Designing water leak detection for commercial property? Here are five top tips...
The risk of costly and disruptive Water damage in commercial properties continues to grow. The effects can be significant – the financial expense of relocation and repair, the reputational damage caused by business interruption, the potential loss of data, increased insurance premiums – the list goes on. The complexity of modern pipework systems, an increase in plumbed-in appliances (in particular tea points and staff kitchen areas) and a growing reliance on cooling systems for IT equipment in the age of big data, are all contributing to the threat of escape of water in commercial buildings. The good news is something can be done to mitigate the risk. Water leak detection is increasingly being seen as a ‘must-have’ in new developments, rather than an afterthought when a property suffers a leaking or burst pipe. With that in mind, here are five things to consider for designers and specifiers when preparing for the installation of a sensor-based water leak detection system.
Provide as much detail as you can – In our experience, new project designs simply state that tea points and/or kitchens, for example, require leak detection. This ambiguity and lack of detail often leads to installers almost literally throwing sensor cable at a job. It is then these installations that prove to become problematic for the client – we estimate that more than three quarters of false or nuisance alarms in a building come from tea points where detection sensors have not been installed correctly. This in turn has led to a negative view of water leak detection more generally. However, if water leak detection companies are provided with more information at the quoting stage, let alone the installation stage of a project, this would make the outcome significantly more efficient.
Carefully consider how and which sensor technology to use – There are a number of different types of sensor equipment to choose from. Probes, spot sensors and cable to name but a few. In our view, new commercial development projects should incorporate bunding and tanking areas on slabs beneath the finished floor levels. Probes can then be installed inside the bund, beneath the kitchen units, to provide further isolation and resilience. Probes would also be installed beneath critical wet services – waste pumps, zip-taps and dishwashers, for example. If sensor cable is the preferred option, then it should always be braided, and cut to the correct length, as per the point above.
Access to sensors after completion is vital - Contrary to popular belief, water leak detection sensor technology is not ‘fit and forget’. Invariably, sensors are fitted to then be concealed beneath the finished floor level, with little or no access from that point on. However, to have a truly effective and resilient water leak detection system in place, sensors should be maintained and, where necessary, repaired. Some multi-zone water leak detection system panels are able to alert you to a specific equipment fault in a particular area, making it easy to pinpoint and address the issue… as long as you have access to it. Then there is the investigation of a leak when the alarm is triggered. As standard, inspection/access hatches should be cut into the raised access floor tiles in appropriate locations, behind a kitchen plinth, for example. Ideally, removable access hatches would also be routed into the joinery, above the cut-outs in the floor tile.
Don’t let it slip down the priority list - We know that water leak detection is not necessarily top of the priority list when designing or specifying a new commercial property development. This has historically been a retrofit market – people recognising the benefit of protection after suffering a major water damage event. However, water leak detection should be seen as prevention, rather than the the cure. We’ve heard of commercial projects about to be handed over, only to suffer a burst pipe at the eleventh hour. The installation of a water leak detection system from the outset would significantly mitigate against the risk of a major escape of water. So, while it might not be at the top of the list, don’t let I slip off the bottom. It can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Earn yourself some extra green credits - Water leak monitoring and detection can help you and your clients achieve the criteria, and therefore credits under the British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). Specific systems designed to meet WAT02 and WAT03 requirements can be installed that monitor and alert to a leak both inside and outside the building.
If you would like to discuss your water leak detection needs further, please contact us.