On-site measurement of tracer gas transmission between horizontal adjacent flats in residential building and cross-infection risk assessment

Yan Wu, Thomas C W Tung, Jianlei Niu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Airborne transmission is a main spread mode of respiratory infectious diseases, whose frequent epidemic has brought serious social burden. Identifying possible routes of the airborne transmission and predicting the potential infection risk are meaningful for infectious disease control. In the present study, an internal spread route between horizontal adjacent flats induced by air infiltration was investigated. On-site measurements were conducted, and tracer gas technique was employed. Two measurement scenarios, closed window mode and open window mode, were compared. Using the calculated air change rate and mass fraction, the cross-infection risk was estimated using the Wells-Riley model. It found that tracer gas concentrations in receptor rooms are one order lower than the source room, and the infection risks are also one order lower. Opening windows results in larger air change rate on the one hand, but higher mass fraction on the other hand. Higher mass fraction not necessarily results in higher infection risk as the pathogen concentration in the source room is reduced by the higher air change rate. In the present study, opening windows could significantly reduce the infection risk of the index room but slightly reduce the risks in receptor rooms. The mass fraction of air originated from the index room to the receptor units could be 0.28 and the relative cross-infection risk through the internal transmission route could be 9%, which are higher than the external spread through single-sided window flush. The study implicates that the horizontal transmission route induced by air infiltration should not be underestimated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalBuilding and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Air infiltration
  • Airborne transmission
  • Infection risk
  • On-site measurement
  • Residential building
  • Tracer gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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