Commissioning is not a new concept. The term actually dates back to shipbuilding: a commissioned ship is one that is deemed ready for service. However, a ship must pass several milestones before setting sail. Similar to ships, buildings should undergo the same functional testing, or sea trails, before occupancy.
The primary goal of commissioning is to ensure a building’s systems are operating the way the engineer designed it, the owner intended, and in the most cost efficient and environmentally friendly way.
As building commissioning became more popular, and now required by many state building codes, including Florida, it is that much more important to learn about the benefits commissioning can provide an owner, design professional, legal counsel, and facility personnel.
Your company has made the decision for a large capital investment with a structural life of at least 50 years. A significant event for any company. Industry sources indicate that on average the operating costs of a commissioned building range from 8% to 20% below that of a non-commissioned building. GSA required building commissioning over a decade ago; it is only recently that many states, including California, Texas and Florida, have made it mandatory for many types of buildings.
You want to be sure that your building systems keep running smoothly and efficiently. Both for your employees to work at their best and for your clients and customers to be comfortable.
While a majority of our role is quality control, we are also part diplomat. By communicating effectively and speaking everyone’s language we help avoid mistakes and mitigate problems.
The Commissioning agent (CxA) acts as a second set of eyes to spot potential design opportunities. They assure the equipment is supplied, installed and operated as designed by the engineer. The CxA also assures control sequences are programmed as designed by the engineer and operates correctly.
Design Stage Reviews
The CxA’s review ensures clarity and completeness with an eye toward commissioning process activities (benchmarks, standards, performance targets, etc.). The CxA may suggest changes to improve efficiency, operation & maintenance and equipment reliability. Making changes in the Design Stage, rather than after installation begins, saves money and time.
The CxA provides two focused reviews of the design documents. It is recommended that these reviews occur at 50% and 90% design stages.
All comments and issues identified by the CxA would be recorded in a formal Issues Log which serves as a vehicle to track, critically review and resolve all commissioning related issues. The Log is sufficiently detailed so as to provide clarity and a point of reference for the engineer’s use. The Log is maintained by the CxA and becomes part of the final Building Commissioning Record.
The U.S. Government through the offices of the GSA implemented building commissioning over a decade ago. Its purpose was to both protect the capital investment of public funds and to provide for a positive work environment for the Federal government’s several million employees.
Per the US Department of Energy, buildings consume more than 40% of the energy we use nationally each year and about 70% of the electricity, resulting in estimated annual energy bills of over $400 billion. Model building energy codes present a significant opportunity to save energy and avoid emissions of air pollutants in non-residential buildings. In a given state, adoption of the newest versions of the building energy codes could reduce energy use and costs of new buildings and major renovations by 12 – 40%. States that have enacted these new codes include: California (Title 24), Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, just to name a few.
Third Party Protection
Commissioning agents provide a 3rd party layer of protection to the owner, tying together the design process, and the construction of the building, and post construction operation and maintenance.
The Design Stage is the Commissioning Team’s opportunity to assure the building systems and assemblies as designed, function according to user expectations (OPR). The specific tests and procedures designed to verify performance of the system and assemblies are provided to the legal counsel to be incorporated into the contract documents for the owner’s protection.