Building Services Design and Water Safety Engineering
Incorporating good water safety into new building design is becoming increasingly relevant as we start to understand the longer term implications of poor water services design on workplace safety and building lifecycle costs.
In this article, our specialist team examine current building services design and construction processes and how they can be improved by integrating water safety considerations into all stages of a building project to prevent costly mistakes and ensure public safety is maintained.
We’ll reveal that early attention to detail is crucial, with an in-depth review of any design proposals and how they deal with water safety and compliance with legislation forming an essential, pre-construction stage.
A version of this story dealing with the management of building projects to incorporate good water safety design appeared in Legionella Control International’s newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Ensuring good water safety in building services projects
All new buildings should have water systems that are fully compliant with all the required rules and regulations. The same applies to existing properties that require refurbishments, renovations, or extensions although of course the process will vary slightly in such cases.
In every case, however, those responsible for designing, planning, and constructing the building, refurbishment or extension also carry responsibility for water safety. For example, in healthcare environments the Water Safety Group will be responsible for creating the Water Safety Plan for the building concerned. The group should be comprised of individuals with ample experience and knowledge of building design, the design and use of water systems, and how those two go together. Of course, knowledge of waterborne bacteria and other hazards should also be present among those who are part of the Water Safety Group.
Different people playing different roles during the design and construction process
At its most basic level, those involved in such building projects may have specific ideas about how they want a building to look or perform. However, they may not have knowledge of how this impacts water safety. It is up to those involved in the design and construction processes to make sure water safety is in-built, legionella and water standards adhered to, and that a safe approach is taken at all times.
For example, a stakeholder may know how they want a building to work yet will not have the level of understanding required to see how the hot and cold water system fits in with this. Conversely, those who can identify how to make sure the water system is compliant and safe to use may not understand the other aspects that are important to other stakeholders. Only by coming together can all the various parties understand how to find that common – and safe – ground to work on.
A Water Safety Group should be in place at the beginning of any building project
It makes sense that close attention to detail and safety should be apparent right at the start of a building project. The design process can take time to complete, and any concerns about water safety must be identified, raised, and resolved at this early stage. Correcting potential issues is far easier to do on paper than it is once the building project is underway or even completed.
The architect or project designer should be present at the Water Safety Group meetings, along with those who are going to project manage the building process. All aspects of the project should be looked at in relation to water safety. For example, there are various pieces of legislation that should be considered and followed at all stages. These include the Health and Safety Executives Approved Code of Practice L8: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems; and their separate guidance given in HSG274.
Risk assessments will undoubtedly be familiar to all those involved in the design and construction industries. However, a specific legionella risk assessment should also be undertaken, with the results apparent to those in the Water Safety Group. The risk assessment for legionella should form part of the Water Safety Plan (WSP), so that any issues can be flagged and dealt with before the building process gets underway.
Who will use the buildings water services and other questions?
Identifying all users of the water supply for the building concerned is of paramount importance. Some of those involved in the design process may not be aware of the specifics of this part of the process. For example, if the building is in a healthcare setting, the age of some of those who may use the water services provided could be at risk from exposure to legionella. Furthermore, thermostatic mixing valves will be important to install. There may also be other more detailed issues that could arise if certain patients or visitors have conditions that put them at greater risk of legionella infections.
If a Water Safety Group is not established at this early stage, mistakes could easily be incorporated into the planning and design processes. These mistakes could then go forward to the building stage, whereby they would be much harder and more costly to fix once built.
Is the project team competent in all aspects?
All those who play a role in the Water Safety Group should display competency in their specialist areas. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone to have all relevant competencies across the board when designing and planning a new building project. However, the overall group should have all necessary qualifications and experience to be able to contribute to the ongoing planning and compliance topics.
Water Safety Group meetings
Of course, it’s one thing for all members of the group to have the required experience and knowledge in their separate areas. This will be of little use in cases where there are not enough meetings taking place. Everyone should be prepared for each meeting, with all the required paperwork and data ready to present to the group.
The aim is always to make sure that all aspects of a safe water system have been considered and incorporated into the building services design, planning and construction stages. This should minimise the chances of any errors taking place that would cause extensive costs and delays at a later stage.
Preventing Legionnaires’ disease through good building design
Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease stemming from an outbreak in a public building, office, or healthcare setting can be prevented if proper steps are taken to make sure the water systems are fit for purpose and safe to use. It is true that planning a new building or the renovation of an existing one does bring with it certain challenges regarding the safety of that water system. However, this is an opportunity to make sure that all risks are identified and resolved where possible. Reducing risks is the alternative, and it is only by having the right people involved at all stages that such risks can be avoided.
Managing building projects with water safety built-in
Costing any building project is a difficult and challenging job. With so many risk factors involved with any manmade water system, it is essential to make sure that adequate attention is paid to water safety within all building services projects. This should certainly not be an afterthought or an element that only receives attention when something goes wrong. It is simple enough to make sure this does not happen by creating a Water Safety Group to provide expert advice and support from the start.
Water safety design evaluation and construction monitoring
Legionella Control International are experienced legionella and water safety specialist supporting building owners, facilities managers, property developers, design professionals, building contractors and others involved in the construction process.
Through our design evaluation and construction monitoring services we can help identify and eliminate poor or non-compliant water services associated with new construction projects before they are “cast in stone”. This improves long term water safety and eliminates the need for expensive, post-completion remedial works where non-compliant design and construction must be made-good.
If you would like to speak with one of our construction sector specialists about water safety risk management for your next building project call us today on 0330 223 36 86 or contact us here …