December 2, 2016 Martin Smith

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.

Fundamental Cx

In LEED v4, Fundamental Cx now requires the commissioning agent (CxA) to perform and complete a third-party design review and create a “Current Facilities Requirements and Operations and Maintenance Plan” (CFR and O&M). The design review, usually occurring prior to mid-construction document phase, ensures clarity and completeness of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), and verifies that all issues discussed in the OPR are addressed in the Basis of Design (BOD). The CFR and O&M should contain the building occupancy schedule, a sequence of operations, equipment run-time schedules, minimum outside air requirements, and a preventative maintenance plan among other things.

Enhanced Cx

Whereas LEED v2009 only gave out two points for achieving Enhanced Cx, LEED v4 is now allowing teams to achieve two to six points for LEED BD+C: New Construction and Core and Shell, and two to five points for LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors. A handful of options can be pursued by project teams to achieve these points, including: enhanced and monitoring-based commissioning, enhanced systems commissioning, or building envelope commissioning.


Image credit: Tim McElroy

All Commissioning (Cx)

Along with everything that needed to be commissioned in LEED v2009 (HVAC systems, lighting and daylighting controls, domestic hot water systems, and renewable energy systems), LEED v4 has now added electrical service distribution systems and plumbing systems to the list.

The USGBC, picking up on the continually enlarged role building envelopes and facades play in building performance, have decided to make it a requirement for projects to include a description of the building envelope and its design assumptions in the OPR and BOD documents. In LEED v4, even if a project team is not pursuing building envelope commissioning, the CxA still has to perform a technical review of the building envelope during design review.

Finally, LEED v4 now requires a third party, certified commissioning agent (CxA) on all projects over 20,000 square feet. This CxA must also be onboarded before the project’s design development phase is complete.

Still have questions?

Verdical Group is here to help. Whether you’re determining which commissioning requirements you need to meet (LEED, CALGreen, and/or Title 24), or would like to discuss the details of commissioning your specific project, please contact us and we’d be happy to talk. Verdical Group has deep commissioning experience as commissioning consultants in Los Angeles and beyond our local Southern California market. Verdical Group has completed commissioning projects on a broad array of building market verticals. We look forward to hearing from you.

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