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Effectively Applying the Commissioning Process

Effectively Applying the Commissioning Process

From eSociety, January 2019

The commissioning process can be a tool to help a project achieve its goals.

The Commissioning Stakeholders’ Guide consolidates best practices, sample documentation and more than 50 project checklists in a practical and applicable resource for a new construction project.

Using ASHRAE Guideline 0, The Commissioning Process, and ASHRAE/IES Standard 202, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, this guide provides concise guidance and step-by-step requirements for new construction commissioning for owners, designers and project managers. The guide addresses every facet of the process and describes systems—including those found in commercial, medical, industrial and education facilities—in detail.

The guide’s author, Gerald Kettler, P.E., Life Member ASHRAE, BEAP, BEMP, CPMP, discusses how the guide can help industry practitioners.

1. What is the significance of this topic?

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on energy efficiency, sustainability, environmental issues and the health and comfort of employees. Since buildings consume over half of the utility energy, and we spend over 90% of our time in buildings, it is important that buildings operate properly and efficiently. The commissioning process is a sequence of activities that facilitates proper building design, construction and operation.

The commissioning process involves many entities in the design–construction-operation continuum for buildings and facilities in general. Commissioning is a “team sport.” It is important that these entities or “stakeholders” understand their function in the commissioning process and the functions of the other stakeholders.

This guide is intended to provide some of that understanding.

Commissioning is indeed a “process.” It is much more than one test or event. It starts at project inception, and commissioning activities continue through facility operation. Each activity can involve a variety of stakeholders and produces documents from plans to reports.

There needs to be one person or entity managing the commissioning process from beginning to end and that is the commissioning provider. This position has been called many things including agent, authority and manager. The currently used industry term is commissioning provider.

All the project stakeholders need to understand the function of the commissioning provider and their related function, which is explained in this guide.

Since the commissioning process includes many activities and has many alternates, it is helpful to utilize simple checklists to both define the building commissioning requirements and options, and to monitor and manage these items. This guide provides typical checklists for use by the stakeholders.

To facilitate the use of the checklists, these are available on a cloud-based system that is accessible to those utilizing the guide.

2. Why is it important to explore this topic now?

The commissioning process is a relatively new function in design-construction-operation activities. It has grown and been standardized during the last 25 to 30 years. This is a short time as buildings have been built for thousands of years.

The complexity of modern facilities makes it necessary to have a function or set of activities to get the various systems to operate correctly and work together. This is the commissioning process.

The commissioning process has been adopted and included in sustainability programs such as LEED and Green Globes and others. Recently, commissioning requirements have been included in building codes such as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), as well as some state codes such as California Title 24.

Since the commissioning process is relatively new to the industry, particularly the enforcement functions, there needs to be concise and functional instructions for the performance of commissioning activities by the stakeholders in the process.

Since commissioning is now a requirement, it cannot be ignored. This guide is intended to provide those instructions and other helpful documentation and is based on the nationally accepted ASHRAE Standard 202, Commissioning Process for Systems and Assemblies.

3. What lessons, facts and/or guidance can an engineer working in the field take away from this guide?

This guide is intended to provide:

  • an understanding of the commissioning process

  • the functions of the stakeholders

  • building system commissioning options

  • commissioning documentation contents including contracts, specifications, plans and reports

  • and facilitation of the management and enforcement functions.

The commissioning process is a team function from project inception to facility operation. All the stakeholders in the process need to understand their functions and also what others are needing to do.

Some of these activities have many options on the many systems in facilities that can be commissioned. There are checklists in the guide for many types of buildings followed by a checklist for what needs to be commissioned on those systems on a particular project.

The project owner or developer can select the facility systems that need commissioning along with the duties of the commissioning provider. This results in the commissioning provider selection and contract.

Next, the owner develops their project requirements for the facility that are used by the design team to develop their basis of design. During the design process, the commissioning functions of the contractors and manufacturers are specified along with the development of a commissioning plan by the commissioning provider. These documents are used during construction to validate system performance, train facility operators and generate the reports needed for jurisdictional approval of the facility and future building operation.

This guide provides simple explanations and checklists for all these functions and documents, which can be used to manage and monitor the commissioning process.

4. How can this research further the industry’s knowledge on this topic?

The commissioning process is often not understood by those not in the commissioning industry.

Since commissioning is a group activity, the stakeholders need sufficient information to participate and understand their functions. When more stakeholders understand the process, the process is much more effective and easier to manage. Better understanding and participation also leads to improvements in the commissioning process and in the facility.

This guide is targeted at the stakeholders outside of the commissioning industry. This includes owners, designers, contractors, manufacturers and code officials. Simple explanations and checklists of function are provided for each class of stakeholder. Better understanding will result in increased participation and improvements in facility performance.

5. Were there any surprises or unforeseen challenges for you when preparing this guide?

The main challenge was simplifying the potentially complicated commissioning process to provide an understandable process for the individual stakeholder. The checklist system facilitated that process but were also a challenge to keep short and simple.

Another difficult challenge was to keep the explanations and requirements brief. We were told by many stakeholders to limit the explanations and instructions to no more than one or maybe two pages. They did not have time to read long documents. Just give them the minimums required. This is how the guide was produced.