Facility Staff Should Be Involved in Retrocommissioning

  October 5, 2011

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: To maximize the benefits of retrocommissioning, get the facility operations staff involved in the retrocommissioning process.

Retrocommissioning is a cost-effective way to improve the performance of building systems. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the median energy savings is 16 percent on retrocommissioning projects. With a payback of little more than a year, the ROI is nearly 100 percent. Although retrocommissioning may seem to be exclusively a matter of hardware and software, the facility operating staff is actually vital to success. For example, if an operator doesn't trust the optimization function to turn equipment on at the proper times, the operator may come in a 5 a.m. and turn all the chillers on, just to be safe.

It is worthwhile to talk to building operators at the start of the retrocommissioning process. After all, they know the quirks of building operation better than anyone, even if they don’t have the time to investigate optimization opportunities themselves.

Because the operating staff ultimately has control over the system, it's also essential to ensure that the controls are no more sophisticated than the people who will operate the system. One approach is to limit the system capabilities to the knowledge of the operators. Another is to upgrade the operators’ knowledge base.

Don't underestimate the importance of operator training. When planning training, keep in mind that it may not just be the chief engineer who can make changes to the control settings. Even if the chief engineer is trained, other people on the staff may make changes and neglect to tell the chief engineer. That’s why it is important to get everyone on board, not just the chief engineer. One option is to train others on the staff, but if that is not possible, another approach is to restrict the ability of other staff members to make changes to the system.


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