Building management direction for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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The purpose of this document is to communicate Public Services and Procurement Canada's (PSPC) property management approach during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

This functional guidance applies to all PSPC real property inventory, including Crown-owned, lease-purchase, and leased facilities including those managed by a thirdparty real property contractor.

While this guide was developed for general purpose office space, other government departments who have real property custodial responsibilities may adapt this guide for their own unique program requirements as appropriate.


On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The virus did not match any other known virus. On January 7, 2020, China confirmed COVID-19. Since then, there has been a global spread of the virus, which has left health professionals on high alert.

Health Canada’s Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working with provinces, territories and international partners, including the World Health Organization, to actively monitor the situation. Global efforts are focused on containment of the outbreak and the prevention of further spread. PHAC is working closely with the medical community to ensure that any cases of COVID-19 occurring in Canada continue to be rapidly identified and managed in order to protect the health of Canadians.

By mid-March, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial leaders introduced social and physical distancing measures in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread within Canada. This meant that federal employees in non-essential services were asked to telework.

COVID-19 information

Spread of COVID-19

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

Cornerstones of the PSPC building maintenance program are proper operation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), water systems maintenance, and robust cleaning protocols to ensure the workplace, which also extends to building common areas and high touch surfaces are regularly disinfected.

Recent media articles and coverage concerning the role of air conditioning systems in spreading the virus may intensify employee concerns about the possibility of developing COVID-19 in the office environment.

In response to COVID-19, PSPC has implemented the following additional HVAC measures to enhance occupant wellness in our buildings. These measures are in keeping with industry guidance and consultation with Health Canada.

PHAC, which is qualified to assess the risk of transmission through different modes, has indicated that the virus is not known to spread through ventilation or water systems. In addition, these adjustments are consistent with the updated recommendations on COVID-19 from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

However, PSPC will continue to monitor ongoing research in this area and be prepared to implement new measures if necessary, supported by science, to respond to concerns.

Protecting yourself from getting COVID-19

You can help prevent the spread of infections by:

Building operations

Operation of Public Services and Procurement Canada buildings during COVID-19

While physical distancing measures are being imposed across the country and non-essential federal employees are teleworking, PSPC buildings remain open. Life safety systems continue to operate normally with completion of mandated and lifecycle maintenance. Contractors operating in federal buildings are performing necessary and preventative work.

Technical expertise in the following areas of building operations should be reviewed for continued health and safety of PSPC locations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) requirements are to supplement the completion of regular maintenance activities to provide enhanced indoor environmental quality to promote occupant wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic in buildings with reduced occupancy and full occupancy.

This includes:

Prior to re-occupancy of unoccupied buildings, the property manager will ensure that the building is flushed with the maximum amount of outdoor air for at least 24 hours.

As fewer people use the building water systems due to reduced occupancy as a result of COVID-19, there is increased potential for water stagnation that can increase the risk for bacterial growth (such as Legionella) and lead.  The water systems requirements, developed in consultation with Health Canada, include the following measures to mitigate these risks:

The above adjustments have been developed through the guidance of PHAC as well as industry best practice associations such as Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada and using recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). They are also in compliance with the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations sections 10.17 and 10.18 on ventilation.

Requirements will continue to be reviewed and measures updated as required (for example change in PHAC determination for transmission mode for the virus).

Posting of COVID-19 publication material in buildings

In an effort to increase awareness on proper handwashing techniques and factual awareness on COVID-19 in general, tenant department accommodation and facility managers are requested to post the following:

Installation of hand sanitizers within our assets

As of March 6, 2020, PSPC committed to enhancing our proactive disease prevention measures by installing hand sanitizers outside tenant space (such as building entryways).

Hand sanitizing stations installed and maintained within tenant space should be done so via tenant service/additional building service.

Use of facial coverings or other protective equipment by building personnel

PSPC leverages the private sector to meet many of our real property needs and differing COVID-19 preventative measures may be observed across service providers in their role as employers and within their workplace safety policies (for example: use of facial coverings). Any additional measures imposed by service providers to their staff are not meant to replace proper handwashing or remaining at home when ill and should not be perceived as a concern within the work environment.

For example, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (BGIS), PSPC’s service provider under the Real Property-1 and Real Property-2 contracts, has implemented the use of facial coverings by their personnel and vendors where physical distancing due to the nature of their work is not feasible.

Role of the Lead Senior Manager for Emergencies and Evacuations

TBS Directive on Building Emergency and Evacuation Teams assigns responsibility of the Lead Senior Manager for Emergencies and Evacuations (LSMEE) in a multi-tenant asset as the senior departmental manager of the primary tenant department that has the most employees in the building.

