[Skip to content]

FM World logo
Text Size: A A A


The IoT is a powerful means to ensure compliance of water systems, says Spencer Culley.

© iStock
© iStock

04 November 2019 Spencer Culley

The Internet of Things (IoT) for the intelligent buildings market is projected to go from being worth a little over £5 billion in 2017 to more than £17.5 billion in 2026. And facilities managers believe that IoT will affect building and maintenance policies within the next year. Yet many feel their workplaces are not up to speed on the latest technology.

Churchill recently gave a presentation on compliance at an operational FM event for IWFM’s South West Region. We conducted two live polls to ask attendees about their use of technology: 65 per cent did not feel they were embracing the latest tech to help with compliance; 78 per cent were no more than satisfied with the quality of their assets and estates data.

Compliance management

Seeing solutions in action and recognising their implications is a step to better understanding the IoT in areas such as compliance management in water and air systems. But let’s focus on water systems.

Legionella growth leading to Legionnaires’ disease is a significant risk in all water systems. People won’t usually get ill from drinking infected water, but there is a significant risk from inhaling water droplets from air conditioning systems, for example. 

Poor care and failure to comply with required testing can lead to prosecution in court. All systems must be suitably surveyed to assess and document the potential risk of contamination to create a regime to minimise risk of contamination in that system. 

What the HSE says

The most recent update from the HSE’s technical guidance document for controlling the risk (HSG274) identifies additional checks to be carried out once these assessments have been completed. 

Thee checks are on the (often hard to locate and access) return parts of the hot systems, where temperature is used as the primary method of control. This means that hot water systems, especially those in old buildings, can be tough to maintain. So an understanding of system performance can be hard to establish.  

A real-world example

One of our university clients needed to assess risk levels in its water systems. The estate consisted of about 90 buildings, some of which had complex pumped hot and cold water systems with inaccessible return loops. 

After months of routine manual inspections of one of the hot-water systems, several temperature anomalies were identified. More data was required to understand the issue. This is what we did.

1. We conducted a comprehensive intrusive survey

  •  Traced all flow and return pipework to identify additional monitoring points;
  •  Created mechanical schematic diagrams and plant drawings and used them to identify and barcode specific system assets and monitoring points;
  •  Installed wireless remote temperature sensors; and
  •  Installed a central hub to collect and transmit continuous real-time data by Wi-Fi. 


Result: A notable improvement in the typical data collection, which occurred monthly and only offered limited representation of the system.

2.  We analysed the data

Three months of data showed that many of the hot-water temperatures were consistently below required parameters. By plotting the data, it became clear at what time of day and in which area the system was not functioning properly, something that would have required a lot of time and resources to understand from undertaking manual inspections. 

Because of low system temperatures, we implemented a water-sampling regime at strategic points across the system to monitor microbiological activity. We also checked that balance valves were regulating the flow of hot water and circulation points were maintaining ideal temperatures. 

Spencer Culley is managing director at Churchill Environmental