As insurance premiums for construction projects continue to rise and deductibles can be six figures, companies are looking for ways to reduce their risk during the build. Large construction projects, like the ViewStar in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada with twelve buildings providing 941 residential units and 200,000 ft² of commercial space, is a very busy construction site with a lot of different contractors coming and going.
By Ryan Spooner — Cla-Val
It is not uncommon for water leaks to occur during any construction, and you can multiply that by the number of floors, sub-contractors and complexity. Pipes can burst, fittings can leak, plumbing elements can be left open. If this happens at nighttime when no one is around, the damage can be extensive, particularly the closer you get towards completion.
“With so many people on-site installing plumbing elements like valves, faucets, toilets, hoses and so on, there is a lot of potential for parts to fail or mistakes to happen,” said Andy Ciecielski, Mechanical Superintendent for ITC Construction Group (ITC). ITC has won many awards for the construction of residential high rises, mixed-use developments, and select commercial projects that range in size from CAD $1 million to CAD $500 million.
Ciecielski’s primary focus is to reduce damage and insurance claims during construction by mitigating risks and putting in protection measures. “We have had some catastrophic water leaks in the past which cause huge time delays and add significant cost.” In addition, unauthorized after-hours workers pose a serious health and safety risk as the daytime resources and personnel are not on site to ensure safety protocols are being followed. This is another area of risk mitigation that ITC was looking to address.
Colin Robins, Account Manager with Summit Valve and Controls, Inc., said, “When we met with the ITC team, it was clear that their existing solution was not controlling their water supply to the extent they needed nor was it protecting the site during the most vulnerable periods. The problem was there was no packaged product on the market to meet their needs, and they were being saddled with insurance deductibles of CAD $100,000 or more when water damage occurred on their sites.”
Robins worked with the Cla-Val team to put together a package that would encompass all the needs of ITC and fill the objective of monitoring the domestic water supply to the site, providing drip tight isolation when required, and instantaneous alarms and feedback related to afterhours site conditions. The package included a Cla-Val Series 136 Solenoid Control Valve, a VC-22D Valve Controller and various instrumentation and communication equipment. A custom controller app was developed to monitor the instrumentation, control the valve action sequences, and create an alarm for the site. “During the commissioning stage we spent time calibrating, making adjustments based on user preferences, and ultimately fine-tuning the package to be exactly what they wanted,” said Robins.
The Cla-Val Construction Safety Valve package is installed on the main water feed of each residential tower. This reliable, drip-tight solenoid activated on-off control valve effectively operates to shut off water to the building after hours. The activation of the control valve has the ability to be controlled locally via the VC-22D controller, remotely through the building management system, or in the case of the Viewstar project, via a user adjustable time-based program. ITC selected to open the valve at 6 am, at the start of construction hours and close at 8pm, after construction hours, Monday to Saturday. The system was set to remain closed on Sunday when no construction was taking place. Besides controlling the water to the building, the package effectively adds a layer of supervision to the site by monitoring the pressure when there are no personnel on-site.
If there is a pipe burst or leak, or unauthorized water use during the off period, it will result in a change in system pressure. The valve package will sense the change and will activate an alarm sequence. In addition to a siren alarm to alert on-site security to prompt an immediate investigation, the system will also send out a notification via cellular to building management. Multiple people can instantly be informed of the event.
In addition to the pressure monitoring, the valve package also monitors valve position and flow. The combination of feedback from these instruments gives the system the ability to sense unexpected flow events and activate alarm sequences for immediate attention. Once an alarm has been triggered the valve will remain closed until the system is reset, ensuring water does not enter the system until the issues are resolved.
Water usage is usually not measured on a construction site, making it difficult to identify when it is being used. This valve package also helps prevent unauthorized use of water after hours, mitigating health and safety concerns associated with working outside of fully resourced operational hours. “By monitoring pressure, flow and valve position, we now have better onsite water intelligence that reduces our risk of flood damage, and in turn lowers the potential for insurance claims,” said Ciecielski. “Going forward, we hope to install this construction safety valve on new construction sites.”
The valve is compact and can be designed for portable use so that once the construction is completed, it can be removed and installed on a new site. If the building management chooses to keep the valve, they can add further accessories to build in another layer of water shut-off safety for unplanned events like earthquakes or pipe bursts.
Following the success of the installations, the package has since been developed as a standard offering available for other customers. “Making the installation as simple as possible was our ultimate goal,” said Robins. With the addition of quick-connect wiring terminals and prewired accessories, the construction safety valve has the potential for easy to install on any construction site. “The bottom line is this valve package should be on every construction site. It offers a layer of security against water damage that has not existed before and has huge potential for reducing insurance claims which will positively affect a company’s premiums over time,” concluded Robins.
The ViewStar is on track for completion in 2021 and has successfully avoided any water damage claims thanks to the new construction safety control valve. With over 150 developments across Canada in the last 38 years, ITC continues to pioneer new technology solutions that protect their construction sites and workers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Spooner is a Technical Sales Manager for Cla-Val located in Langley, BC. He has a degree in Mechatronics System Engineering from Simon Fraser University. He has ten years experience in control valves with a focus on application, engineering & sales with a special focus on automation & instrumentation production & applications. Ryan has travelled worldwide providing training, commissioning and application assistance for control valves and electronic systems.