Q: 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?
A: 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 quality-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, retro-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 responsibilities
• Defining project requirements and developing the owner’s project requirements (OPR) document
• Develop the commissioning plan, with delineated process
• Designing the plan approach to OPR
• Setting commissioning contractor requirements, including commissioning specifications
• Design review—providing feedback and a design review report
• Submittals review to verify compliance with the OPR
• Observation and testing to verify system performance, including documented construction checklists and reports
• Coordinating issues resolutions and developing an issues and resolution log
• Systems manual assembly to provide a building operations systems manual
• Training facilities operations and maintenance personnel, including training plans and records
• Providing and end of warranty commissioning report through post occupancy operation commissioning
• Assembling a final commissioning report including all project commissioning documentation
With thanks to www.bcxa.org, below is a list of key codes, guidelines, and industry standards:
• American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), Health Facility Commissioning Handbook
• ASHRAE Guideline 0, The Commissioning Process
• ASHRAE/ANSI/IES Standard 202-2013, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems
• ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2010, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
• ASTM E2813 – 2012 Standard Practice for Building Enclosure Commissioning
• California Building Code Title 24-2013, Part 2
• California Energy Code Title 24-2013, Part 6 (new rules became effective on January 1, 2014)
• International Code Council ICC G-4 Guideline for Commissioning
• International Building Code
• International Energy Conservation Code
• International Existing Building Code
• International Fire Code
• National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) Whole Building Design Guide
• NFPA National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code 2013
• U.S. Green Building Council LEED Guidelines
The challenges facing today’s facilities engineers and building owners are constantly changing. The available information to help guide us through these challenges is expanding as well.
Richard Bilodeau, PE, is director of engineering at SMRT, architects and engineers (www.smrtinc.com). His 30 year career includes plant engineering positions in clean manufacturing. Richard has engineered, designed, operated, and supervised the construction of numerous controlled environments and labs for advanced technology, life sciences, industrial, healthcare, academic and corporate clients. Dick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or TheFacilitiesGuy@smrtinc.com.
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Controlled Environments.