Plumbing design to help fight the spread of illness

water purification system

“Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink.”

Having easy access to water, yet it not being totally safe to consume isn’t reserved just for those at sea like the old sailor says in this line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

A lot of the water that comes out of faucets in our office buildings can be full of impurities. Now, this isn’t to say the tap water in our buildings in undrinkable, but it can be made much cleaner and, therefore, healthier.

But how does water get impurities? And how do we get them out?

Water makes up about two-thirds of our planet. It touches everything as it precipitates and evaporates, infiltrates and condenses. As it passes through air, rock, and everything in between, water picks up things: minerals, molecules, microorganisms, viruses, and a myriad of other hitchhikers.

Some of these things are very good for our bodies, but many of them are harmful and, potentially, fatal.

The International WELL Building Institute’s WELL program has plumbing design recommendations to minimize the transmission of viruses in the workplace. The goal is to remove impurities by strategically using a building’s plumbing design to deliver cleaner water and contribute to a healthier workplace.


Filtration is, at its most simple explanation, passing water through a substance which lets the water molecules pass through and nothing else.

Water that arrives at our building has already gone through some extensive filtration. But even so, the path it takes from processing to our faucets means it still has the potential to attract contaminants.

This is why added filtration is needed. But not just any filter, because there isn’t actually a requirement that filters have to be tested before they are sold. But there are filters that are tested.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has given a few third-party certification organizations accreditation to test and evaluate water filters. These filters will also have performance data sheets available from the manufacturer, outlining the certifications and testing results of the filter.

The standard filters used to remove most of the harmful hydration intruders are NSF/ANSI Standard 53 filters. These filters will remove at least 99% of such unwanted things as: arsenic, asbestos, benzine, lead, mercury, PCBs, and radon.

But not just any NSF/ANSI Standard 53 filter will do. The ones to use are those who specify “cyst removal” or “cyst reduction.” These filters will remove particulates and microbes 1µm and larger, which includes Cryptosporidium and Giardia­—two microscopic parasites which cause intestinal and respiratory illnesses.

Also, there are many locations filters can be inserted into a plumbing system. We recommend point-of-use filters. These filters are installed right before the water gets to the end user, such as those attached to faucets. Once the water leaves the filter, it is going directly into the container from which it will be consumed or used, removing the chances of any additional contamination.


Poor water quality can both directly transfer bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms, and compromise immune systems placing individuals at higher risks for illness. By incorporating point-of-use filters with the proper certification in a building’s plumbing design (either when first built or retrofitted), the health of those working within the structure can be improved and protected.

Allen & Shariff is currently providing a webinar deep dive into this and other topics for healthier buildings.

Contact us today to schedule your webinar.

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