We were happy to answer some questions for the American Public University System (APUS) on what is building commissioning and how it can improve the design and construction process for building energy systems. Barry Jones with KLG Jones, who is a Commissioning Authority (CxA) for the Academic Center, had the following to say explaining building commissioning. The full article can be read by clicking here.
Building commissioning has been called the “Key to Quality Assurance” in building construction. Whether applied to existing buildings, retrofits or new building design and construction, it is the key to high performance operation that fully meets the owner’s needs and the design intent of the project. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that all parties in a project benefit from commissioning.
Commissioning is a formal quality process that involves the owner, architect, engineers and contractors. It is most often applied to the mechanical and electrical systems, the energy consumers in a building, but can also be applied to the total building. It ideally begins at the programming phase of a project and ends after the final completion of construction. It is a process that helps to ensure that buildings and systems are designed, installed, tested and can be maintained to meet the owner’s operational needs. A commissioning agent, who is preferably an independent, objective advocate of the owner without other project responsibilities, leads the commissioning team which is composed of representatives of the owner, architect, engineers and contractors.
The process begins at programming. The commissioning agent assists the owner and design team in developing and documenting the owner’s performance and operational criteria for the building and systems being commissioned. The criteria is incorporated into a design intent document and a preliminary commissioning plan is developed, which establishes the roles of all parties and defines the documentation, evaluation and functional performance testing that will be conducted during and after construction. Commissioning specifications are prepared which are incorporated into the construction documents. The commissioning agent reviews the construction documents as they are prepared to update the commissioning plan and help ensure that the owner’s functional requirements are fully addressed prior to bid. Site inspections are made during construction to check the installation for serviceability and compliance with contract documents.
Toward the end of construction the commissioning agent works with the contractors to observe, validate, and document the start up and specified operation of all equipment and systems. Functional performance tests are conducted to verify and document the proper operation of every control point and sequence of operation for each system and piece of equipment. Training sessions are scheduled and can be video taped for the owner’s maintenance personnel. Included in the training is conveying a full understanding of how all of the equipment should operate as a system rather than as individual components. At the end of the process a full report containing complete documentation of the commissioning is prepared. Finally, several post-occupancy visits are made to augment training where necessary, and to evaluate the ongoing operation of the systems during alternate seasons.