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The definitive Standard created by the Building Engineers Services Association, BESA is SFG20. In response to the social and economic impact of COVID 19 this has been updated to SGF30 and provides detailed guidance on where organisations can take steps to mothball buildings.

The risk assessment of each building will also need to take account of partial use – say of IT servers required to support home-working.

This checklist should be followed by an action plan provided by a qualified Building Maintenance Contractor in consultation with your insurers.

Unoccupied building risks

Buildings will quickly decay if proper standards of security and maintenance are not achieved. Unoccupied buildings are vulnerable to a spiral of decay triggered by events that includes the following items:

  • Theft of furniture and equipment
  • Vandalism & anti-social behaviour
  • Water ingress, or condensation where there is no ventilation
  • Toxic decay by dry-rot, wet-rot fungi or wood-boring beetle
  • Occupation by pests, rodents or birds
  • Occupation by squatters

Safeguard the building

  • Make sure the building is secure against unauthorised entry
  • Make sure the Insurers are aware of the buildings state of use and that their risk mitigation requirements are observed
  • Make mitigating provision for particular risk factors, say liability to flooding
  • Check if the pest control contract can be maintained


  • Consider automated ventilation to counter condensation and decay

Exterior Decorations & Roofs

  • Exterior windows, doors, roof lights and other access points will need to be secured and maintained to prevent unauthorised access, arson, vandalism, and anti-social behaviour.
  • A very secure point(s) of access may need to be maintained for periodic inspections and maintenance.
  • The building’s interior and roof areas may have to be inspected regularly to detect /prevent unauthorised access and water ingress, as set down in your Buildings Policy or in accordance with Insurers requirements.
  • Arrange for a Maintenance Engineer to routinely check all areas and that the electrical power, temporary lighting and any necessary equipment, such as, for example, security cameras continue to function.

Space and Water Heating

  • Reduce the room thermostats and maintain heating to a frost threshold
  • If a permanent shut down is required arrange this with your energy supplier and building maintenance contractor. Note that systems once fully shut down will degenerate and require investment to recommission to operational standards

Energy Supply: fire safety & contingent services

The mains electricity service would have to be kept in service and maintained, in accordance with the insurers terms & conditions, to power systems such as:

  • Computer systems
  • Intruder alarms and security cameras
  • Fire detection and alarm systems
    • You should also check if an IDNS telephone system must remain in service in order to maintain the fire and intruder detection systems
  • Sprinkler and smoke detection systems
  • Both the main and emergency lights to keep the building secure and allow maintenance engineers to access specific areas
  • The building’s lightning protection system may, subject to insurer’s advice, be kept in service to maintain buildings insurance cover
  • All other non-essential lighting and power circuits could be isolated and put out of service
  • Continue to report all meter readings during temporary closure, otherwise estimated readings will be billed based on prior consumption

Sanitary Appliances & Drainage

  • Arrange for sanitary appliances to be isolated and put out of service

Lifts & Automatic Doors

  • Consider what arrangements are needed for the cessation of lifts & automatic doors

Cold Water Storage & Distribution

  • The mains water service may have to be maintained to supply sprinkler and drencher fire suppression systems.
  • A legionella management regime may have to be maintained as a safeguard. This would need to be discussed with the Building’s insurers.
  • If Legionella controls are not maintained, then your water systems should be recommissioned as though they were new.
  • Therefore, you must ensure the health and safety of the building’s future users by thoroughly flushing, cleaning and disinfecting and water testing before the building is re-occupied and the water systems returned to use.
  • All non-essential service pipe runs could be drained down and left out of service.
    • Note: corrosion of ferrous pipes is likely to accelerate once they are exposed to the air and become unusable. Major investment would be required to put the service back into operation.