Eric Winter, Director of Product Development at RWC, explores how long-term performance, safety and sustainability can be specified into domestic plumbing and heating systems.

Fit for purpose: Specification challenges to keep in mind to design future-proof homes and buildings

Eric Winter, Director of Product Development at RWC, explores how long-term performance, safety and sustainability can be specified into domestic plumbing and heating systems.

The population of the UK is growing and, as it does, the demand for housing increases with it. Official estimates from the government’s manifesto outline the need for around 300,000 new homes to be built every year over the next decade, while a large proportion of existing homes also require upgrading to be suitable for modern living. For specifiers, fulfilling this huge demand for new homes and home improvements is just one part of the puzzle – buildings also need to be designed for the future.

When designing homes and buildings which are capable of performing well for decades to come, the specification of systems is of paramount importance. Whether it’s a new build property, conversion of an existing building, or even a home improvement project, specifiers must consider the long-term capabilities of materials and solutions to ensure reliable long-term performance, alongside safety and sustainability.

Reducing pressure with PRVs

To safeguard a plumbing system for years to come, managing water pressure from the mains supply is essential. Whilst low water pressure can cause frustrations for end users, high water pressure can be far more dangerous – both for end users, and the health and longevity of the overall system.

Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) are an essential device for specifiers when negating the harmful impacts of high-water pressure. As UK water pressure can vary between 1 to 15 bar, PRVs work to reduce high inlet pressure to a safe and consistent level, helping heating systems – alongside individual valves and appliances – to operate more safely and efficiently.

To specify PRVs successfully, sizing is critical to achieving a suitable flow rate and reliable pressure control. Undersized and oversized PRVs can have adverse effects on the overall system, including unwanted noise and accelerated damage. For optimum performance, the PRV should be sized in accordance with the anticipated demand and volume of outlets required. For domestic buildings which require PRVs, compact options deliver the same level of protection, without taking up lots of valuable space – a key consideration in modern homes with a smaller footprint.

Improving safety with backflow prevention valves

Besides maintaining safe water pressures within properties, systems should also be specified to keep the supply itself safe. Backflow prevention valves are designed to protect systems from contamination, preventing unsanitary water from flowing back into the network.

For successful specification, it is critical to know the fluid category of the downstream equipment connected to the plumbing system identifying the level of contamination risk which needs to be prevented. With five categories outlining the different requirements for backflow prevention, specifiers can easily understand the level of protection required from project to project.

Domestic new build buildings are going to be somewhere between a category one and category three level risk and so will require zero to intermediate levels of backflow prevention. Buildings deemed Fluid Category 1 require zero backflow protection, Fluid Category 2 requires single check valves, and Fluid Category 3 requires double check valves.

Considering that it is just as simple to fit a double check valve as it is a single one, we recommend the use of a double check valve such as Reliance Valves’ own, in preventing backflow in domestic situations.

Specifying sustainability

Sustainability is, of course, a significant factor in creating future-proof homes. The UK’s housing stock is already one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, with around a fifth of housing-related emissions coming from heating water in the home. As targets toward net-zero tighten, domestic plumbing systems will play a critical role in creating buildings that are fit for a sustainable future.

Where water is concerned, leaks are a common problem that can be minimised with the use of high-quality pipes, valves and fittings. While leaks are more common in the national infrastructure where over 3,000 million litres are lost to leakage every day, leaks regularly occur within domestic hot and cold water feeds – standing in the way of efficiency efforts. With these leaks more likely to occur at connection points, reducing the amount of connections across a system can help to protect homes from leaks, making systems more efficient. This can be achieved by using more flexible pipe solutions such as JG Speedfit’s JG Layflat pipe, which can bend around corners and through joists to cut down on connections and in turn the potential for leaks.

Eric Winter, Director of Product Development at RWC, explores how long-term performance, safety and sustainability can be specified into domestic plumbing and heating systems.

To improve sustainability elsewhere, specifiers can select systems such as underfloor heating (UFH), which will prioritise the efficient use of resources as well as future-proofing homes. As UFH systems require long flexible runs of pipe, specifying solutions like the aforementioned JG Layflat pipe will equip installers with the flexibility required to easily install systems.

Ensuring that buildings are designed to last, particularly from a plumbing perspective, should be a key priority for specifiers. By building sustainability and performance into every system, from leak-proof plumbing through to future-proof heating, buildings can perform better and contribute to overarching efforts to reduce emissions – all while improving comfort for occupants.

To learn more about RWC and its family of brands – Reliance Valves, JG Speedfit and JG Underfloor – visit

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