LEED v4 Commissioning: More Requirements for Finer-Tuned Buildings

Photo credit: Ratcliff Architects

As we’ve noted in previous articles covering commissioning (Cx), it is an important key to the green building design process that should never be left out. For a little recap: commissioning (Cx) is the continual process during planning, design, construction, and building operation that aims to make sure quality is up to par, design is meeting its expectations, and systems are performing as they’re supposed to. This last part is crucial. Why spend the time, money, and effort on installing high-performance heat pumps in your structure only to later find out that they are improperly installed and thus wasting energy instead of saving it? Verdical Group’s very own commissioning agent (CxA), Frank Hooks, recently discovered within one of our projects that all of the economizers were completely shut (they were never set up to be operational) while a LEED flush out was supposed to be in progress—meaning there was no way the flush out was performed correctly. The quality control work that commissioning agents complete helps to find all sorts of errors in building systems—as large as the example formerly described or as minor as a toilet improperly flushing.

The USGBC clearly recognizes the importance of commissioning buildings; the energy and cost savings resulting from it are too great to ignore. The new LEED v4 rating system significantly improves upon LEED v2009’s fundamental and enhanced commissioning credits. In the proceeding paragraphs below, some of the major commissioning updates that have been incorporated into LEED v4 are discussed.

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Building Commissioning Continued: CALGreen, Title 24, and LEED v4

                          Photo credit: Michaud Cooley

The commissioning (Cx) activities required for your project will vary depending on the certifying or regulatory agency. Most, if not all types of commissioning will require: Cx Specs, a Cx Plan, a review of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) and the engineer’s Basis of Design (BOD), and verification of proper installation and performance of commissioned systems such as HVAC, lighting controls, and renewable energy. CALGreen goes a bit beyond LEED v4 Fundamental Commissioning by requiring irrigation system commissioning, a systems manual, and training for the building engineer. Title 24 goes even further by requiring design review and site built fenestration (windows built or assembled on-site) commissioning. If project teams wish to achieve the extra points in LEED v4 by pursuing Enhanced Commissioning, the Commissioning Agent (CxA) will have to include a post-occupancy review and either envelop commissioning (option 1) or a Measurement and Verification (M&V) plan (option 2).
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Building Commissioning 101

Photo credit: Poundra

What is Cx?

Commissioning, also referred to as “Cx,” is the continual process during planning, design, construction, and building operation that aims to make sure quality is up to par and the design is meeting its expectations. There are various types of commissioning—Cx is for new buildings, Retro-Cx is commissioning an existing building for the first time, MBCx is measurement based commissioning, and Re-Cx is commissioning an existing building for a second time. So, why should a project complete commissioning? Read more