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Construction projects are inherently dangerous things and face a wide variety of unique risks. But there is one risk that is so common it can seem almost benign. That risk is water damage. Consider a scenario like this: 

Saturday 1:34 am
The leak is deep inside a wall of your new 20-story commercial structure. It starts slowly. Just a few drips from a joint in a copper supply line. 

Saturday 2:40 am
The dripping continues for about an hour. Then the copper press fitting fails, sending thousands of gallons of water an hour spraying inside the walls and at this point leaking outside the walls. Located near a major highway, the on-site security guards are unable to detect the sound of the water. 

Monday 7:52 am
Hidden from view, the flow continues unabated until Monday morning when crews arrive to continue fitting out the lower level and discover massive amounts of water has submerged sheetrock, rolls of carpet, multiple generators and other equipment. Water, finding the lowest point as it does, also flooded four elevator pits and four escalator pits. 

Monday 8:02 am
The water main is finally shut off. But millions of dollars of damage has already been done. And if the project has good insurance coverage, the contractor is still on the hook for sub-deductible losses. And in the case of water damage, there can be many such losses that add up to a lot of money.

Water, water, everywhere
Damage from water accounts for roughly 30% of Builders Risk claims. And water damage can happen at any time, with certain times and phases of construction presenting greater potential for loss. Water damage losses from either permanent or temporary pipes occur at all stages of the project. Losses are highest, however, during the final phase of the project when water systems are turned on and tested. Losses at this point can be very high, depending on fitting out progress and the cost and type of finishing materials that are susceptible to water damage, like carpeting, painted surfaces, and wood. Further, leaks during the night or over weekends and holidays when no one is around result in much more significant damage than during the hours when workers are present.

Fire damage still accounts for the largest dollar losses, but the frequency of water damage claims highlights the need to take the issue seriously and to take risk mitigation steps early in the process. And in high rises or other large commercial projects, the combination of domestic water, cooling systems and fire protection supplies increase the risk for water damage exponentially. 

Don’t go with the flow
Water will always find the lowest point in any structure. It can follow pipes or conduit, or seep through cracks. It can move silently and unseen. Hours or even days can pass before damage is discovered. And that damage isn’t limited to the physical damage caused by the water. Water leaks can result in construction delays, harm to reputation, environmental risks, and more.

Every construction project, regardless of size, must include water damage mitigation in risk planning. And when developing those plans, it’s critical to include all stakeholders. Insurers, project owners and contractors have to work together to mitigate the impact of water damage on construction projects.

And a key to reducing water damage losses is to have a comprehensive water management plan in place. Any plan should identify the major exposures to loss and include procedures to control those exposures. At a minimum, we on the AXA XL North America Construction team look for a plan to include:

  • Training. Do you have adequate training in pipefitting and performing related work?
  • Procedures. Are there plans and procedures in place to shut down quickly in the event of a leak?
  • Protection. Are high-value equipment and materials protected from potential water damage? Is your site protected overall?

Project management’s support for this plan is an important precursor for its potential to succeed. Without it, even the most comprehensive plans risk details falling through the cracks when construction begins. In addition, responsibility for implementing and managing the plan should be assigned to a senior individual. Ideally it will be someone with the authority to hold others accountable for any violations.

Pipe is gonna break, break, break – Shut it off! Shut it off!
Even with comprehensive plans and effective manual controls in place, leaks can and will happen. And when they do occur, AXA XL and Water Intelligence (WINT for short) have joined together to deliver a high tech set of tools to help. Part of our AXA XL construction ecosystem, WINT’s technology will shut off leaks long before they have the chance to do any serious or lasting damage. AXA XL and WINT’s system identifies leaks, notifies staff and shuts off water supplies based on a pre-established action plan – going from potential catastrophic loss to totally under control in a matter of minutes. Let us explain how it works.

If you can’t spec your project with WINT technology from the start, our combined teams can also help you retrofit a project already underway.

Design flexibility
Ideally, your team would design WINT technology into your project from day one as a part of your water damage management planning. WINT devices can run on AC or they can be battery-operated. By including the technology in your building plans, you can ensure optimal placement of the WINT system, as well as access to power and network.

