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How to Avoid Water Damage During Construction

Fire damage might get headlines, but water damage, whether to projects under construction or completed buildings, delivers massive financial blows to owners, developers and contractors.

The impact is massive, reaching many billions of dollars per year. One water leak on the 19th floor at a construction site of a high-end apartment building in New York City resulted in $30 million in property damage and millions in delayed delivery penalties. In most cases, water detection is reliant on contractor teams raising the issue manually when they visibly spot a leak. This is of course much more difficult when a leak is hidden or unnoticeable, however. In more sophisticated scenarios, detection can include sensors that trigger the water mains to be switched off – but this doesn’t solve the leak, it just buys time to temporarily find the source.

Contractor teams will then need to go and determine where the water damage is coming, which again reverts back to a manual approach.
A physical walk-through of a building is best practice in good water management, but it is not as reliable as a method of detection. Construction and facilities management are already complex, challenging work environments, with constant monitoring, significant heavy labour, upper management reporting and administration in all the mix. Involving manual detection in this only adds increased time and cost pressures, plus it does not necessarily mean issues will be discovered.

Overall, what these methods do not prioritise is the ability to respond early, with the problem often being discovered too far down the line. Getting to the source of the problem in good time is an essential part of reducing the damage. There is also a growing need for solutions that have the ability to alert site managers, so action can be quickly taken. Utilising technology is one way to allow for a more agile and cost-effective solution that could also work with current systems to enhance them for a more robust approach.

Stop water damage before it happens

By leveraging technology, building owners, site and facilities managers, can get a much higher level of protection than with conventional manual processes. In most cases, this can be done cost effectively too, with forward-thinking technology that combines detection, communication, documentation and connectivity, which can all be intertwined once systems can speak to each other.

Water-detecting cable and tape has been a popular modern approach to Escape of Water, with its ability to surround areas most at risk – such as server or plant rooms. Our water detection solution for instance can fit around any shape or size of area compared to more bulky sensors. Where facilities are dealing with large water tank storage areas, this may also be a prime location for sensors, particularly as they are often placed at the top or roof level of a building.

To address the out-of-hours problem and to help with more remote locations where leaks are harder to identify, alerts need to also be a priority. As while the water mains can be stopped, being able to have an alert that pinpoints the exact location of a problem enables facilities managers to respond faster. Having traditionally targeted fire and smoke detection for sites, we recently expanded our wireless REACT system to automatically account for water detection. This is achieved by integrating our water-detecting cable and tape with connecting interface and control units, which deliver an automatic 24/7 alert and response system for site personnel, should the worst happen.

Water damage, whether in construction projects or in operational facilities is a major source of pain, but technology has now made it an avoidable hazard. Owners, developers and general contractors have the necessary tools to stop water damage before it becomes catastrophic. The built community has a tremendous opportunity to use technology to mitigate water damage, bringing projects in on schedule and reducing the financial exposure for all parties involved.

For more information about Ramtech and its new water detection solution visit our new water detection page.