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Specifying commissioning: what owners need to know.

The primary goal of commissioning is to test and verify that the systems as installed will satisfy not only the engineer's design intent and the authorities codes and ordinances, but also satisfy the needs of the building's owner. Additional goals of commissioning are to provide hands-on practical training of the owner's operations and maintenance staff while the commissioning services are being performed, and to document the condition of systems as a result of the program, in the Final Commissioning Report form, so that the owner has a historical reference source to use when assessing future malfunctions, abnormalities, or deterioration in system performance.

In the steps taken to protect the owner on any given project, commissioning is the step that everyone must be involved in. Those so involved will reap the benefits from commissioning if they are properly prepared to commission their equipment and systems properly. If the specification is very clear and contains all of the proper elements, the commissioning costs are true, and "fudge factors" are not needed to insure against ambiguities. The owner truly gets what he has paid for, and that is a properly working and commissioned building. To achieve this end, the means need to be clearly detailed in the commissioning specification. Each member of the commissioning team needs to know their roles and responsibilities to properly estimate their costs and involvement.

The commissioning process is substantially more detailed than standard Construction Administration services, which include verification of compliance with design intent and witnessing of life safety and critical systems tests.

The Process

Commissioning is an involved process concerning the owner, as well as the entire construction team for the duration of the project. Many contractors have a general idea as to what is involved, but the owner, and ultimate responsible party, needs to understand as well. It is in his best interest to insure that all involved in the commissioning of his building know what is expected and what he, the owner, wants. The owner needs understand the process in order to make sure that the process is clearly specified and purchased under each contract.

One way to do this is to clearly document the design intent, verify that the systems installation and performance is in accordance with the plans, specifications and design intent, and finally to train the owner's operators so that they fully understand the design intent and the operation and maintenance requirements of the equipment.

The commissioning process includes: Review of design documents to assure system integration and quality; Development of a detailed commissioning plan; Development of commissioning specifications; Review of shop drawings; Monitoring of the contractors installations; Following installation, a thorough and systematic MEP Systems Building Management Systems (BMS), and Controls performance testing to insure proper component operation, data point calibration, controls sequencing, and systems interactive operation; Identification and resolution of MEP system deficiencies; Monitoring of corrective measure and systems retesting; Review of Operation and Maintenance manuals; Monitoring and supervision of MEP systems training for building staff; Development of a final commissioning report to document system performance and compliance with design intent.

Commissioning as required by the U.S. Green Building Council, to achieve an additional LEED[R] credit, is a more intensive process that requires the commissioning team's involvement from the start of the design process. In general, it is recommended that the commissioning team be involved in the project as early as possible

The Design Phase

The commissioning authority should be selected during the design phase. During this phase, the design team documents the owner's requirements as specified in the Owner's Program. It is the commissioning authority's responsibility to identify and assign responsibilities, document the initial design intent and develop the Preliminary Commissioning Plan. The commissioning agent will continue to document the design as it evolves, as well as further develop the Commissioning Plan and Specification.

At the completion of the design phase, the Commissioning Authority (CA) will review and accept contract documents for compliance with design intent; and the coordination of other mechanical, electrical, fire safety, and life-safety service requirements with the HVAC layout, equipment, and systems. This insures that everyone is "on the same page".

During the construction phase of the project, the CA must continue to review submittals from the various entities, finalize details of the Commissioning Plan, form the commissioning team and start to conduct periodic commissioning team meetings. The shop drawings play a pivotal role during this phase. Shop drawings are required to be submitted to the designers involved in the project for review. Shop drawings ensure that all of the design elements will be incorporated into the construction of the building and allows for any oversights to be installed in a timely fashion and not disrupt the construction process. During this time the CA will be involved in observing construction, installation of equipment, its start-up and normal operation, as well as testing and balancing. During this phase, all of the consultants and contractors become fully coordinated to ensure proper installation of all integrated building systems. The architect and designers should conduct periodic inspections of work in progress to ensure that all systems and equipment are being installed according to specifications. It is also helpful for the Owner to videotape construction he can "see" what is behind finished walls or ceilings. It is important to be able to quickly identify obstructions or space for future shafts.

The Acceptance Phase is where systems are verified to insure proper installation. All of this is in preparation of turning the building over to the Owner. This phase is extensive and includes the start-up, testing and verification of installed systems.

The building Operation and Maintenance staff will also be trained on all of the equipment installed in the building and given the manuals, commissioning reports, and as-built records.

RAYMOND A. LEMLEY, VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, AND GARRY N. MYERS, VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF BUILDING AUTOMATION SERVICES, FLACK + KURTZ
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Title Annotation:Special report: engineering
Author:Myers, Garry N.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Feb 16, 2005
Words:985
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