When it comes to protecting businesses against disruption, water damage poses a significant threat, especially in the modern age where electrical systems are ingrained in almost every aspect of daily life. David Brown, product manager at life safety systems manufacturer Hochiki Europe, explains how the most advanced moisture detection systems can help building owners mitigate the risks to their bottom line.
From maintaining security systems to managing the rising costs of utility bills – as well as everything in between – building owners and facilities managers (FMs) have a vital and almost all-encompassing role to play in keeping today’s businesses moving forward.
For these duty holders, ensuring operational downtime is minimised by staying ahead of any potential disruption is a key objective when it comes to protecting their organisations’ bottom line. One major disruption to modern companies is managing the impact of water leakage, especially when it comes to the build-up of moisture around electrical systems.
‘Escape of water’ claims are actually one of the most common, and costly, insurance claims filed. In countries such as the UK, for example, nearly one in five claims made on buildings and contents insurance is for damage caused by water leaks.
Causes of moisture
There are a number of factors which result in the unwanted leak of moisture in both residential and commercial buildings. For example, leaks from plumbing, heating and refrigeration systems can occur due to poor maintenance, inadequate installation or accidental damage. External sources of moisture can include the build-up of damp within walls, as well as blocked drainage areas.
If this dampness finds its way into an electrical system, it is highly likely to cause an outage. For businesses, this means operational equipment can be compromised or made unsafe and employee time can be lost due to time taken off for repairs. For businesses, the costs of dealing with an escape of water can quickly mount up.
In large buildings reliant on electronic cabling and modern technology, such as data centres, every minute off-line costs money. Similarly, in companies where e-commerce is the business model, outages caused by moisture are also a major financial concern. In 2016, Delta Airlines suffered a data centre outage which cost the airline US$ 150 million in just three days.
In such facilities, emergency measures to contain the risk will almost certainly be in place, but any damage to electronic equipment is immediately costly to the service provider and their customers. This means identifying and locating the unwanted build-up of moisture throughout a building as fast as possible is vital. Owners and FMs are therefore having to find more efficient ways to monitor for water leaks across their sites and minimise the associated risks.
South African building regulations stipulate the owner of any building shall ensure measures are taken to resist the penetration of moisture into the interior of a building. This can mean carrying out regular risk assessments and inspections of any pipework, appliances, internal walls, as well as making sure electrical components in life safety devices are suitably protected against moisture.
However, preventative maintenance can only do so much, especially in large premises with complex building envelopes. There is always a risk that the build-up of unwanted moisture will occur in difficult or even impossible to reach places, which is why modern leak detection systems which can activity identify, track and report leaks in these areas can prove to be invaluable assets for FMs.
Technology and moisture detection
Building owners can take a range of precautions to prevent water systems from leaking, but leaks can often be difficult to locate and track. To support duty holders, manufacturers like Hochiki Europe are developing more advanced systems capable of detecting leaks and moisture within large premises.
Initial versions of these systems were based on simple point detection software, within which local alarms would sound when a leak had been identified. However, today, in line with technological advances, the most modern systems incorporate a range of new technologies from cause and effect, linear detection and more complex signalling processes. The latest devices also make use of continuous monitoring across small and very large areas, depending on the application.
Hochiki Europe’s LEAKalarm is one example of a cutting-edge, addressable moisture detection system that can quickly and reliably detect water leaks within a building. Using specialised water-sensitive cables and point detection-style floor probes, building owners are able to swiftly locate leaks, minimising any potential losses of time and property.
The system uses continuous monitoring via a central control panel, which can be remotely monitored via the building management system, so building owners can manage maintenance and monitor energy consumption with greater ease and efficiency. At the same time, any disconnection, fault or even an alarm will be immediately communicated either locally using a voice alarm or via SMS/email (utilising additional equipment), giving building owners as much time as possible to rectify any issues with the system itself.
Keeping your head above water
To ensure continuous monitoring even in the event of a mains power outage, LEAKalarm is also capable of operating on a 72-hour standby. This means that, even if other systems are compromised, building owners can still manage the risks associated with water leaks, helping protect buildings and their occupants.
Looking to the future, as digital technology becomes more integrated into society, Hochiki Europe is expecting issues around moisture disruption to become more apparent. By installing systems which are at the cutting edge of development, building owners can futureproof themselves and their properties, boost safety, and minimise disruption.
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