I’m now hearing a lot about “ongoing commissioning” and “continuous commissioning”
of facilities. How can I ensure that the commissioning process will be well-organized and
deliver the best results?
The story goes that a visitor to Manhattan
stopped Jascha Heifetz and inquired, “Could
you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,”
said Heifetz. “Practice!
The goal of building commissioning (Cx)—in whatever form
or building stage it’s performed—is to clearly identify and rectify
obstacles to the efficient operation of buildings. First, a quick
refresher. Then we’ll review some recommended best practices for
building commissioning and provide you with sources for more
detailed information than this column can cover.
In Part 1 (March issue), we covered the definitions and types
commissioning (Cx) that can take place over the lifespan of a
facility. Here’s a brief recap: Building commissioning, as defined
by ASHRAE Guideline 0, The Commissioning Process, is “a qual-ity-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting
that the performance of facilities, systems, and assemblies meets
defined objectives and criteria.” Existing building commissioning
(EBCx) is defined by the Building Commissioning Association
(BCA) as “a systematic process for investigating, analyzing, and
optimizing the performance of building systems through the
identification and implementation of low/no cost and capital
intensive Facility Improvement Measures and ensuring their
continued performance.” This includes re-commissioning, ret-ro-commissioning, and ongoing or continuous commissioning.
Payback on commissioning was also discussed.
Some basic rules for the road
Regardless of what type of commissioning process you undertake, here are a few “rules for the road” to help you:
1. An independent, third-party commissioning agent will
ensure unbiased advice. Buying the in-house services of
your design or construction firm could be a costly decision
with inherent conflicts of interest as they have their own
work to protect. An independent third party Cx agent is
working as the owner’s representative, provides best practice
advice, and identifies the type of commissioning program
that makes the most sense for your particular circumstances.
2. Always utilize a firm (and their personnel) credentialed
by a leading industry organization such as the AABC
Commissioning Group (ACG) to ensure their expertise,
ethics, and process. Building commissioning is a quickly
evolving practice—be sure the personnel assigned to your
project work on Cx full time.
3. Take the time to review the new ASHRAE and IES Cx standards so you understand the process and best practices.
4. Document, document, document. If your consultant is lax
in this practice, you’ve picked the wrong horse.
5. Verification and compliance throughout the project is mandatory. It’s not a luxury.
6. Training is paramount. Your investment in Cx will uncover
opportunities to adjust your building’s systems to optimize
operations, energy usage, and costs. If your facilities staff or
maintenance personnel aren’t up to the task, you’re throwing
your money down a rat hole. At SMRT, we routinely train
the existing staff and develop video and other training materials unique to the project that can used for onboarding new
facilities personnel. Don’t accept operational responsibilities if
your staff isn’t up to the task.
7. As this article outlines, commissioning should be an ongoing
process—whether at the highest level of continuous, real time
commissioning, or regularly scheduled re-commissioning.
Over time, equipment falls out of sync, building interiors and
exteriors are reconfigured, building systems are upgraded,
product and process requirements drive change. All these
situations cry out for fine-tuning your commissioning and
saving yourself money and maintenance headaches.
In September 2013, ASHRAE and the IES published a standard focused on the commissioning process. ANSI/ASHRAE/
IES Standard 202, Commissioning Process for Buildings and
Systems, identifies the minimum acceptable commissioning
process for buildings and systems as described in ASHRAE’s
Guideline 0-2005, The Commissioning Process. This document was developed through industry consensus and applied
to all types of construction projects and building systems. It
can be ordered through www.ashrae.org/bookstore.
The new standard identifies and outlines thirteen key steps
to undertake in any commissioning process:
• Initiating the commissioning process and defining roles and
• Defining project requirements and developing the owner’s
project requirements (OPR) document
Richard Bilodeau, PE
Director of Engineering, SMRT
Andover, Mass. : Q