Smarter leak detection to lower costs

After a year of many buildings being left unoccupied and utility demand changing to suit flexible working styles, those managing sites in the public sector have a challenge to ensure building services remain efficient and cost-effective. To help with this, many are looking at smart technologies to drive efficiency and keep track of usage. While many turn to smart controls to regulate heating and electricity use, Franz Huelle, Head of Technical at REHAU Building Solutions, explains how water costs can also be regulated by smart leak detection.

Facilities and energy managers in the public sector are often under pressure to limit utilities and save on energy costs in line with strict budgets. Following a year of disruption and further strain on finances, strategies are required to ensure buildings left unoccupied, or that have suffered disruptions in maintenance, return to efficient working order.

While keeping energy bills low is a key element of ensuring running costs are manageable, so too is guaranteeing other building services are under control. When it comes to water supplies, there is not only the potential for bills to be increased, but also the risk of damage occurring under the surface.

Micro and macro risks

For any building manager, the risk of costly leaks is concerning. Whether it is a microleak slowly elevating bills through waste, or a large burst pipe causing thousands of pounds worth of damage, ensuring the integrity of water supplies is key to saving costs.

Indeed, according to ABI[1], insurers pay out £1.8 million for residential water damage every day. Causes can relate to a number of issues such as corrosion, limescale and frost compromising old pipes, as well as accidental drilling of new systems, all of which can lead to costly reparation work in buildings. According to an expert from AXA[2], particularly vulnerable buildings include those that have just been built, vacant, or reduced occupancy – as many have been throughout the pandemic.

As a result of vacancy and disruption to maintenance schedules, facilities and energy managers are under pressure to ensure buildings are fit for purpose as people begin to use them again. On top of this, there is a responsibility to ensure their development can keep up with any changes in the way occupants use them, particularly with flexible working becoming commonplace for many local authorities.


For public sector properties, there is not only the requirement to keep costs down to adhere to budgets, but also a duty of care to occupants. This means there is even more onus on facilities managers to ensure sites are safe either when occupants return to commercial buildings, or to those in local authority housing.

Sites left unoccupied with any kind of water damage could incur costly repair work that may not have been predicted, which takes time to rectify. However, in addition to this, its lasting effects can also negatively affect the health of occupants. Mould can form within just 24 hours of moisture penetrating a building structure, which is harmful to health and requires extensive remediation work.

Ultrasonic aid

Faced with maintenance challenges and potentially continued issues relating to buildings being vacant more often, facilities managers may find it useful to consider smart technology to give more control over water supplies. Indeed, Statista research[3] predicts the smart home sector will grow by 15.06% each year to a projected market volume of £9.249bn by 2025. Therefore, it is likely smart technologies will play a key role in all developments in the future.

Often, it can be difficult to identify if the system is leaking or has burst until it is too late, particularly if the building has less occupants inside than usual to report issues they become aware of. By implementing smart ultrasonic leak detection technology, managers can ensure any issues in the water supply can be identified quickly.

Devices such as the RE.GUARD smart water controller can detect burst pipes and automatically cut off the supply to prevent damage. For smaller drip leaks, smart devices have the ability to send notifications to the building manager, allowing further investigation and reparation work to take place before it worsens. In areas where expensive equipment or important documents are kept, water sensors that detect leaks can be implemented to quickly cut the supply and avoid costly damage.

As smart technologies can produce data on usage, smart leak detection devices installed after water meters allow measurement of consumption. This means facilities and energy managers have more metrics to make their entire development’s more efficient and optimised, keeping utilities costs under control.

Balancing the different challenges of maintaining a site and keeping running costs low has been made tougher than ever by the ongoing effects of the pandemic. By implementing smart technologies, facilities and energy managers can ensure their buildings are futureproofed and water supplies are under control, no matter how the occupant habits change over time.

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