Building Commissioning 101
By Martin Smith
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?
A commissioning authority (CxA) will conduct an audit of a building to make sure that it aligns with the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). The commissioning process also creates the necessary documentation for benchmarking the baseline energy consumption of the building—which will enable more accurate assessments of a building’s energy efficiency. Buildings that have been commissioned also tend to have lower operation and maintenance costs.
Along with the reasons listed above, building owners also pursue commissioning in order to obtain certification through building rating systems. Besides Cx being a prerequisite for certification in green building rating systems such as LEED, commissioning will also make sure that the high-performance technologies designed into a building are properly working and are actually being utilized to their full advantage.
Certifying & Regulatory Agencies
The type and function of commissioning activities will differ depending on the type of certifying or regulatory agency a project is using. All types of commissioning will cover the essentials, making sure that the delivery of a project provides a safe facility, reduces operating costs, has efficient energy use, and provides operations and maintenance staff training. However, some commissioning requires commissioning providers (CxP) to go a few steps further.
The California Building Code (CALGreen), under Title 24 in the California Code of Regulations, makes commissioning mandatory for all new construction exceeding 10,000 square feet—applying to residential, non-residential (commercial), public schools, and hospitals. U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Building Design and Construction rating system has prerequisites that overlap with CALGreen’s requirements, but overall is more stringent if the project team is shooting for points in all of the available commissioning credits.
How to Choose a Good CxA
Building owners looking for a Cx provider should always interview a Commissioning Agent to get a better sense of their skillset. Another thing to look for in a commissioning provider is proper communication—you want to make sure that they can effectively pass vital information about the project to the team, and in a way that facilitates cooperation. If you are going for LEED BD+C certification, you must use a commissioning authority that’s independent of the project’s design and construction management firms and has experience with at least two similar building projects. Verdical Group has completed commissioning work for many LEED projects in Los Angeles and Southern California, and continues to serve as a qualified commissioning agent for all buildings seeking to achieve CALGreen’s standards and LEED certification. If you’d like to receive additional information about our commissioning services, or have a project that needs an experienced agent, please contact us here.