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logoShaping Tomorrow's Built Environment Today

What Insurance Do Building Commissioning Providers Need

By Ross D. Montgomery, P.E.

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©2021 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 63, no. 1, January 2021.

About the Author
Ross D. Montgomery, P.E., is president of Quality Systems and Technology, Inc., in Tampa, Fla. He is a member of ASHRAE SSPC 300, Commissioning.

Building commissioning involves a wide variety of tasks during its course and scope on any given project. Architects, engineers, contractors and owners think highly of the work performed by building commissioning providers. This article provides evidence-based and compelling reasons that should convince you that building commissioning, specifically its application to the HVAC&R and lighting industry, is a professional service performed by professionals, based on their tasks and responsibilities—and that these professionals should carry the appropriate insurance that reflects this.

If we are convinced that we are professionals, liabilities and risks come with that categorization, such as, but not limited to, personal injury, property damage, transportation, theft, losses, negligence, breach of duty, malpractice, errors, omissions, mistakes, wrongful acts, etc. Professional services do require the appropriate general and professional liability insurance to be carried for indemnification, defense or reimbursement from many potential liabilities.

What is Commissioning?

ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 202-2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems is the standard of care for the commissioning (Cx) industry, and it defines the Cx process as follows:

“The commissioning (Cx) process is a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project. Cx focuses on evaluating and documenting that all the commissioned systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements (OPR).”

ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2019 further defines Cx as follows:

“A quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project for verifying and documenting that the building and its systems, controls, and building envelope are planned, designed, installed, tested and include plans for operation and maintenance to meet specified requirements.”

It requires verification or functional performance testing, relative to energy efficiency, in all building types and sizes, as well as defines Cx provider independence. Among the many Cx tasks required are general functional performance testing activities, design review, review for standard and code compliance and enclosure testing or verification.

What are “Professional Services”?

There are many examples of “professional services” related to Cx activities described in relevant prominent and credible publications, such as the AABC Commissioning Group/ACG (AABC/ACG), National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), and Building Commissioning Association (BCA) Cx guidelines.

The Merriam-Webster Legal Dictionary defines “professional service” this way: “a service requiring specialized knowledge and skill usually of a mental or intellectual nature and usually requiring a license, certification, or registration.”

Some other examples of characteristics of professional services are as follows:

  • Services requiring special training or advanced education;
  • Jurisdictions that require holding special licenses or certifications to perform building Cx services;
  • Requiring knowledge and expertise in a subject matter or area of specialty;
  • Offering customized knowledge-based advice and consulting services to clients;
  • Reviewing design activities to meet standards of care; and
  • Responsible for “results and outcomes” within their authority.

Any person or firm providing a consulting service engaged in the “business of giving expert advice to people working in a professional or technical field” are providing professional services.

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