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In late 2019, the Construction Insurance Risk Engineers Group (CIREG), made up of representatives from major insurers and risk management companies, published the latest edition of its ‘Managing Escape of Water Risk on Construction Sites’ industry best practice guidance.

Chances are the document has already landed in your inbox or could have been raised at a project meeting in recent months, as awareness grows and developers, designers and contractors look to find a solution . So, is there such a thing as a CIREG compliant water leak detection system, why now and what impact will it have and on who?

Tackling the Growing Cost of Insurance Claims

Whilst there is technically no such thing as a CIREG compliant water leak detection system, their guidance seeks to help mitigate against the risk of major water leaks during the construction or refurbishment phase of commercial and multi-apartment residential properties. Last updated in 2015, CIREG has revised its guidance in response to the growing volume and value of insurance claims the industry has seen arising from large water leaks occurring on construction sites. Large escapes of water are now as frequent, if not more so, a cause of construction phase damage as fire. The guidance itself refers to water damage claims reaching as much as seven figures in some cases.

Typically, large losses happen as a result of pipework bursts or failure at two particular points: 1) when a site is out of its usual working hours, allowing the issue to go unnoticed and unresolved for a significant period of time and 2) close to project completion, during final testing and commissioning, at a time when a property has already been fitted out, leading to catastrophic waterconstruction insurance risk engineers group damage to walls, valuable electrics and lifting equipment and high-spec interiors.

Such events can have an adverse impact on a range of parties involved in a project, including the asset owners and their appointed contractors. It can result in significant delays to project delivery, incur financial penalties, additional construction costs, loss of income and potential reputational damage.

This revision of the guidance also coincides with the growing level of escape of water claims coming from operational property, which amounted to almost £1 billion in insurance payouts in 2018. This combination of factors has seen insurers’ stance on this area of risk is hardening across the board, as they seek to bring down costs. For the customer, this can lead to higher premiums and excess, as well as a more stringent requirement for risk mitigation measures to be put in place in order to minimize the perils of escapes of water. If steps are not taken, customers may face the possibility of seeing projects become uninsurable. Furthermore, we are yet to see if this will go even further, as insurers count the cost of COVID-19-related losses and look to make more significant savings in other lines of business.

Latest Recommendations

The recommendations made in the CIREG water leak detection guidance cover a number of areas, including, among others, the need for:

  • Greater attention to be paid to water risk management from the outset of a project, including design
  • The implementation of water management and emergency response plans
  • Greater quality control over the installation of plumbing systems

The guidance also makes a strong and clear call for the integration of construction site water leak detection technology from the earliest stage of a project. CIREG requests that, in all cases, designers should incorporate:

  • A means for detecting if water is flowing when it should not be (escape of water)
  • A means for rapidly shutting down the system when escape of water is detected

This can include the installation of flow detection/monitoring and water management devices for temporary water leak detection and permanent works water services being used during construction, with the ability to immediately shut-off water if an issue occurs.  

Recommendations for temporary water leak detection:

  • Should be switched off outside working hours
  • Should have a flow management device installed on the main temporary water supply and, if a booster set is required, between the booster pump and any water tank.
  • Water leak detectors should be set up to operate autonomously, shutting off the system outside of working hours, monitoring flow during operation and shutting off the system in the event of abnormal flow on construction sites.

Recommendations for permanent water services:

  • Should be isolated when the building is unattended
  • Automatic flow monitoring and shut-off valves should be installed in locations such as at the mains water inlet, before any booster pump set and on each floor

From Construction to Completion and Beyond

While the best practice guidance is focused on mitigating the risk of water leaks during the construction phase, the Construction Insurance Risk Engineers Group (CIREG) also calls for designers to specify water monitoring systems in a building once operational. It highlights that:

“The incorporation of permanent water management devices could improve the availability of insurance and may have a favourable influence on price and the conditions imposed. Selection of water management devices at the earliest design stages can also reduce the installation costs associated with retrofitting devices. There can be additional environmental benefits and cost savings.” 

The Aqualeak Solution

In addition to our new recommended CIREG leak detection system, Aqualeak offers a wide range of commercial leak detection systems, including suitable flow based water leak detection systems. these can help customers meet the requirements of the CIREG best practice guidance, through the life-cycle of a property. We offer devices that have the capability to:

  • Shut off water supplies automatically outside of working hours and weekends
  • Send alerts to designated people when unexpected o abnormal flows are detected
  • Monitor normal water usage over a set time period so it can then be programmed to allow water to be shut-off when typical usage is exceeded
  • Manually isolate or over-ride devices on site
  • Provide remote and audible signaling when a leak or abnormal flow is detected
  • Operate using battery back-up
  • Remain fully operable until project handover

We also offer sensor based leak detection systems, using cable and spot probes, that can be effective in detecting the unwanted presence of water in critical areas during the construction phase and beyond.

We recognise that no two construction projects or sites are the same. Our team of technical sales and installation engineers are here to advise customers further on the recommendations of the CIREG guidance and designing the right solution for a complete project and can review and prepare drawings and schematics. For further information, contact or on +44 (0)1249 715 698.

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