BREEAM, which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, is a widely used sustainability assessment method for buildings. It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction, and operation. BREEAM assesses various aspects of a building’s environmental performance, including energy efficiency, water usage, materials selection, and ecological impact, providing a comprehensive framework for evaluating and improving the sustainability of buildings.

Standards assessed include; BREEAM New construction, BREEAM Refurbishment and fit-out, BREEAM In-use and BREEAM Communities. In this article we will be looking at BREEAM New Construction, focusing on the importance of water credits and how to achieve the necessary standards.

Importance of Water Efficiency in BREEAM

Water efficiency is a fundamental aspect of BREEAM, playing a crucial role in promoting long-term environmental sustainability within the built environment. The BREEAM system not only focuses on reducing water consumption but also emphasizes maintaining operational effectiveness to ensure sustainable practices are upheld. By incorporating efficient water management systems like low-flow fittings and rainwater harvesting, buildings can significantly contribute to achieving BREEAM certification. These sustainable features not only conserve water resources but also lead to cost savings and a reduced environmental footprint. Terms such as “water consumption” and “water reuse” are intricately woven into the BREEAM certification process, highlighting the importance of responsible water usage in sustainable building practices.

Reducing Potable Water Consumption

Achieving BREEAM certification for sustainable water use involves stringent measures to minimise potable water consumption. Water-efficient systems include rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, and the installation of water leak detection systems. These initiatives help to achieve compliance with BREEAM’s robust criteria.

Implementation of smart metering technology further enhances water conservation by identifying leaks and optimising usage patterns, ultimately reducing water wastage and running costs.


Encouraging Water Monitoring

Monitoring water usage is crucial for achieving BREEAM certification as it helps track and manage consumption effectively.

  • Water leak detection systems: These devices provide real-time data and can identify leaks early.
  • Sub-metering: Installing meters at different points allows for detailed monitoring of specific areas or systems.
  • Automatic meter reading (AMR) technology: Facilitates remote and continuous data collection for regular review and optimisation.
  • Building Management Systems (BMS): Integrates meter data into a centralised platform for comprehensive analysis and reporting.

What are BREEAM water credits?

BREEAM water credits refer to the points awarded within the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) scheme for sustainable water usage practices in construction projects. These credits are earned by implementing water-efficient systems and technologies to reduce water consumption and promote responsible water management. Prioritising water efficiency in the BREEAM certification process underscores the importance of responsible water management in construction projects.

Assessment Issues

  • 1
    Wat01 Water consumption (5 credits)

    Reducing the demand for potable water through the provision of efficient sanitary fittings, rainwater collection and water recycling systems.

  • 2
    Wat02 Water monitoring (1 credit)

    Specification of water meters to allow for management and monitoring of water use in the building. This encourages reductions in water use by identifying areas of high usage and investigating potential causes.

  • 3
    Wat03 Water leak detection (2 credits)

    Reducing the unintended water consumption due to leaks by installing leak detection systems and flow control devices.

  • 4
    Wat04 Water efficient equipment (1 credit)

    Reducing water consumption for non-domestic scale, non-sanitary water uses by specifying efficient systems and improving the design efficiency of any water-using processes.

Wat 03 BREEAM Water Leak Detection

In this article we will be focusing on Wat 03 BREEAM assessment criteria for New Construction standards. What it is, why it is important and best practices when sourcing the best systems to meet compliance. Discover how implementing these systems ensures proactive water management, aiding compliance with BREEAM criteria. Regular monitoring also fosters a culture of sustainability within the building.

What is Wat 03 BREEAM Water Leak Detection?

Wat 03 BREEAM Water Leak Detection is a criterion that focuses on the implementation of systems to detect and prevent water leaks in buildings. By identifying leaks early, these systems help to conserve water and reduce wastage, which in turn lowers water consumption and associated costs. Effective leak detection also minimises the risk of water damage to the building structure and contents, promoting overall sustainability and operational efficiency.

Why is water leak detection important in BREEAM?

