In our last blog post, we discussed the state of Michigan’s adoption of an amended version of ASHRAE’s (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) energy code Standard 90.1-2013. Beyond understanding these codes for commercial and residential building owners, it’s also important for project commissioners and engineers to understand these standards for both commissioning and retro-commissioning buildings to be up to code.

By implementing these commissioning practices as recommended by ASHRAE, buildings can “consistently achieve higher building capabilities according to intent, which can provide the most direct path to improving building performance,” as reported in The Strategic Guide to Commissioning, written by the ASHRAE Presidential Ad-Hoc Committee Building Performance Alliance on Commissioning.

Continue reading to learn more about The Building Performance Alliance’s (BPA) recommended “road map” for commissioning to achieve optimal building performance and capabilities.

Defining Commissioning and Retro-Commissioning

According to the BPA, Building Commissioning is a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a new and existing building project. The overall process focuses on the verification and documentation that all of the commissioned systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements of a new building or the current facility requirements of an existing building.

Commissioning helps owners and project teams achieve quality building performance in new, and re-commissioning does the same thing for existing buildings. And before the commissioning process begins, stakeholders must define the activities and deliverables to be accomplished throughout the pre-design, design, construction, and operations of the building. The commissioning actions and documents provide the plans, procedures, coordination, verification, and project records that will produce high-performing buildings.

Special systems and assembly commissioning expertise, such as building enclosure commissioning (BECx), is often required for commercial facilities due to the complex nature and interface of enclosure materials and assemblies.

While the outcome for commissioning new and existing buildings is ultimately the same (optimal building performance), the commissioning process for new buildings differs from retro-commissioning for existing buildings. Let’s take a look at a typical process for each of these two types.

The Commissioning Process for New Buildings/Construction

While a commissioning process may vary depending on project scope, project type, budget, location, and timing, every commissioning process will have a series of defined actions and schedules for proper completion, with specific deliverables for each action. These define the building and commissioning requirements, the documentation of the performance results, training for the systems, and assemblies commissioned.

The ideal commissioning process for new buildings/construct, as recommended by BPA, is as follows:

  1. Define Roles.
    1. Building owner initiates the Commissioning Process and retains the commissioning authority to begin.
    2. Roles and responsibilities of the project and commissioning teams are determined.
    3. Procedures and contracts are prepared and executed.
  2. Determine Project Requirements.
    1. Determine and document project requirements, including not only the site and building scope and use but also the performance, training, commissioning and documentation requirements.
    2. Deliverable: The Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) document, which is the guiding instruction for the project, and is updated throughout the project.
  3. Develop the Initial Commissioning Plan.
    1. The initial Commissioning Plan shows the commissioning scope, roles and responsibilities, communication procedures, and design and construction requirements for providing and integrating commissioning into the project.
    2. Updated throughout the project with checklists, functional, and performance testing protocols and procedures, schedules and documentation details.
  4. Determine Design Approach.
    1. The design team then determines and documents the design approach to meet the OPR.
    2. The commissioning authority reviews this Basis of Design (BOD) for conformance to the OPR. 
    3. Contractor Commissioning Requirements are determined for each commissioned system, and commissioning specifications are included in the construction documents package.
    4. The Commissioning Authority reviews the design documents for conformance to the OPR and provides the design review report.
  5. Commissioning Team Review.
    1. The commissioning team reviews the materials and equipment submittals for conformance to the OPR and construction documents. Discrepancies, problems or inadequacies should be reported.
    2. This submittal review and report provides familiarity with the building systems for the development of testing and commissioning requirements.
  6. Installation and Equipment Observation/Verification.
    1. As the project is constructed, the commissioning team observes and verifies the installation and witnesses the equipment start-up and testing.
    2. At system completion, performance testing is conducted and documented in checklists, logs and reports to verify performance compliance with the OPR and design documents.
  7. Identification and Resolution of Project Issues.
    1. The design team and contractors identity and project issues and their resolutions during the design and construction phases in the Issues and Resolution Log.
  8. Systems Manual Creation.
    1. All project documents are organized into a Systems Manual that provides the details and history of the design and construction of the building, and information needed to properly operate the building.
    2. The systems manual is used in the training of the operations and facility staff and occupants and is updated throughout the life of the building.
  9. Proper Training.
    1. Building operations, maintenance, and facility staff should be trained on the installed and commissioned equipment and systems to ensure proper building operation in accordance with the OPR and design capabilities.
    2. The training plans and records are retained and updated for use in later training.
  10. Project Completion.
    1. At the completion of the project, the commissioning report is assembled based on the commissioning log and intern reports collected throughout the project and distributed as required by the commissioning plan.
    2. Commissioning Report is sent to the owner and others as required by the OPR, project documents, and local jurisdiction requirements.

The Retro-Commissioning Process for Existing Buildings

Retro-commissioning processes for existing buildings will vary greatly depending on the current condition and desired outcome for the building. However, the retro-commissioning processes will typically involve planning, development of Current Facility Requirements (CFR), investigating, testing, project selection and implementation followed by system testing, commissioning, training and final documentation.

To maintain building performance, an on-going commissioning plan is developed and documented during the commissioning process for the use of building staff and occupants. This helps to prevent the need for major retro-commissioning projects in the future!

Interested in Commissioning or Retro-Commissioning Services?

Control Solutions provides commissioning and retro-commissioning services for our customers, such as building owners, facility management groups, engineering firms, general contractors, and mechanical and electrical contractors. Benefits of these services include improved system efficiency, a reduction in design changes and additional cost during the construction process, improved occupant comfort, and a reduction in maintenance cost.

Contact us today for more information or to schedule a consultation!