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logoShaping Tomorrow's Built Environment Today

Creating Safeguards for Rising Building Commissioning Costs

By Ross D. Montgomery, P.E., BEAP, HBDP, Fellow ASHRAE

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©2020 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 62, no. 6, June 2020.

About the Author
Ross D. Montgomery, P.E, CxA, is the president and owner of Quality Systems and Technology, Inc. Tampa, Fla.

Building commissioning costs are being shaped by the evolution of its practices and the problems encountered while commissioning is being performed. If we want to sustain the existence of commissioning and its future potential to grow and flourish, we must allow its costs to stabilize and prevent the costs from rising to unnecessary levels due to abuses, negligence and waste. We need to recognize bad habits in our own micro-marketplaces such as repeated failures of test and incomplete work and start to implement safeguarding metrics and penalties.

The Road to Standardization

The industry should strive more toward standardizing its costs and more precisely define what the consistent menu of deliverables should be. Different building types require differing checklists, protocols, test criteria, etc. Currently, it seems to be an open marketplace with selling options from one company to the next; a consistent and industry accepted model for reporting and deliverables does not exist.

The commissioning process is well documented in ASHRAE standards such as ANSI ASHRAE/IESStandard 202-2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, and as better/best practices in ASHRAE Guidelines 0 and 0.1, 0.2, etc. These documents are often used as a basis for scope and costs when they are referenced in specifications, contracts and requests for proposal/quotations (RFP/RFQ).

Final and preliminary commissioning report guidelines for commissioning vary from company to company, and in many cases are specified in a mechanical code document or designer’s specification. The industry should continue to use ASHRAE standards, guidelines and building codes to establish a baseline of requirements that assist in determining the minimum costs and scopes of commissioning services.

Big and Bigger Project Management and Costs

The scaling of design and construction commissioning projects in the marketplace can be daunting from the perspective of both the owner and the CxA/CxP.

Every CxA/CxP wants to get the high dollar dream job that can help their resume, careers and bank accounts. But is their company and staff big enough to man it, or manage it? Maybe? Perhaps?

Many companies bid a majority of projects presented to them. Companies should only bid on projects for which they have the expertise and depth to perform the project’s specific technical requirements. The owner and their advisors’ decisions about accepting bids based on price alone versus the size of the job and the size, specialty, and capabilities of the company submitting the bid should be carefully considered in the final decision process. Imagine trusting your heart health to a foot doctor?

Likely every owner wants the cheapest price. But, when they also want to accelerate performance or drastically change the scope during the job progress, they need to make sure the company they chose has the requisite capabilities and depth to handle those unexpected and unplanned events. In many cases, the owner and team suffer through many potential disappointing consequences. Commissioning providers can help sufficiently wordRFP/RFQ s to ensure the quality and quantity of respondents.

Credentials and Credibility

Credentialing, and local, state or national licensing, including prescribed experience levels, are common commissioning requirements of specifications and contracts. This can affect costs because it requires credentials from the commissioning provider. For example, the practice of building commissioning in the state of Florida requires the commissioning work to be ultimately managed, supervised, signed and sealed under the responsible charge of a registered professional engineer. There may be similar legislated mandates in other states or countries.

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