The LSMEE role, historically known as the responsible building authority (RBA), is responsible for leading the emergency response at the building level, including common areas such as lobbies, with PSPC undertaking a supporting role. The LSMEE is accountable for building centric emergency plans and the overall health and safety of all employees in the building and, therefore, is empowered to make building wide decisions that affect the health and safety of employees. For example, the LSMEE retains the authority to close buildings for various health and safety issues such as high temperature, unavailability of potable water, etc.

The LSMEE is supported by a building emergency and evacuation team (BEET) organization. PSPC or their service providers play an important role in advising the LSMEE and BEET at a local level on building operation matters.

Building cleaning

Modifications to cleaning protocols

PSPC technical service experts have worked closely with Health Canada (HC) to develop the enhanced proactive cleaning/disinfecting protocols that PSPC has implemented within our assets.

Consequently, effective March 23, 2020 and until further notice, PSPC has amended their standard cleaning specifications to increase the cleaning/disinfecting frequency of high touch points to twice daily (from once daily). Health Canada guidance is that standard cleaning products can continue to be used. A list of high-touch points were included in the March 20, 2020 communication to the property management community, which included, but were not limited to, doors, handles, washrooms, stairwells, elevators, kitchenettes, boardroom tables, etc..

Effective April 20, 2020, tenant business centres and other stand-alone business equipment were also included in cleaning/disinfection of high touch points to twice daily.

It is expected that the above amendments to PSPC’s standard cleaning specifications will continue until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

Note that these new provisions do not include the cleaning/disinfecting of individual workstations or any equipment within. These, as well as other services above the new protocols, would still be considered an additional building service which employers are able to request from PSPC. Health Canada has also published guidance on Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during (COVID-19).

Reinforcing the importance of frequent hand washing remains the cornerstone of preventing the spread of infections. Enhanced cleaning and the installation of additional sanitizing stations above the new proactive protocol now in place can be requested and are available through the normal tenant service processes.

Ongoing consultation between PSPC, service providers and clients are instrumental to understanding client needs and the need to mobilize or supplement cleaning resources. Continued reinforcement of the cleaning specifications with the cleaning community is important in PSPC’s commitment to nationally consistent service delivery.

Cleaning procotols are in line with Health Canada guidance as well as industry best practice associations such as Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada.

Levels of cleaning services offered during COVID-19 pandemic

PSPC has always offered cleaning services to client tenants above the standard specifications for their unique program requirements. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, PSPC is using the following 3 definitions of cleaning:

Standard cleaning:
Cleaning that follows the standard cleaning specifications of PSPC or its service providers. This cleaning is offered at no additional cost to the tenant.
Enhanced cleaning:
Any request for cleaning/disinfecting services requested by the tenant that exceeds the services laid out in the standard cleaning specifications.
Specialized cleaning and disinfection:
Cleaning/disinfecting services requested by a tenant as a result of an employee with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or other similar type of infectious virus.

Requests for additional cleaning/disinfecting

There are numerous areas where tenant departments and agencies may approach building and facility managers to discuss implementing enhanced cleaning protocols needed to support their particular business needs. These may include public-facing services (for example: border crossings), areas with a high flow of visitors, high traffic areas, employee apprehension, etc.

If enhanced disinfection/cleaning is requested, a cleaning plan can be designed in collaboration between the tenant department and the cleaning contractor as a tenant service/additional building service.

Tenant department requests that are national in scope are being coordinated through the PSPC client account executives assigned to each department or agency and will be reported through the National Service Call Centre (NSCC). All other requests should be reported to the NSCC for tracking purposes.

Refrigerator cleaning services

The cleaning of the interior of refrigerators, their contents, and other appliances remain the responsibility of employers. Tenant departments are encouraged to discuss requests for additional building services with their designated PSPC client account team.

Suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a building

Reporting protocols for suspected or confirmed cases

All suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a building should be reported immediately to PSPC’s National Service Call Centre. Due to privacy laws, employees should remain anonymous; manager names and general work area should be used for investigation and follow-up. Anonymous reporting has been integrated into NSCC procedure manuals, and agents have been trained in this regard.

PSPC property managers or their service providers should report all suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 following the 10A critical incident reporting protocols.

Based on advice from PHAC, evacuation of the building is generally not required, however, this is an employer decision and not a PSPC decision and will also depend upon the cleaning and disinfection product(s) being used and their application method.

Employers should notify the building’s occupational safety and health committee as part of their employer responsibility for direction on how to further prevent the spread of disease.

