Critical facility owners consistently employ commissioning services when constructing a new building. They recognize that far too many systems and components are involved to risk operating the new facility without conducting a formal commissioning process. But it is important for owners to select a commissioning process that best fits the design and construction method chosen, to ensure ideal performance for the new facility.
In the commercial building industry, the commissioning process traditionally verifies only a sampling of building systems operate properly. As a result, many independent commissioning agents utilize that approach for much of the work they perform. For non-critical buildings, this sampling approach is generally cost effective and acceptable because the objective is to make sure the infrastructure systems work. If, after commissioning is complete, a component is discovered to be faulty, the owner can address the problem and recover the operation quickly with minimal impact.
Critical facilities require a much more thorough commissioning approach, simply because the cost of a system or component failing can be catastrophic once the building is in operation. The impact of system interruption is typically measured in millions of dollars. The objective becomes designing and constructing facilities systems intended to support continuous uptime.
A critical facility owner should select a commissioning program based on the type of firm that was engaged to design the new building. If the engineer-of-record (EOR) is only engaged to create drawings and specifications, as well as participate in traditional construction phase services, then an independent commissioning firm specializing in critical facilities should be engaged to conduct the entire commissioning process. This “third party” commissioning firm should be engaged up front and be involved early in the design process.
If, instead, the owner chooses an EOR who will support the site well into the operation phase of the new facility, the owner should consider engaging the EOR to self-perform the commissioning effort. A third party commissioning firm may still be involved in the project, but they should conduct their tests only after the EOR has completed the integrated systems level of commissioning.
Why would an owner choose to involve both? Having an independent third party (someone not part of the design team) validate that the completed systems operate as expected may be viewed as additional insurance. Separately, those seeking a LEED certification for their new facility will be required to engage a third party commissioning agent to validate operating efficiencies.
ASHRAE Guideline 0-2013: The Commissioning Process; ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 202-2013 Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems; and The ACG Commissioning Guideline (published by AABC Commissioning Group in 2005) are three reference documents available to building owners to become acquainted with the expectations of the commissioning process.
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