If you can’t spec your project with WINT technology from the start, our combined teams can also help you retrofit a project already underway. The system is so flexible it can even be installed into a building that is decades old, providing the structure and its occupants and property protection from potential water damage from aging pipes.

Powerful & easy-to-install
The WINT devices can be incorporated into virtually any design and can be used with any pipe diameter and material. They feature standard-certified meters & valves to ensure accuracy and reliability. What’s more, they work independently of the cloud. Equipped with battery backup and cellular connectivity, they reliably carry out your desired action plan. The system is also modular, so it can grow as each project progresses.

Smart technology
Using a cloud-based system, WINT technology adapts through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The system uses algorithms that continuously learn what normal usage looks like for each project and adapts based on water network patterns and specific water system/consumer behavior. And the algorithms are not one-size-fits-all. The WINT team has specialized algorithms for different water systems and consumers, such as domestic water, chiller loops, and hot water circuits. As water is used at your projects, flows are compared in real-time to known patterns and analyzed for changes that could indicate a leak. 

Fully customizable
No two projects are exactly alike. You can work with AXA XL and WINT to customize the system according to your needs and to fit the parameters of your water damage mitigation plan:

  • Customizable actions. Depending on the needs of your project, you can set the system to send alerts only or to send alerts and shut off water.
  • Detection modes. You can either use WINT’s advanced AI to send alerts and act based on its learning or you can establish pre-set thresholds.
  • Flexible scheduling. Because water usage during construction will vary based on activities, you can set up variable policies by time, day of the week, special events (e.g. pressure testing) or maintenance in the building.

High tech with a human touch
Built on the cloud, your team can access the WINT solution via mobile devices or desktop. The system sends alerts to mobile devices, which can also be used as remote controls (open/close valves). It also integrates with building management systems for complete, centralized control, which should please your project managers. In addition, the team at WINT monitors your devices from their situation room. If needed, the WINT team can intervene and escalate if your team is not responding on-site to the system-generated alerts.

A different ending
Now let’s back up to the scenario we started with. Had the project been equipped with the WINT system, it would have played out something more like this:

Saturday 1:34 am
The leak is deep inside a wall of your new 20-story commercial structure. It starts slowly. Just a few drips from a joint in a copper supply line. 

Saturday 2:40 am
The continued leak is an anomaly that is immediately detected by the WINT system. But it has not yet reached the threshold for shut off. When the press fitting fails at 2:40 am, the water flow exceeds the threshold of gallons per hour, which is set very low for the weekend. Alerts are sent to on-call staff and the water is shut off. 

Saturday 3:43 am
Foremen arrive on-site to inspect for any visible damage or other issues related to the water shut-off. Pooling water is found on the lower level, which is readily contained and cleaned up.

Monday 7:52 am
Plumbers begin searching for the source of the leak, which is easier to locate based on which WINT valve closed off to stop the flow of water. WINT’s team of water experts review the sub-second water flow data to pinpoint and analyze the nature of the leak.

Monday 9:02 am
The damaged fitting is located and replaced. The system is ready to be pressure tested and water restored to the affected section of the building. Having WINT saved tens of thousands of dollars in losses, effectively paying for the technology. 

Of course, with a robust water damage mitigation plan in place, the leak may not have happened at all. 

Bottom line
It’s easy to dismiss potential water damage as a nuisance. But it can be far more dangerous and far more costly.

Technology like WINT is just one component of a successful water mitigation plan. Using the WINT system on a project goes a long way, but you need a comprehensive program in place to ensure you are covering more bases.

With the combined resources of AXA XL’s North American Construction team and the Water Intelligence team, we can help contractors and building owners prepare for and mitigate potential water damage, by a combining a tailored and proactive water mitigation plan with a rock-solid technical solution. 


About the Authors
Joe Vierling is AXA XL’s Profit Center Head for North America Construction – Property. Joe can be reached at joe.vierling@axaxl.com. Yaron Dycian is Chief Product & Strategy Officer, WINT. Yaron can be reached at yaron@wint.ai.


  • About The Author
  • Profit Center Head, Construction Property, AXA XL and Chief Product & Strategy Officer, WINT
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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

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