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©2016 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 58, no. 2, February 2016

By Adam Rohloff; Jim Meacham, P.E., Member ASHRAE

About the Author(s)
Adam Rohloff is an associate energy engineer and Jim Meacham, P.E., is a principal and co-founder of Altura Associates.

The last few years have seen a rapid acceleration in the integration of analytics software into building energy management and other building systems. “Building analytics,” “energy dashboards” and “smart buildings” have become popular industry catchphrases, but the practical utility of the underlying applications has yet to be fully explored.

This article describes a specific application of building data analytics, referred to as connected building commissioning, that is significantly enhancing the construction-phase commissioning process and showing improved outcomes for the building owner and occupants. Onsite walk-throughs, systems checklists, and equipment-by-equipment testing are being augmented with high-resolution, real-time data monitoring, automated performance testing, and fault detection analytics that programmatically test and characterize equipment and systems failures.

These new processes have allowed for rapid, thorough, and repeatable testing of building systems and for more transparent and reliable testing results. Discussed here is the integration of these new processes into the existing new construction commissioning framework with California Institute of Technology.


Industry Trends and Growing Client Expectations

The recognition of third-party commissioning as a critical part of new construction has grown quickly in the past two decades, in large part due to the development of industry standards (e.g., ASHRAE Standard 202-2013, 2012 IECC). It has been included within voluntary green building certification programs (e.g., LEED BD&C) and more recently adopted into building codes (e.g., California Title 24, Building Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Non-Residential Buildings). Today, commissioning is a requirement for all new buildings in California and many other states.

Sophisticated organizations have fully integrated commissioning best practices into their standard design and construction programs. These owners understand the different process nuances and rely heavily upon commissioning to ensure successful project completion. In turn, their expectations of the commissioning team have increased. Forward-thinking building commissioning firms recognize how building analytics and performance testing automation can serve them in this heightened role.

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is at the leading edge of using an analytics-driven approach to commissioning to achieve its high-performance facilities goals. Caltech, Taylor Engineering and Altura Associates have partnered on major laboratory renovation projects at the Caltech campus to develop a set of enhanced performance verification processes with analytics at the core. The integration of these new processes into building commissioning is referred to as connected building commissioning (CBCx) or, sometimes, smart commissioning.

The deployment of CBCx during the construction phase is delivering major payoffs at Caltech, including: improved issue resolution, greater confidence in testing acceptance, heightened accountability of the construction team, and shortened project schedules during construction. Post-construction, it is empowering the facility engineering team with unparalleled feedback on building system performance throughout the warranty-phase of a project and beyond. In this way, a critical bridge between one-time new construction commissioning and ongoing commissioning is being established.


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