Protection for the lifetime of a structure

The construction industry’s drive towards considering lifetime structural performance, rather than just the lifetime of the construction project itself, is having a noticeable impact on attitudes towards product selection and implementation processes. Toby Champion, Commercial Director at Newton Waterproofing Systems, considers the motivations behind this, and the part that waterproofing solutions have to play.

Whilst the consideration of a structure’s lifetime performance has arguably always been an essential factor for any structure, it is only in recent years that it has developed into a critical focus. The benefits of modern software and technology has resulted in industry-wide campaigns to implement new processes, such as BIM, with the end goal of unlocking “more efficient methods of designing, creating and maintaining”¹ structures.

The campaign has significant support, both from inside the industry as institutions observe the benefits of “significant efficiencies and improved asset value”², and outside the industry, in cases such as the Government’s new drive to define “cross-Government principles for setting functional requirements based on whole life value for money and centred on performance”³, rather than simply the initial cost.

Impact of BIM

These relatively straightforward benefits – improved efficiency, sustainability, cost and performance – reinforce the focus on the lifetime of a structure, and new technologies such as BIM are inexplicably linked to the process of achieving them.

Simply by the process of its implementation, BIM creates a culture that was previously non-existent, and within which it is possible to ascertain “the consequences of design-stage decisions over life cycle performance”², and, as a result, overcome the “risk that the quest for lowest initial capital cost will take precedence.”³ The overall benefit, and main consequence, of this therefore becomes the creation of a new “platform for more efficient and sustainable solutions… offering unparalleled benefits to clients and end-users over the lifetime of buildings and infrastructure.”¹

How does this relate to waterproofing?

Frequently, either too little thought is given at too late a stage to the waterproofing requirements of a structure, or it is not credited with providing any tangible value to the end-user, being neither visible nor useable. The usual consequence of both scenarios is that waterproofing is either completely excluded, or inappropriate solutions are implemented by inexpert installers in a last-ditch attempt to achieve a watertight structure, and generally on an unrealistic budget.

However, this blasé approach can have dire ramifications, and in worst-case scenarios, significant water ingress will occur and cause irreparable damage to internal environments.

Costs of Remedial Work

In these situations, even basic remedial work can incur significant costs, and when considering the potential damage in a fitted out area, consequential losses can be astronomical. In most cases, in order to affect a repair it will be necessary to:

  • De-cant the occupiers;
  • Strip out damaged fixtures and fittings;
  • Successfully perform the repair; and,
  • Remediate against potential future problems

All before completely replacing and reinstating the internal environment.

Frequently, remediation costs will run to many thousands of pounds, and, depending on the type and size of the structure, will sometimes go into the millions.

When considering these costs in light of BIM’s aim to “enable intelligent decisions… on the whole life performance of facilities”³, the recommendation of the BS 8102:2009 waterproofing code of practice, that “A waterproofing specialist should be included as part of the design team so that an integrated waterproofing solution is created”4, becomes incredibly pertinent.

Whilst the consideration and installation of a thorough waterproofing solution at the construction stage will usually add to the overall cost of basic construction, in our opinion it is far better to install such robust and comprehensive protection as part of a BIM-enabled, integrated and collaborative construction process, with one eye on the lifetime performance of the structure, than it is to try and do so when the damage is already done.


  • ¹ HM Government, ‘Building Information Modelling – Industrial strategy: government and industry in partnership’
  • ² Joint ICE – ICES – IAM Position Paper, ‘Leveraging the Relationship Between BIM and Asset Management’
  • ³ Cabinet Office, May 2011, ‘Government Construction Strategy’.
  • 4 British Standards Institution, 2009, ‘Code of practice for protection of below ground structures against water from the ground’.

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