Smart Water Shut-Off Valves For Commercial Buildings: A Short Guide

May 22, 2024
A smart phone shows a text alert that says New Notification. Flood Detected. Remotely shut off water flow?

Water damage. Two simple words that strike fear in the heart of any commercial facility manager—and for good reason. Water damage is a leading cause of commercial real estate claims accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs each year, not to mention the cost of business interruptions and the negative health consequences from mold exposure. And water damage risk isn’t limited to just one sector. It cuts across all industries and asset classes: from apartments to warehouses.

Traditional approaches to water shut-off

One of the most effective ways to stop water damage fast is to cut off water flow. When there’s no water, there can’t be any damage. In the past, the only way to do that was to be onsite and either turn a water valve off or push a button on a costly and hardwired building automation system (BAS).

The main disadvantages with these approaches are that they are slow, can’t be retrofitted—in the case of BAS—and they require maintenance teams to be scheduled round the clock to be onsite. The decision to shut off the water is also made only after a leak is noticed or reported to maintenance teams.

So, it’s no wonder that insurance companies, property developers, and facility managers are looking for ways that technology can help mitigate the perennial problem of water damage risk. The best solution is also the fastest way to respond to water leaks: water valves that can be shut off remotely and automatically.

Remote water shut off

Remote water shut-off is the ability to open and close water valves from anywhere, generally through a desktop or mobile app.

Remote shut-off is possible thanks to advancements in wireless communications and AI–powered water intelligence platforms. With a smartphone, a facility manager can stop water flow without needing to be on the same floor as the shut-off valve or even onsite for that matter.

Building teams can control water flow from anywhere with a water intelligence platform for desktop and mobile applications.

Every second counts when it comes to mitigating water damage. Improving response time by as little as 15 minutes—or the time it takes to get from the top of a luxury condo tower to the basement where a shut-off valve might be located—could mean the difference between a mop and bucket cleanup and a six- or seven-digit water damage insurance claim.

Remotely shut-off water based on high water use data

Some water leak detection systems allow teams to view minute-by-minute water use throughout the building or across entire portfolios. The most sophisticated platforms include AI-powered water use pattern recognition. When water consumption deviates from what is considered normal use, as determined by proprietary algorithms, customers receive high water use or leak alerts on their phones. These automated water use analysis and alerting systems work non-stop and without the need for visual confirmation of leaks before deciding to turn off the water.

In some cases the decision to turn off water can be automated. In fact, a large healthcare facility is saving over $1 million with shut-off valves installed beside pressure breaker valves. This hospital success story features another innovation in water damage mitigation: the ability to shut-off water instantly.

Automatic water shut-off

Automatic water shut-off is part of a complete leak detection system. In this type of solution, a small device such as a flood puck is used to detect water. When it senses water where it shouldn't be, it automatically tells the shut-off valve to close. This stops water flow automatically and prevents damage.

Flood pucks can be placed throughout buildings to create water shut-off zones and decrease the risk of water damage.

Building management professionals can set up various control zones throughout buildings.  When a leak is detected on a single unit within an office tower, the water supply to only that unit is shut off, for example. The best water shut-off solutions allow the building team to be as customized as they need to be for their portfolio and part of that customization includes the sizes of valves.

To see how pre-occupied to fully occupied buildings are using water leak detection systems, see article: Detect Water Leaks And Damage At Buildings Under Construction.

Water Shut-Off Valve Sizes

The best providers of water shut-off valves offer a wide range of sizes: from the ¾” valves commonly found in the units inside multifamily buildings like condos or apartments up to the 6” valves which are commonly installed on main water supplies for commercial buildings.

Being able to choose valve sizes that range from 3/4" to 6" allows for better water management throughout buildings.

Matching the water shut-off solution to each building’s unique water damage risk profile is a key part of every water damage prevention strategy. Other factors such as whether or not the valve is battery or wall-powered and the communication network it runs on should also be considered.

Battery versus Plug-in water shut-off valves

For smaller valve sizes, a battery-powered water shut-off valve allows for greater portability and ease of installation because there’s no need for an electrical outlet to be installed nearby. For larger valves that require a higher amount of torque, a wall-powered solution is necessary. it's advisable to consult with a building engineer to determine the appropriate style and placement of water shut-off valves in your building. Another factor to consider is network connection.

WiFi versus Cellular communication network

For a water shut-off solution to be truly reliable it needs a dependable network connection. The most reliable networks are ones that don’t rely on a building’s WiFi—which is more prone to disconnect due to user error or power failure. When choosing a shut-off solution, cellular is the more secure network connection option.

It’s advisable to consult with your insurance provider, but in general, insurance companies prefer always-on, cellular-connected shut-off valves.

In conclusion, the era of reactive water damage management is over. With the advent of remote and automatic water shut-off technologies, facility managers and sustainability directors now have unparalleled control over their water systems. The integration of intelligent water management solutions not only mitigates the risk of water damage but also offers substantial financial benefits and operational efficiencies.

Protect your portfolio with Shuttie automatic water shut-off valves.