High-rise design and construction present a set of unique challenges. This is particularly true when it comes to plumbing and drainage systems. One of the common challenges for high-rise buildings is ensuring even water pressure throughout the structure, which is absolutely critical for the building occupants. There are several factors including heights which can significantly influence methods of water distribution.
Other challenges include managing excessive water pressure, water temperature management and air ventilation control. Ultimately, projects need to be delivered with usability in mind, and plumbers need to be involved early in the construction process in order to achieve the best results.
Some initial questions to consider when working on a plumbing and drainage project for high-rise buildings include:
- How do the residents at the top of the building receive the same water pressure as the residents at the bottom of the building, especially at peak times?
- How will wastewater be gathered and removed without too much pressure put on the system, especially at peak times?
- Is the system efficient to install and does it take up as little space as possible to allow for maximum residential space?
- How do you allow for pressure build-up with the continuous use of the system over time?
- How do you effectively use venting methods in a high-rise building where the usual method is through the roof?
- How is stormwater from roofs and balconies going to be dealt with?
Plumbing and drainage can be particularly challenging when dealing with balconies on high-rise buildings. If the system isn’t set up correctly from the beginning, it can lead to drainage issues that can damage the property and inconvenience the residents.
There are several reasons why these issues can occur in high-rise buildings with balconies. Often, the cause is more complicated than an infamous blocked pipe or balcony drain outlet.
Lack of planning in relation to drain position, number and/or size of drains
The drain position can present some unique challenges when it comes to balconies. Often, the drain is placed at one end of the balcony, meaning it is impossible to get adequate fall from the balcony tiles to the drain. This can create issues with water seeping through the tiles (or specified floor covering) and ponding on the waterproofing membrane underneath.
In cases where the balcony is quite large, it is always good practice to install more than one drain to ensure there are no issues getting adequate fall to the drain outlets. It is also important that the drain is of an adequate size to ensure there are no issues with surcharging.
Often the tradies involved in the construction of these balconies aren’t consulted at plan or design stage. Ensuring they are involved in this initial stage can potentially prevent or resolve these issues before the project goes to site.
Blockages in balcony drain outlets
It is imperative that all drains are checked for any obstructions upon completion of a project. We have found that trade waste often makes its way into outlets during construction and final cleaning of these drains is often overlooked. Blockages can be caused by general rubbish onsite, but one of the main issues is tilers cement. This cement is swept into the drain when the balcony is being grouted and not cleaned out at the completion of their work.
All drains should be checked periodically, especially ones in common areas that are susceptible to obstructions like leaf matter, balls and common rubbish. One of the biggest issues we find with stormwater systems failing is that drains are just not checked and cleaned on a regular basis.
Inadequate expansion joints
If a tiled balcony has an inadequate amount of expansion joints installed, expansion and contraction can cause tiles to lift and compromise the waterproofing membrane installed underneath. This then causes moisture and water to make its way through the porous concrete or other material underneath, leading to leakage issues.
Inferior waterproofing products an/or installation
It is imperative to select the correct waterproofing membrane for the application it will be used for. The membrane should be an approved product and be backed up by a manufacturer warranty.
Once a waterproofing membrane has been installed, it should be checked prior to any coverings being laid to ensure that the product has not been compromised. The membrane can also deteriorate over time, so it’s important to get this checked and replaced where necessary.
Plumbing and drainage for high-rise buildings can be challenging, especially when it comes to navigating features such as balconies. When working on a construction project, it’s essential to work with your plumbers & drainers early in the process, so they can advise you of any challenges and potential issues that may arise due to the design and structure of the proposed building.
When done correctly, installing a high-quality plumbing system and working with an experienced and professional team can make all the difference in the quality and longevity of the project.
At Limcora, we specialise in plumbing and drainage for commercial, high-rise and medium-density projects across Sydney and Tasmania. We work seamlessly with both established building firms and small builders to complete high quality projects on budget and to schedule every time. We’re also a true, collaborative partner and pride ourselves on providing open communication, exceptional project management and a wholehearted commitment to workplace health and safety.
Author: Alex Nelson, Managing Director at Limcora Plumbing & Drainage