What is Building Commissioning?
Commissioning is a “quality oriented process” designed to ensure that a building or facility is designed, constructed and operated to meet the Owners Project Requirements (OPR).
Key components of an effective commissioning process include:
Identifying and documenting the owners requirements (OPR)
Verifying the design meets the OPR
Implementing a quality process during construction that verifies equipment installation and operation
Training operators, maintenance staff, and building occupants to ensure proper operation of equipment and the facility
Periodic review of the equipment and building operations throughout the lifecycle to verify proper and efficient operation
Why Commission a Building?
Commissioning helps reduce the construction and operating costs of a building by:
Reducing design errors and redesign costs
Reducing construction rework
Improving the efficiency of systems such as HVAC
Extending equipment life by verifying proper installation and operation
Improving the productivity of building occupants by improving indoor environmental quality – air quality, lighting, noise, etc
What is the General Commissioning Process?
The following are the major steps in the Commissioning Process as described in ASHRAE Guideline:
Develop the Owners Project Requirements
Develop the Commissioning Plan
Compare the Basis of Design to the Owners Project Requirements
Conduct a Design Review
Include Commissioning Requirements in Project Specifications
Develop Construction Checklists and Functional Test Documents
Conduct Commissioning Team Meetings
Conduct Periodic Site Visits to meeting with team members, review construction status, and verify/spot check the completion of Construction Checklists by the Trades
Witness Startup and Execution of Functional Testing
Coordinate and Verify Training for operations, maintenance and building occupants
Assemble the Systems Manual
Conduct Seasonal Testing (based on owner’s requirements)
Issue Commissioning Report
Establish a Continuous Commissioning Program (based on owner’s requirements)
What Procedures or Guidelines Govern Commissioning?
The most widely recognized document on commissioning is ASHRAE Guideline 0, The Commissioning Process.
Other organizations have also published guidelines on commissioning, including The Associated Air Balance Council Commissioning Group and the US General Services Administration (GSA).
A project team may implement all of the components of the ASHRAE Guideline 0 Commissioning Process, or they may elect to pick and choose the activities that they feel will add the most value and are best suited to a specific project. The commissioning steps outlined in ASHRAE Guideline 0 are designed to identify and resolve issues as early in the design and construction process as possible to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Omitting steps from this process may reduce the effectiveness of the projects commissioning program.
The OPR is a written document that details the functional requirements of a project and the expectations of how it will be used and operated. These include project goals, measurable performance criteria, cost considerations, benchmarks, success criteria, and supporting information.
The Owners Project Requirements (OPR) should be developed with input from all organizations that occupy, operate or are affected by a facility. The Commissioning Authority may participate in or facilitate the development of the OPR. The Nominal Group Technique is a method commonly used to develop the OPR.
What does Basis of Design mean?
The Basis of Design (BOD) describes the building systems to be commissioned and outlines design assumptions not indicated in the design documents. The design team develops the BOD to describe how the building systems design meets the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), and why the systems were selected.
What is Owners Project Requirements (OPR)?
The Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) documents the functional requirements of a project and the building use and operations as it relates to systems being commissioning. The document describes the physical and functional building characteristics desired by the owner and establishes performance and acceptance criteria.
What is a Commissioning Authority (CxA)?
The Commissioning Authority (CxA) is a person identified by the owner who leads, plans, schedules, and coordinates the commissioning team to implement the commissioning process.
Are there Certifications for Commissioning Authorities?
Several organizations offer certifications for Commissioning Authorities. These organizations include:
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers ASHRAE)
The Associated Air Balance Council (AABC) Commissioning Group (ACG)
The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE)
The Building Commissioning Association (BCA)
The University of Wisconsin
Axiom Commissioning Group has several staff with certifications through these organizations.
Why do I need a third party? Can't the vendor or construction firm perform their standard startup and testing?
Third party or independent checks provides a documented evidence that the vendor or construction firm provided the agreed upon equipment, functionality, SOPs, training, etc. Independent startup and commissioning can prevent problems once a system goes into service. A thorough review prior to system turnover allows for problems to be found, investigated, and solved while the vendor is engaged and during the warranty period. Much of the testing and review can be performed off of the critical path and prevent schedule and project delays.
We are independent and we are specialists. We are not an engineering design firm and we are not a construction firm. We are a commissioning firm. We provide professional, independent checks of system installation and operation. Our employees have strong engineering backgrounds and bring a systems approach to start-up, instead of focusing on each component separately. We document our work to support successful operation and maintenance.
We focus solely on our core competency of commissioning. This experience and independence is clearly visible to our customer and allows us to deliver projects efficiently and effectively.
What type of equipment and facilities do you commission?
Our primary service is the commissioning of new and existing, buildings and their associated energy systems (HVAC, lighting, plumbing, as well as the building envelope and landscape irrigation system). Our agents have experience with many projects in both private and public sector projects.
How Much Does Commissioning Cost?
The cost of commissioning varies depending on several factors, including:
The requested commissioning activities
Size of the building
Number, type and complexity of systems
Does LEED® require Commissioning?
Commissioning is a Prerequisite under the Energy and Atmosphere section of LEED, and is therefore a requirement. The specific commissioning activities are listed in the LEED Guide. The following Commissioning Activities are required under this prerequisite:
Assign a Commissioning Authority (must meet certain requirements based on project type and size)
Document the Owners Project Requirements
Incorporate Commissioning Requirements into the Construction Documents
Develop a Commissioning Plan
Verify the Installation and Performance of Systems to be Commissioned
Complete a Summary Commissioning Report
LEED also specifies the types of systems that are to be commissioned.
LEED also has Enhanced Commissioning. A project may receive 2 points under Energy and Atmosphere Credit 3 for performing Enhanced Commissioning. This credit adds the following Commissioning Activities:
Conduct a Design Review
Develop a Systems Manual
Verify Training is Completed
Review Building Operations within 10 months after substantial completion
The Commissioning Requirements for LEED are compatible with other commissioning programs. The Commissioning Authority and other Commissioning Team members need to be familiar with LEED to ensure that the documentation requirements to meet these LEED expectations are satisfied.
What is Re-Commissioning?
Re-Commissioning is the commissioning of an existing building or facility that was previously commissioned. This usually consists of reviewing the original commissioning documentation, including the original Owners Project Requirements and identifying any changes. The original documentation is then updated, and systems retested to verify they are running as designed. Re-Commissioning is also known as Existing Building Commissioning.
What is Retro-Commissioning?
Retro-Commissioning is the commissioning of an existing building or facility that was not previously commissioned. This usually begins with determining what the current Owners Project Requirements are for the building, reviewing and verifying equipment installation and operation, and determining ways to improve efficiency or operating conditions. Retro-Commissioning is also known as Existing Building Commissioning.
Retro-Commissioning is typically a more involved process when compared to re-commissioning because the original commissioning documentation will not be available as a starting point, and because there is a greater chance of finding design and construction issues since the building was not previously commissioned.
What is Continuous Commissioning?
Continuous Commissioning is the continuation of the Commissioning Process through the Occupancy and Operations Phase of a building to verify that a facility continues to meet current (and evolving) Owners Project Requirements (OPR). A Continuous Commissioning Program will include periodic reviews of equipment operation and scheduled maintenance program, as well as reviewing and updating the original commissioning documents such the OPR and Systems Manual.