PSPC or their service provider will react quickly in mobilizing cleaning contractors for required disinfecting processes (as reference in the cleaning/disinfecting protocol section below). Given that employers are more familiar with employee routines, touch points, and the general work environment, it is imperative that PSPC or their service provider work with the employer to design and implement an appropriate disinfection plan, including identification of disinfecting agents to be used, which may include (but not limited to):

Please note that reactionary measures in response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 are to be funded by the tenant organization as a tenant service/additional building service.

Cleaning/disinfecting process after suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 is reported

When performing cleaning and disinfection as a result of a suspected or confirmed case, the following 2 stage process should be followed.

It is important to engage the health and safety committees and employer representatives when performing these cleaning and disinfection activities so that they are aware of the products and application methods being used in the work space.  Some employees may have increased sensitivity to the products being used.  As such, their employers need to be aware of products being applied in the workplace so that they can evaluate the need for alternative work arrangements.

Stage 1: Cleaning

Cleaning products remove germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces by using soap (or detergent) and water. Cleaning does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Stage 2: Disinfection

Disinfecting products kill germs on surfaces using chemicals. Health Canada has provided guidance that a solution of 1 part bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) to 9 parts water can be used for disinfecting most surfaces.  Health Canada has also published a list of hard-surface disinfectants with evidence for use against COVID-19). These should be reviewed by cleaning contractors to ensure their disinfection agents conform to the recommendations. 

A disinfectant can be applied either by a manual method or mechanical sprayer (for example: electrostatic). 

The product (disinfection chemical and application method) technical sheet must be consulted to ensure proper product application. Key elements to review include:

The product material safety data sheet must be consulted to ensure proper safety measures. Key elements to review:

Use of electrostatic sprayers in applying disinfectant

The electrostatic sprayer can be an acceptable method for application of disinfectant but Health Canada has not provided guidance indicating that it is any more or less effective than traditional disinfectant application processes.  As such, the use of the electrostatic sprayer relates to operational considerations (for example: speed of application) as opposed to effectiveness.  The electrostatic sprayer is another tool that can be deployed and is likely most useful in situations where there is a large area to disinfect.


Communicating to building occupants with a confirmed case of COVID-19

Communication with employees is an employer (tenant department) responsibility. 

The Canada Labour Code Part II sections 125(1) (s), states that the employer shall "ensure that each employee is made aware of every known or foreseeable health or safety hazard in the area where the employee works"; and (z.11), which states the employer shall "provide to the policy committee, if any, and to the workplace committee or the health and safety representative, a copy of any report on hazards in the workplace, including an assessment of those hazards.”

With alternative working arrangements being imposed for many federal employees, the impact on building occupancies, and the ways in which a positive case could be reported (for example: by employer, manager, through Public Health case tracing, etc.), it would be prudent during this health crisis that PSPC or its service providers confirm with the employer that the building’s occupational safety and health committee has been notified. 

In accordance with privacy laws, the identity of the person with the confirmed case should remain private.

Commercial operations

Support for commercial tenants affected by COVID-19

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat released guidance on rent relief on March 31, 2020. The authority to provide relief rests with each department and rent deferral put in place by PSPC aligns with the TBS guidance provided. PSPC has implemented interim measures to allow tenants to defer rent payments, up to 90 days, on a case-by-case basis beginning April 1, 2020.

On April 24, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a partnership with provinces and territories to deliver the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses. PSPC is liaising with TBS on the implementation details as it provides for potential rent relief for commercial businesses leasing space from PSPC where they can demonstrate certain impacts to their business. Specific direction on the implementation is forthcoming.

Return to the workplace

Public Services and Procurement Canada’s role in re-occupancy preparations versus that of employers


Employers are responsible for formulating and implementing return to workplace strategies that are specific to the nature of the work performed, services provided to Canadians and the current set-up of their workplaces. In alignment with recommendations from Health Canada, employers should introduce physical distancing measures within the workspace in areas such as workstation utilization, conference rooms and other collaborative spaces, as well as, in shared areas such as kitchens and eating areas. Signage and barriers (such as Plexiglas) can be installed in appropriate areas of the office space to aid in the safe movement of employees and the public within federal facilities.

Employers are encouraged to implement workplace visitor guidelines to restrict traffic flow within a building and encourage physical distancing during the pandemic.

The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has assembled representatives from departments and centres of expertise to develop practical guidance that could be adapted by deputy heads for a range of circumstances across the public service in their return to occupancy preparations.

