Using technology to build a Golden Thread for water treatment

We’ve heard the term “the Golden Thread” a great deal since it was first highlighted in 2018 in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into the tragic Grenfell Fire. One of the main findings highlighted systemic issues around tracking information about buildings and their operation.

That report focused on high-rise residential buildings and occupant safety. However, many professionals in the construction and FM sectors recognise the value of ensuring that information on building performance and processes is readily available to those who need it.

The principle is that tracking information about a building’s operation and maintenance leads to improvements in safety, energy efficiency, and occupant comfort.

At the heart of the Golden Thread is data. It’s a critical factor for facilities managers aiming to optimise building performance—gathering, collating, and making it accessible. Keeping records of maintenance, for example, is vital so that the whole team is aware of equipment status. However, in today’s complex buildings, this isn’t always straightforward.

Tracking treatment procedures, water quality levels, and schedules in water treatment can be a real challenge. Logging and recording site visits, maintenance works and dosing is laborious and performing these tasks manually is rarely practical for today’s time-pressed FM teams.

At Enwa, we believe the answer lies in the application of technology. But it must be done in a suitable way. For example, Annex A of the standard VDI 6044 (Prevention of damage in cold and cooling water circuits) suggests a maximum interval of 14 days between calibrations for pH probes. Without these regular checks, the standard notes that “a shift in measured values can be expected.”

This means that where such probes are used for remote water quality monitoring, physical checks by maintenance operatives are still required. Our emphasis is, therefore, on using the automation of water treatment to reduce the work of on-site facilities teams.  Enwa’s approach is to collect samples, analyse them, store them in a colour-coded simplified format and compile them in summary water analysis history tables for clients.

Trends and parameters outside the expected range are then easy to identify and investigate. Samples required to demonstrate compliance will generally need to be lab-based and have a suitable qualification, such as UKAS Accredited.

Enwa’s technical experts have worked with numerous building management and facilities teams to design and deliver fully automated water treatment systems integrated with the site BMS. These systems can also replace manual maintenance, testing, and dosing with a self-regulating water-conditioning process and automated backwashing. We believe that this approach ensures effective and reliable operation.

An important point about the Golden Thread principle is that it is not just about maintaining information. It is also about ensuring that buildings (and the equipment in them) comply with existing regulations throughout their lifetime of operation. This includes being able to provide detailed information necessary to assess compliance effectively.

Automating water treatment minimises the possibility of human error in data collection and treatment delivery. This enhances water quality while supporting occupant health and safety. It also allows information to be easily accessible (another element of the Golden Thread).

The Hackitt Report emphasises the value of using digital systems to manage the Golden Thread, advocating for the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) or similar digital tools. This modern approach aids in the accurate preservation and easy manipulation of data, facilitating ongoing updates and accessibility.

This is something that Enwa takes seriously, and we have developed in-house Revit families for standard and bespoke equipment. Operators can quickly find all technical details stored within these models, with links to further information. With in-house programming capability Enwa can tailor controller functionality on our equipment so that it can integrate into existing monitoring systems to suit our client’s particular requirements.

For example, we have provided a tailored summer shut-down mode for university facilities teams to help them keep systems protected during vacation times when building occupation is much lower.

Our EnwaMatic units switch to summer mode, so they stop circulating but maintain regular backwash sequence to prevent stagnation and maintain healthy media bed conditions. Regular operation commences once term starts.

The Golden Thread aims to foster a culture of safety and responsibility in building design, construction, and management, enhancing both physical safety and accountability. Enwa believes that harnessing the power of technology can help to deliver better outcomes for water treatment and keep busy facilities teams informed about performance at all times.

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