Commissioning: From Start to Finish

Commissioning: From Start to Finish

By Wendell Ewing

Verdical Group provides building commissioning services to ensure our clients adhere to commissioning obligations for construction, CALGreen Code, and Title 24 requirements in the state of California, as well as other authorities having jurisdiction for commissioning requirements.

The goals of commissioning are to produce a building that meets the future requirements of its occupants, ensure equipment operates efficiently to reduce energy usage, provide a safe and comfortable environment to tenants, and leaves the facility management staff well trained to operate the building.

Effective building commissioning is a transparent, cooperative, and proactive effort to bring together the design team, construction contractors, and owner to deliver a building that will satisfy its occupants when in use. This process helps to coordinate all building systems to operate efficiently and satisfy all intended occupancy needs of its tenants.

For best results, commissioning begins in the pre-design phase. The owner determines the scope of work for the commissioning. At a minimum, commissioning requirements are determined by local building code or energy standards. During the pre-design phase, the designer provides the Basis of Design (BOD) and Owner Project Requirement (OPR) documents. This sets the expectations for the project before design or construction begins.

Once BOD and OPR are established, the design plan and drawings are produced. During the design phase, the commissioning agent reviews construction plans for the design approach and provides comments as intended. Any constructability or code issues are documented and provided to the design team.

Also during the design phase, the commissioning plan is provided to the design and construction teams. The plan outlines the commissioning activities that will take place during construction, identifies equipment to be tested, and lists responsible parties on the project. This commissioning plan informs everyone on the construction team of what to expect with testing so there are no delays when it is time to prepare the building for occupancy.

The bulk of commissioning services occur during the construction phase. During construction, pre-functional checklists are provided from the commissioning agent to the installing contractors. These checklists ensure that equipment is started per the manufacturer’s requirements and documented during installation. Any issues that arise during start up are documented and communicated with the construction team. Equipment that requires start up documentation are those that consume energy, such as hot water heaters, chillers, air handling units, HVAC equipment, lighting control, building management systems, and energy automation systems at a minimum.

Once all equipment has been installed and checked out, functional testing is performed on these systems. The functional testing ensures that all intended uses for the building are tested prior to being occupied. This ensures that any issues with equipment operation is worked out prior to tenants using the space. An iterative process is used to test the system with the commissioning agent providing test procedures and working with the trades contractors to ensure everything operates per design intent. Any issues with equipment are documented and retested until they function satisfactorily.

Finally, a commissioning report is provided to the owner. The report updates the commissioning plan with all relevant activities that were performed during construction. The report also ensures equipment manuals were provided, facility operators were trained, documents any issues during testing, attaches functional test results, and adds final notes related to construction.

Once the commissioning report is accepted by the owner, the building is typically ready for occupancy. Ongoing commissioning is sometimes required by the owner to ensure building systems continue to operate efficiently during the life of the occupied building.

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