Public Services and Procurement Canada

As the common service provider of office accommodation for the Government of Canada, PSPC is implementing building operational level procedures to ensure healthy and productive work environments for the eventual return to occupancy. PSPC is working with tenants to establish introductory occupancy limits, traffic flow management and signage installation to promote physical distancing, and will continue to monitor operational protocols for water, ventilation and life safety systems (fire alarms, emergency lighting, exit signs, etc.). In addition, PSPC is participating with TBS and Health Canada to provide federal departments and agencies with overall guidance to support them in establishing their plans for a progressive return of employees to the workplace.

PSPC has developed additional workplace resumption advice to provide deputy heads and departmental interior design team guidance on how departmental operational zones can best be adapted to accommodate new Health Canada Public Service Occupational Health Program precautions.

Steps involved in preparing assets for occupant return to work

While physical distancing and telework provisions are reducing general occupancy rates in PSPC buildings at this time, we recognize that, in the future, occupancy levels will begin to increase.

While incorporating nationally consistent guidance, it will be important for PSPC and their service providers to develop and implement building specific operational plans to prepare the building for re-occupancy and encourage physical distancing. Examples of upcoming special provisions at the building operations level include:

It is important that PSPC be informed ahead of time of occupants intended date of re-occupancy so that the appropriate measures can be taken to ensure a safe, healthy and welcoming environment for employees.

Expectations when entering buildings

Building managers will work with the building’s Lead Senior Manager for Emergencies and Evacuations, Building Emergency and Evacuation Team and tenant occupational health and safety communities to implement physical distancing and traffic flow measures within common building areas. While re-occupancy preparations will be specific to the individual building, examples include:

Accessibility considerations for persons with disabilities will be at the forefront of all re-occupancy measures—this includes height appropriate signage, floor markings that do not cause obstruction, and elevator priority for those with physical or mobility impairments.

TBS’s Federal Identity Program has developed “Temporary Signs and Markings Guide for Federal Workspaces” which can be adapted to meet unique building requirements to help occupants navigate through the environment.

Building entrance assistance

PSPC is encouraging the Lead Senior Manager for Emergencies and Evacuations for each location to engage their BEET and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) committees to assign a resource to fulfill a Workplace Ambassador role. This resource would be responsible to welcome people, reinforce physical distancing and traffic flow behaviors, and provide help to anyone needing assistance.

To support employer roles in large multi-tenant complexes, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions has developed a common space concierge program as a supplemental support to monitor distancing practices, provide roving support to patrons, and assist in overall return to workplace experience. This support would be client funded.

Building entrance self-assessments

PSPC will work with tenant departments to promote the use of self-assessment measures through signage at the entrance of buildings.

Upon arrival, employees and visitors will observe signage posted on entrance doors which prohibits individuals from entering the facility if they are experiencing symptoms of illness or have, in the last 14 days:

It is important for employers to reinforce the significance of individual self-assessments in promoting workplace wellness.

At this time, PSPC is not deploying the use of temperature screening of occupants at entrances prior to entering office buildings.

Disposal receptacles for non-medical masks and face coverings

The Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) has confirmed that used non-medical masks and face coverings do not need to be disposed of separately from regular building waste.  If possible, they should be placed in a no-touch plastic-lined waste receptacle to minimize handling and prevent cross-contamination but it does not need to be a separate waste receptacle than the one used for other regular waste.  Hand hygiene should be performed after disposing of a used non-medical mask or face covering.

Plexiglas partitions

Plexiglas can be an effective barrier that reduces the risks of droplet transmission between individuals who are not able to physically distance at least 2 metres (like shared workstations or small boardrooms).

However, there are potential adverse impacts of Plexiglas installation that require consideration:


Inquiries related to barrier installations should be discussed with your PSPC account executive.

Assistance for commercial food services and retail re-openings

Commercial retail operations within PSPC national real property inventory have been affected by physical distancing measures, reduction in building occupancies as well as the mandatory shutdown directives of many provincial/territorial jurisdictions across the country. Despite reduced occupancies, PSPC buildings have remained open and life safety systems continue to operate normally with completion of mandated and lifecycle maintenance. In addition to this, additional instructions for increased outdoor airflow through HVAC systems and ongoing flushing of water systems to prevent water stagnation and bacteria growth have been reinforced.

While commercial vendors are responsible for their own business resumption activities and the adherence to jurisdictional restrictions and best practices to attract and retain clientele upon reopening which include sanitization measures, PSPC will offer support to vendors in their business resumption activities in common building areas under federal control to promote safe reintroduction of retail business activity such as physical distancing signage and communication, removal or spacing of dining furniture, and overall monitoring of these areas.


Building-specific enquiries should be directed to the real property team assigned to that building.

General enquiries on this document should be directed to the National Director, Property and Facilities Management Services Directorate, Real Property Services, Public Services and Procurement Canada.

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