (14-3-2020) RTHK reports [link] and he lives two floors above a couple already diagnosed on 11 March 2020 (same flat number ending with 13).

This is eerily similar to the incident in Tsing Yi in Feb. 2020, where I predicted drainage vent pipes issues, the pipe was subsequently discovered to be damaged, and additionally, repairs were carried out in nine (9) flats while those residents were evacuated.

Read our early blog post

This time, residents in Heng Tai House living in flat numbers ending with 13 and 14 , and living six floors below the “latest case” on 34th floor (top floor) will be evacuated RTHK reports [link].

Why this evacuation is limited to only six floors seems strange, citing droplets from the roof vent (which one?) reentering the building as the reason. While it is not impossible, the airflow pressure and patterns created around buildings are very complex, it seems highly unlikely, that only flats 13 and 14 would be impacted in this style of public housing.

Poor drainage installation risks infection
Poor drainage installation risks infection
Poor drainage installation risks infection

Workplace

It is worthwhile remembering that in the workplace, employers are responsible, by law, for the Health and Safety of their employees! Therefore workers in high traffic areas, for example, healthcare, building management, sewerage plants, transportation, etc. are responsible for their employees Health and Safety (H&S).

#coronavirus #hongkong #2019nCOV #airbourne #kelcroft #novelcoronavirus #SARS #drainage

Contingency Planning

Management and managers should have contingency plans ready, just in case. However, the on-going public health emergency, recently labelled by WHO as a COVID19 pandemic, has exposed that organisations and employers are not prepared for change or business interruption. Even when organisations had some broad ideas, it was never formalised in a plan and never tested, only after the idea was tested was it revealed the idea did not work in practice.

In addition to the general confusion, caused by poor communications, random individuals post opinions and “advice” on social media, would you believe that an electrician is sending COVID19 pandemic advice!

In the context of the built environment, I am raising this issue because building operators, organisations and employers fail to plan for events that can be reasonably foreseen, such as fire. Organizing periodic fire drills to safely escape from a building in the event of a fire should be routine, but sadly its not.

Yet, there are countless tragedies every year, fatalities caused by a range of issues, locked fire escape doors trapping people inside buildings being one common issue. I have often been called to witness standby generator tests, which would not start! Therefore, in the event of an emergency those safety systems have no power!

COVID19 and Legionnaires Disease

It’s generally accepted that the number of Legionnaires Disease infections is under-reported, I predicted that the heightened public health surveillance for COVID19 would reveal an increasing number of Legionnaires Disease infections because both COVID19 and Legionella cause pneumonia.

Here in Hong Kong, there is an example that might illustrate the point, case details provided by CHP are very limited [link] nevertheless it is interesting to consider the case of a male who was admitted to a hospital on 4 Feb. 2020 [NOTE: that is the same date when five Legionnaires Disease outbreak cases residing in the nearby housing estates were reported ] he was diagnosed as pneumonia, treated and released on 19th February 2020. He didn’t recover and was admitted again on 24th February 2020, but this time Legionnaires Disease was the diagnosis.

ABOVE: Ironic that fire sand bucket was used to hold open the fire/smoke stop door

When to plan?

To be perfectly blunt, its too late to try planning your escape from fire while trying to exit from a burning building, a decent manager will have a plan and considered difficult questions, or force a plan to be created, before a disaster strikes.

COVID19 and Buildings – Tsing Yi

UPDATE

14 March 2020 – Another similar incident is reported at Heng Tai House, Fu Heng Estate, Tai Po [link]


RTHK reports [link] some apartments in Hong Mei House, a residential tower block located in Tsing Yi, Hong Kong have been evacuated overnight after another person was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (covid19) living in the same building, 10 stories directly below a person already diagnosed with the infection.

And fearing a repeat of the SARS in Amoy Gardens Block E, the HKSAR Government swiftly reported that the drainage U traps are in “good condition”.

Notwithstanding, the condition of the U trap, not every building (see photo below) has U trap fitted.

In addition, we must also consider faulty vent pipes (refer to our photo below). Vent pipes are connected in parallel to the main sewer system, well they should be, therefore any broken, damaged or disconnected piping provides an equally risky conduit for droplets and pathogens to spread into homes.

As shown in this video clip below, if the bathroom is negatively pressurised, pathogens can be dragged into the bathroom contaminating surfaces, risky infection of the occupants.

#coronavirus #hongkong #2019nCOV #airbourne #kelcroft #novelcoronavirus #SARS #drainage

Tips to avoid Hong Kong Tenant Complaints About Mould

Instead of handling mould after it occurs let’s try a different approach.

When a property suffers from damp and mould, the tenant suffers, but also the landlord, committing extra time and energy for handling the issue, so here are some tips for landlords to avoid mould <<<< click here