Monthly Archives: March 2015

Commissioning: An Old Idea Whose Time Has Come

Commissioning is not a new idea. Back in 1775 the British Navy commissioned its first ship, the Alfred. Applying established wisdom, the ship's equipment and systems were tested and verified before its commissioning pennant was hoisted.
Commissioning is not a new idea. Back in 1775 the British Navy commissioned its first ship, the Alfred. Applying established wisdom, the ship’s equipment and systems were tested and verified before its commissioning pennant was hoisted.

From Canada to the World

Flash forward to the late 1970s and Public Works in Canada applied the commissioning process to buildings. At the heart of building commissioning (Cx) is the idea that a dedicated third party professional (Cx Authority) works as an advocate for the building’s owner as both the leader and organizer of the construction project.

From the pre-design phase through to the handover of the building, MEP Engineers (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing), or so-called building engineers, are at the center of the process. They write and implement plans to the owner’s specifications, and equipment and systems from HVAC to plumbing, security and electrical systems are monitored and tested. As part of the process, operational staff are trained before handover.

The process is particularly appealing to the education sector, where beleaguered operation managers are juggling diminishing operational budgets and increased need.

Coming of Age

Because of its established model of meticulous planning, testing, and verification, Cx is more expensive than traditional construction. Even though studies have shown that the additional costs are recouped in 4.8 years, Cx did not really gain momentum until the early 1990s when electric utilities and organizations such as the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) began requiring it. The developer of the LEED green building concept, USGBC leads the way in establishing criteria for sustainability.

Commissioning has come a long way. In 1984, ASHRAE (Association of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) issued its first HVAC Cx Guidelines. Today, there are set standards and guidelines, whether from associations or government agencies. Beginning with its adoption by the University of Washington in 1993, commissioning has become the go-to solution for the education sector.

Winning Over the Education Sector

Today, Cx is seen as the benchmark for construction of educational facilities, both in terms of new building construction and renovation of existing buildings (Retro Commissioning). Educational operations managers from elementary schools to universities are drawn to commissioning because it makes the construction process less problematic and results in a reduction of between 8% and 20% in operation costs. Commissioning has at its core a client-centered approach that balances commercial concerns and the particular priorities of education. It also appeals to educators because of its emphasis on design and testing of security systems. Furthermore, at the heart of commissioning are the tenets of sustainability and planning that reap energy savings, lower energy costs and lower operational costs for schools.