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Retrocommissioning: Teaming Up For Savings

By Donn Young and Michael Berning - December 2013 - Energy Efficiency


Retrocommissioning offers institutional and commercial facilities an opportunity to uncover processes and equipment that waste energy and maintenance dollars. Among the most common targets of these efforts are HVAC and electrical-distribution products and components.

One strategy for ensuring the long-term success of retrocommissioning projects is to involve in-house technicians throughout the process. Maintenance and engineering managers who can effectively combine the guidance of a retrocommissioning partner with the expertise of in-house technicians can deliver long-term benefits to both their departments and their organizations.

The Inside Edge

Managers have several solid reasons for involving their staffs in retrocommissioning:

  • No one likely knows more about the building than the facilities team.
  • No one likely knows more about the needs of building occupants than the facilities team.
  • Self-executing the retrocommissioning effort is likely to provide more control of the work, as well as the outcome.
  • Self-executing likely will help control project costs.

If a manager already has a successful partnership with a mechanical systems contractor, then combining that resource with in-house expertise is likely to result in a clearer understanding of the requirements to operate the facility at high performance levels.

But self-executing a retrocommissioning project can create challenges, and understanding these challenges can give managers insight into areas in which the in-house staff and operations likely has resource needs, which could be the result of budget limitations, a lack of experience or a combination of the two.

These needs can arise for several reasons. For example, does the in-house team have the "failing to see the forest for the trees" syndrome? Drilling down to the actual root-cause problem takes time and sometimes specific expertise, both of which are challenges to even the more robust of facility departments.

How can technicians set aside time to perform retrocommissioning tasks if they already are overworked with normal maintenance? If contractor partners already had the answers, why is the building not performing at peak levels? Does the facility team attend regular and ongoing training classes to keep up with the current strategies and technologies? Once managers implement new technology or strategies, is the facility team adequately equipped and trained to maintain the new process or equipment?

With these limitations and qualifications in mind, the retrocommissioning answer for most organizations is typically found somewhere between the self-perform and contracted approaches.





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