Commissioning: A Little Background
What exactly is the Commissioning Process (Cx) and the Commissioning Authority (CxA)? Well, it depends on your point of view. In a new construction project…
If you are an Architect, you may not know who we are.
If you are an MEP design engineer, you may think we are just criticizing your building MEP design.
If you are a Contractor, you may think we are out to delay your project schedule and add cost to your job.
If you are a Mechanical Subcontractor, you may think we are an inspection team out to make your life difficult.
If you are a Controls (ATC) Subcontractor, you may think we are a pain in the submittal stage, but your best friend at turnover.
If you are a Balancing (TAB) Subcontractor, you probably think the same thing as the ATC sub.
So, as you see, depending on your point of view, we may be your best friend or your worst enemy. All joking aside, however, the Commissioning process, as outlined in ASHRAE Standard 202 & best practice guidelines, helps an Owner and the Construction Team by facilitating early decision making, increasing communication, and promoting teamwork. In the end, this can lead to projects meeting schedule and budget, and a building that operates as designed, from Day 1.
Commissioning is a quality-driven, owner-directed process. In a new construction process, the commissioning authority (CxA) is hired by the owner in pre-design or design phase. The CxA leads the owner’s team to develop the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). If the process is utilized correctly, an OPR meeting or charrette is a great opportunity to bring all the stakeholders to the table, including End-users, Administrators, Operations and Maintenance (O&M) staff, Engineers, Architects, and Contractors to decide what determines SUCCESS for a project. If the team is able to take a few days to investigate space usage/ requirements, as well as ideas and concerns from all involved parties, then the team becomes invested in the project and the process. This is a critical step that is often overlooked. The OPR is a living document, and should frequently be referred back to, throughout the project. It is often thought of as the “Road Map” to success.
The OPR, as well as continued Owner involvement, is critical to the success of the project. Contractually, Commissioning should be a 3rd party effort, in other words, independent from the Construction or Design Team. As beneficial as this is, it is also problematic without Owner involvement. A Commissioning Authority has no real “authority” without Owner support. We can suggest or recommend, but contractually, the Design or Construction teams do not need to follow-up on anything we say.
Commissioning an existing building is still a quality-driven, owner-directed process. The Commissioning Authority (CxA) typically acts as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) in an EBCx project. The CxA leads the owner’s team to develop the Current Facilities Requirement (CFR), which is similar to an OPR for new construction. A CFR development meeting is a great opportunity to bring all the stakeholders to the table, including End-users, Administrators, Operations and Maintenance (O&M) staff, and Contractors (if major renovation is a possibility) to decide what determines SUCCESS for the EBCx project. The CPR is also a living document, and should frequently be referred back to, throughout the project. The CFR, like the OPR, is the “Road Map” to success for an EBCx Project.
Although USGBC’s LEED Certifications have definitely brought the commissioning process into the main stream, commissioning is not a new concept, as you can see from the brief commissioning guidelines and standards history outlined below:
1977- Public Works Canada begins to use Cx in its project delivery system
1981- Disney includes Cx in the design, construction & start-up of Epcot Center
1984- University of Wisconsin-Madison begins to offer Cx Courses
1984- ASHRAE HVAC Commissioning Guideline Committee formed
1988- ASHRAE publishes HVAC Commissioning Guideline
1992- US GSA develops HVAC Functional Inspection & Testing Guide
1996- ASHRAE publishes Guideline 1-1996: The HVAC Commissioning Process
1997- US DOE/FEMP publishes Model Commissioning Plan and Guide Specs
1998- USGBC LEED criteria includes Commissioning
2002- AABC Cx Group (ACG) publishes the AABC Commissioning Guideline
2004- USGBC introduces LEED-EB and includes a prerequisite for retro-commissioning
2005- ASHRAE publishes Guideline 0: The Commissioning Process
2007- ASRHAE publishes Guideline 1.1: HVAC&R Technical Requirements for the Commissioning Process
2012- ASHRAE publishes Guideline 1.5: The Commissioning Process for Smoke Control Systems
2013- ASHRAE publishes Standard 202: Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems
There are many organizations that are currently active in the Commissioning Industry. Each of these organizations typically has their own certification and educational programs. Some of these organizations are listed here:
Commissioning Process Certifications
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), as well as other organizations provide commissioning certifications:
ASHRAE: Certified Commissioning Process Management Professional (CPMP)
BCA (Building Commissioning Association): Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP)
AABC Commissioning Group (ACG): Certified Commissioning Authorities (CxA)
University of Wisconsin :also offers an academic professional certification for a Qualified Commissioning Process Provider (QCxP)
There are many different organizations that are active in the Commissioning Industry. Since, we commission mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, mainly for the building industry, we utilize Guidelines and Standards from ASHRAE
ASHRAE Guideline 0: The Commissioning Process (2005, 2013)
ASRHAE Guideline 0.2: Existing Systems and Assemblies (forthcoming)
ASHRAE Guideline 1.1: Commissioning of HVAC&R Systems
ASHRAE Guideline 1.4: System Manuals (2014)
ASHRAE Guideline 1.5: Commissioning Process for Smoke Control Systems
Sarah Maston, President of Green Footprints Commissioning, currently serves the ASHRAE society in the role of Vice-Chair for the Commissioning Technical Committee (TC-7.9). She will assume the role of Chair in June 2016. The TC, comprised of individuals also involved in the other Cx organizations, is very active in commissioning issues in the US and around the world. Members of this committee are active in their local Commissioning organizations and they have lively discussions about a wide range of topics at our biannual conferences. The TC also sponsors many programs for the biannual ASHRAE conferences, as well as maintains a chapter in the ASHRAE Handbooks.