Knowledge Center

We are committed to sharing knowledge to benefit facility owners because better buildings benefit everyone. Improved building functionality enhances the comfort, wellbeing, and productivity of its occupants and reduced environmental impacts are just a few of the reasons facility performance is critical. Learn more about commissioning and facility performance below. Not finding the answer here? Just ask us!

FAQs

New Construction Commissioning

Commissioning is a formalized process that helps ensure the performance of key building systems [HVAC, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, etc] for new construction or major renovation projects. Independent professionals review the design to confirm selected equipment will meet the needs and efficiency goals of the building and client. Observation and testing during construction then verify correct installation and proper functionality of all systems before the contractor closes out the project.

Why is commissioning important?

The primary goal of commissioning is to identify and correct issues before they adversely impact the building. Confirming key equipment is installed correctly and operating efficiently provides piece of mind, but also reduces the lifetime costs of building operations, maintenance, and system repair/replacement. Furthermore, commissioning helps to ensure reliability and resiliency for facilities with mission critical or 24/7 operational requirements.

US Department of Energy research has proven that commissioned buildings use up to 20% less energy than similar un-commissioned buildings1. Properly functioning and maintained equipment also lasts longer, minimizes downtime, and enhances indoor environmental quality which contributes to increased occupant well-being and productivity.

1 DoE Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/advanced-energy-retrofit-guides

All commissioning providers are not created equal. The biggest differentiators are process and expertise. Identifying certified firms with credentialed professionals is the first step to ensure the providers are knowledgeable and attuned to current best practices. Next, firms with robust processes and tools in place can more effectively measure, track, and resolve issues to fulfill your project goals. These qualities, along with a commitment to correcting problems not just identifying them, are the hallmarks of a strong commissioning firm.

Commissioning is crucial to confirm system optimization and energy efficiency, therefore it is a requirement under the Energy and Atmosphere [EA] section of the LEED manual. The USGBC outlines options for LEED Fundamental and LEED Enhanced commissioning services.

While commissioning is beneficial across all project phases, a commissioning agent brings the most value when engaged early in the design process. Early identification and resolution of issues is the core objective of commissioning. Pre-design and design phase involvement consistently results in better engineering solutions, enhanced document quality, and maximum cost savings and building efficiency. An experienced agent leverages knowledge and lessons learned to help you define the performance objectives for your building, weigh initial costs with lifecycle costs, and supports the architect and engineer’s equipment selection.

Commissioning services represent a very small portion of a project’s total cost – between 0.6 and 1.8% of the construction budget. Commissioning fees vary and are determined primarily by the scope of services and phases of involvement [design and construction, construction only, or design through post-construction support]. The quantity and types of systems to be commissioned can also impact the cost and can include HVAC, electrical, lighting, renewable energy, building controls and automation systems, as well as fire/life safety systems and building envelope. When framing the costs of commissioning it is important to weigh the long-term performance benefits, with energy savings lasting up to 4.5 years, as well as increased system reliability and extended equipment lifespan.

Existing Building Commissioning

Many factors can impact the overall performance of your building and equipment over the life of the facility. These can include regular wear and tear, insufficient maintenance, changes to original equipment, and more. Existing building commissioning [EBCx], sometimes referred to as retro-commissioning, involves inspection and testing of key systems to understand the current level of functionality, provide recalibration or tune ups, pinpoint issues reducing efficiency, and implement corrective measures.

Both energy audits and existing building commissioning identify problems with key building systems. An energy audit of your facility will identify equipment in need of maintenance, repair, or replacement. Energy audits also compare your utility usage to that of similar buildings in a process called ‘benchmarking’ to determine deviations from the average that may indicate a problem. Existing building commissioning takes the process one step further to include implementation of corrective measures to achieve the cost savings identified.

Existing building commissioning and energy audits provide a strong return on investment. Research confirms existing building commissioning delivers an average of 15% annual energy savings with a payback ranging from 0.2 to 2.1 years2. Additional benefits include reduced wear and tear on equipment resulting in longer lifespans, improved reliability with decreased outages/downtime, and a healthier environment for your building occupants.

2 Mills, E., H. Friedman, T. Powell, N. Bourassa, D. Claridge, T. Haasl, and M.A. Piette, “The Cost-Effectiveness of Commercial-Buildings Commissioning” (2004), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, http://eetd.lbl.gov/EMills/PUBS/Cx-Costs-Benefits.html

Open communication is crucial when seeking an energy services firm. The depth of an existing building commissioning or energy audit effort varies. The process should be tailored to meet the specific objectives, budget, or current challenges of each client. An experienced energy services provider listens and knows the right questions to ask, developing an approach prioritizing your unique concerns and requirements.

Many utility providers across the nation offer incentives to help offset the cost of energy efficiency improvements. Existing building commissioning or an energy audit is often the first step to pinpoint areas of concern.