Water leak detection is important in BREEAM as it helps identify and address leaks promptly, preventing water wastage and reducing associated costs. Early detection of leaks minimises the risk of significant water damage to the building’s structure and contents, which can lead to costly repairs and operational disruptions. Additionally, effective leak detection contributes to overall water conservation efforts, enhancing the building’s sustainability and efficiency. By implementing robust leak detection systems, buildings can maintain higher performance standards and achieve better BREEAM ratings.

How is water leak detection implemented in Wat 03?

Water leak detection is implemented through the installation of advanced leak detection systems that continuously monitor water flow within the building. These systems use sensors and meters to detect any irregularities or unexpected changes in water usage that may indicate a leak. When a potential leak is identified, the system alerts building managers or maintenance teams, enabling them to take immediate action to investigate and resolve the issue. This proactive approach not only helps to prevent water wastage but also minimises the risk of water damage and associated repair costs. Additionally, integrating these systems into the building’s overall management framework enhances its sustainability and operational efficiency.

Assessment Criteria

2 BREEAM credits are available when compliant with Wat03, split into two parts; water leak detection system for one credit and flow control devices for the other.

One credit – Leak detection system

Install 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. The system must:

  • A permanent automated water leak detection system that alerts the building occupants to the leak or an inbuilt automated diagnostic procedure for detecting leaks.
  • Activated when the flow of water passing through the water meter or data logger is at a flow rate above a pre-set maximum for a pre-set period of time. This usually involves installing a system which detects higher than normal flow rates at meters or sub-meters. It does not necessarily require a system that directly detects water leakage along part or the whole length of the water supply system.
  • Able to identify different flow and therefore leakage rates, e.g. continuous, high or low level, over set time periods. Although high and low level leakage rates are not specified, the leak detection equipment installed must have the flexibility to distinguish between different flow rates to enable it to be programmed to suit the building type and owner’s or occupier’s usage patterns.
  • Programmable to suit the owner’s or occupier’s water consumption criteria.
  • Where applicable, designed to avoid false alarms caused by normal operation of large water consuming plant such as chillers.

Where there is physically no space for a leak detection system between the utilities water meter and the building, alternative solutions can be used, provided that a major leak can still be detected.

One credit – Flow control devices

Install flow control devices that regulate the water supply to each WC area or sanitary facility according to demand, in order to minimise undetected wastage and leaks from sanitary fittings and supply pipework. Improve efficiently by installing the Waterguard range of PIR Isolation Systems that not only isolate the water but power and lighting as well.

Best Practices When Sourcing Water Leak Detection

When sourcing water leak detection systems, it is essential to consider several best practices to ensure optimal performance and reliability with added priority made to due diligence on manufacturers claiming to provide compliance. Below are 5 steps you can take to secure the right water leak detection system for any project.

No1. Conduct a thorough assessment of the building’s water usage patterns and potential leak points to identify the most suitable detection technologies and which specific features you may need to ensure its functionality in an occupied environment. The more versatile the system, the better. These may include:

  • Adjustable features and parameters to suit the owner/occupiers’ water consumption criteria.
  • Practical access to the controls without the need to dismantle when making setting adjustments.
  • An override function, both manual and prescheduled to avoid false alarms caused by the normal operation of large water-consumption.
  • Optional automatic protection level increase after a period of no water usage.
  • Automatic audit function to establish normal usage to automatically set system parameters.
  • Option to automatically shut off water supplies outside operational hours.
  • Connection to booster/header tanks and pumps to isolate power in the event of a leak.

No2. Choose systems that offer real-time monitoring and instant alerts/automatic shutoff to enable prompt response to any detected leaks with features such as:

  • A full events log for checking activity.
  • An audible and visible alarm.
  • Optional automatic shut off to unlimited valves.
  • Output link to the BMS.
  • SMS/email alert service.

No3. Ensure that the selected systems are compatible with the building’s existing infrastructure and can be easily integrated into the overall water management framework. Criteria requirements include the voltage available for the chosen system, water pipe sizes and many projects may require that the system has an integrated backup battery for periods of power loss.

No4. Additionally, prioritise systems with a proven track record of accuracy and reliability, manufacturers who are experts in their field and well established in the market.

