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Last edited 28 Feb 2023
BREEAM Water leak detection
The aim of this issue is to reduce the consumption of potable water in new buildings through minimising wastage due to water leaks. Water leaks in building systems can cause major damage to property. Early detection can help minimise damage, costs and disruption arising from water leaks.
 When to consider
The BREEAM requirement is a leak detection system capable of detecting a major water leak:
On the utilities water supply within the buildings, to detect any major leaks within the buildings AND
Between the buildings and the utilities water supply, to detect any major leaks between the utilities supply and the buildings under assessment.
Typically a BREEAM compliant leak detection system will comprise a controller and two pulsed water meters, one to be located in the plant room/mains water area and the other on the boundary of the building after the utilities water meter. The controller is programmed to monitor maximum water flow levels allowed during certain time periods. If this maximum is exceeded, the controller will notify the building facilities manager/nominated personnel that there is a possible leak for them to manually switch off the water supply and investigate the problem. Some controllers activate an automatic valve and shut off the supply.
Flow control devices are used to automatically control the flow of water into toilet areas, often using PIR (passive infrared) sensors connected to valves fitted on the main water supplies to the area. When someone enters the toilet, the PIR activates and the valves open allowing water to flow in. After the areas been vacated the valve automatically closes, switching the water off again. This ensures that water is only supplied when required, therefore preventing minor water leaks from accumulating into large amounts of waste water.
 Questions to ask while seeking compliance
The assessor needs evidence that the specified system is either a permanent automated water leak detection system that alerts the building occupants to the leak OR has an inbuilt automated diagnostic procedure for detecting leaks.
- Can the compliant system alert the appropriate person to the leak so they are able to respond immediately? The assessor can judge if the aim of the issue is being met by a reliable, robust and fail-safe means of notification.
- Is it the intention that a BMS will be used for leak detection purposes? The team have to demonstrate that its integrated or add-on features will meet all the requirements for a leak detection system.
- Will the flow control devices be used for individual facilities? Devices are not actually required for each individual fitting and may control one or more WC area, such as adjacent male and female toilets within a core. However, where a single device is used to control the supply to multiple areas, the design team should provide details of the strategy employed.
- Are the facilities going to be in constant use for a fixed period each day? If so, a time controller can be justified as an effective means of activating a flow control device.
 Tips and best practice
Leak detection - the BREEAM criteria is only applied to pipework over which the owner/occupier has control. Where third party organisations (such as utility companies) place restrictions on the pipework that can be metered, the scope of works (and placement of a meter for the use of leak detection) will start immediately after this point.
The flow control criteria still applies smaller or low occupancy buildings which may only have a single WC. In these instances shut-off could be provided via the same switch that controls the lighting (whether proximity detection or a manual switch).
 Typical evidence
 Post-construction stage
 Applicable Schemes
The guidelines collated in this ISD aim to support sustainable best practice in the topic described. This issue may apply in multiple BREEAM schemes covering different stages in the life of a building, different building types and different year versions. Some content may be generic but scheme nuances should also be taken into account. Refer to the comments below and related articles to this one to understand these nuances. See this document for further guidelines.
- BREEAM UK NC 2018
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