No, piping systems are not designed to leak. There is no intention for having planned failures at any point along the systems. However, water damage from plumbing failures continues to escalate at a troubling rate across all industries, including for data centers. Failing fittings, fixtures, and water-fed equipment are the main problems seen for most, but this is not due to design failures. And now, with leak detection technology improvements and easier installation, owners and operators should expect designs to include water damage mitigation measures in the design.
Although plumbing systems are usually less than 10 percent of the design of a new building, across all building types water damage due to plumbing leaks accounts for about 40% of insurance claims in U.S. Even though fire damage claims are declining with better technology and designs, water damage is increasing. Coupled with rising insurance costs, deductibles for building without leak detection should expect an increase by an order of magnitude.
There are a number of leak protection and sensing solutions available to designers as well as those looking to install within existing facilities. There are flow-based systems that alert teams of unexpected increases in water use and can be controlled to shut off the water supply automatically. Equipment is increasingly adding water sensors at potential leak points, with automatic shut-off valves activating as needed. A wide range of detection can be added to alert staff to potential issues without turning off supply water that may be needed to continue operations (such as cooling). And temperature sensors can be crucial to alerting staff when there is the potential of freezing piping.
Modern leak detection systems can be deployed with these smarter enhancements, with wired or wireless sensors and components to identify the location of a leak and send alerts across whatever messaging system is being used. Older wired system may rely on audible alarms, but for large data centers where staff may not visit an area for a while, this can be upgraded with some simple technology updates.
Even in the construction phases, more insurance companies are insisting that leak detection systems be deployed. The lowest requirement has been with a flow monitoring valve installed at the main source. The system will detect a high flow and with turn off the water automatically while simultaneously sending messages to the construction teams; this comprehensive, 24-7 protection can mean the difference in major project delays as well as preventing issues that might affect other areas of an operating data center.
In the heating climates, where more data centers are moving for better efficiency, about 70% of all water damage comes from frozen water lines, fittings, or equipment connections. Prevention measures for this are an easy add, with temperature sensors about to allow operators to shut off water supplies that might cause a catastrophic rupture of a pipe.