No5. Regular maintenance and periodic testing of the leak detection systems are crucial to ensure they remain effective over time. Engage with reputable suppliers who can provide ongoing support and training to facility managers and maintenance teams, ensuring they are well-equipped to manage and respond to any leak detection alerts.

What are the benefits of meeting Wat 03 criteria?

Meeting Wat 03 criteria ensures early leak detection, significantly reducing water wastage and repair costs. Prompt identification of leaks helps avoid extensive water damage and costly disruptions. Effective leak detection also enhances building sustainability and efficiency by conserving water and promoting responsible management. This proactive approach improves the building’s environmental performance and BREEAM rating, showcasing a commitment to sustainability and operational excellence.

Who should be involved in addressing Wat 03 criteria?

Facility managers, maintenance teams, and building owners should collaborate closely to install and maintain effective water leak detection systems to meet Wat 03 criteria. This collaboration ensures that the right technologies are selected and properly integrated into the building’s infrastructure. Regular training and communication among these stakeholders are essential to ensure that everyone understands the importance of leak detection and knows how to respond to alerts promptly. Additionally, involving design and construction teams early in the project can help incorporate leak detection systems seamlessly into the building’s overall design, further enhancing its sustainability and operational efficiency, and also covering insurance requirements during the construction phase.

Case Studies of BREEAM Water Strategies

Consider the following exemplary cases of water-efficient BREEAM-certified buildings, which highlight best practices, strategies, and the resulting benefits. In London, a mixed-use development achieved BREEAM Excellent by incorporating rainwater harvesting systems, greywater recycling, and advanced monitoring technologies, thus reducing mains water consumption by 40%.

Another case in Manchester showcases the effective use of smart metering to manage water usage, achieving both sustainability and significant cost savings.

Successful Implementation Examples

Many buildings have successfully integrated BREEAM Wat 03 criteria utilising the Waterguard Series 7 water leak detection system to achieve water efficiency and BREEAM standards.

  1. Centre Point Tower Redevelopment, London: A London landmark and iconic 60’s tower block transformed into luxury residential apartments. Offering both sustainable living and style, Centre Point Tower’s excellent rating won the ‘Homes – Post Construction’ BREEAM award 2020.
  2. Armstrong Point, Wigan: The UK’s first zero energy cost business park, located in Hindley Green, Wigan. Nine industrial units constructed using 14 low and zero carbon technologies, offering tenants zero-energy cost with onsite energy generation. The technologies used include water leak detection, wind turbines, photovoltaic roof panels, rainwater harvesting and LED lighting.
  3. 40 Gracechurch Street, London: A high profile 122,042 sq ft office and retail development. It seamlessly blends the classic sweep of a part period façade with a modern construction, providing contemporary office accommodation in the heart of the City of London. Featuring a combination of low-flow fixtures, advanced monitoring, and other technologies, it reached a BREEAM “Very Good” rating.

How to earn BREEAM water credits?

To earn BREEAM water credits, construction projects need to implement water-efficient systems and technologies that reduce water consumption and promote responsible water management. To enhance project sustainability performance, the assessment timeline specifies when credits should be addressed. It is advisable for the design team, planners, contractors, owners, occupiers, and other project team members to consider these credits early on to attain the highest BREEAM rating at minimal cost. Delaying BREEAM advice until later stages of design and construction may result in some credits being unachievable or only attainable at extra cost or disruption. Early installation also benefits the entire site as the chosen water leak detection system (with an automatic shut valve that automatically isolates the water supply out of hours) will also cover CIREG insurance compliance.

Contact Waterguard today to discuss your project with one of their water leak detection experts. Their expertise ensures the precise installation and seamless integration of advanced leak detection technologies into your building’s infrastructure. They provide real-time monitoring and instant alerts for any irregularities, enabling prompt action to prevent water wastage and minimise repair costs. Additionally, their ongoing maintenance and support services ensure the system remains effective over time. By leveraging Waterguard Series 7 range of water leak detection systems, you can improve overall water management, boost sustainability, and enhance the operational efficiency of your building.