Small leaks sink ships

Small leaks sink ships

How is water leak detection beneficial in educational settings?

On average, schools in the UK spend £70 million a year on the provision of fresh water and treatment of wastewater. And, educational institutions know all-too-well the inconvenience a burst pipe can cause, yet while water leak detection solutions are nothing new, they often remain overlooked – until it’s too late.

But does the time and expense of the installation outweigh the potential for costly repairs and down-time – and what types of building can benefit from its use? Claire Mason, general manager at leak detection specialist, Waterguard, takes a look.
A typical primary school can spend £2,000* a year on their water bills, with secondary schools often clocking up charges of up to twice that amount – that’s why it’s important to avoid any additional expenses caused by a leaking or inefficient water supply.

With the primary purpose of protecting buildings from potential financial and structural disruption, the installation of a water leak detection system not only provides peace of mind but can reduce insurance premiums and boost green credentials too.
Of course, the most obvious casualty from a burst pipe is the bottom line – due to pricey repairs and unavoidable building closures. But, in truth, it’s often the small, unidentified leaks which can often cost organisations the most – sneaking under the radar and adding additional pounds and pence to your annual bill.

Protecting the planet
While the past year has taught us all to prepare for the unexpected, it’s also brought sustainability into sharp focus, too. And, for those institutions with a social conscience, protecting the future of our planet is of immeasurable importance.
As environmental credentials continue to find a place on society’s agenda, reducing wastewater and conserving precious resources should be central to any facilities management strategy – and can form a vital part of an institution’s marketing collateral too.

Designed to help building managers improve the environmental performance of existing non-domestic structures, it’s important to look for BREEAM credentials when exploring your options for leak detection. Any provider should be able to source a water leak – no matter how minor – both at the site boundary and internally too.

Protecting your property
Like anything, leak detection products come in various guises – from simple shut-off solutions through to all-the-bells-and-whistles opportunities which provide real-time alerts when something doesn’t seem quite right.
In educational settings, it’s possible to install a device which will automatically isolate the water supply while a room is unoccupied – usually during evenings, weekends, and outside of term time – in much the same way as power and lighting is shut off when not in use.

In practice the unit is only activated, and the water supply opened, when a person enters the room and triggers a sensor. It automatically shuts off when no further movement – or other prompt – is detected, usually with a ‘buffer’ of between six seconds and 20 minutes. Such settings and tools can extend to an entire site or be focused simply on areas such as toilets and bathrooms, changing areas, and kitchens – limiting the potential risk of water damage.

The management and maintenance of all systems is minimal and dependent on area, with hard water areas advised to routinely clean plumbing components. This can be undertaken by your supplier on an annual basis or training can be given to the facilities management team and/or building janitor.

Choosing the right solution
Of course, the purpose of leak detection is to take away the headache of another element of site and/or building management – and the installation of such devices should be hassle-free too. Small investments, such as in all washrooms, can make a big difference when it comes to maximum protection and minimum water waste.

Whether you’re looking at the protection of an existing, fully operational structure, or the extension of campus via a new building, it’s important to conduct a full site survey prior to installation, to identify the most suitable products and locations for any system components – which are often in the plant room.

Ideally, solutions should identify flow levels using a pulse sensor after every 1-10 litres of water stream, which then identifies and leakage over set time periods – with a self-learning audit function which monitors ‘normal’ consumption.
In most cases, multiple isolation valves can be added to protect against the damage and disruption caused by leaks – these are often programmable to suit the building’s own water consumption criteria.

When considering your options, be sure to consider the usage rates of the building – and how the site is managed outside of term-time. Some solutions can automatically shut off water supply completely outside of operations hours, while others will remain ‘always on’ with an integrated back-up battery, which, in the event of a mains power loss, can continue to power controllers for several months.

Unfortunately, it’s often the case that many leak detection systems tend to be sold after a client has already suffered the disruption of a major water leak – and the ensuing financial burdens.

That’s why, when it comes to water leak detection, ‘prevention is definitely cheaper than the cure’. While the upfront investment can often see firms choosing to ‘roll the dice’, if they help to reduce insurance premiums and provide vital peace of mind, the benefits undoubtedly outweigh the costs.

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