Evaluating Commissioning Agents For Data Centers And Other Critical Facilities

By David Boston, Gary Johnson, and Bob Reid  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Successful Critical Facility CommissioningPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Should A Design Engineering Firm Self-Perform Critical Facility Commissioning?

Owners who plan to hire an independent commissioning firm for the entire commissioning process for a data center or other critical facility should take the time to confirm the firm has a track record of providing the level of service desired. Referrals should be collected from other owners who have similar continuous operation objectives for their facilities. Owners should request a list of clients when contacting prospective commissioning agents.

When talking with clients of prospective commissioning agents, owners should encourage these references to be candid about what did and did not go well during their project. Items to discuss might include the following:
• Did the commissioning agent used “canned” scripts or did they develop scripts that were project-specific?
• How much time did they spend on site during the commissioning process? 
• Were they more interested in confirming the system worked properly or completing the project?
• How did they document and track open items?
• What was their process for back-checking and closing outstanding items?

Ensure any commissioning agents being considered can describe the industry’s generally accepted levels of commissioning without your help:
• Design Review: This effort is typically required when pursuing LEED certification points.
• Factory Acceptance Testing: Prior to the equipment shipping from the factory to the job site, the commissioning agent, along with the engineer-of-record, owner’s representative, and installing contractor visit the factory to inspect and test the equipment intended for the project. This effort confirms the equipment has been constructed in accordance with the approved submittals; validates the electronics, controls, safeties, and alarms; and confirms (under load where possible) performance requirements can be met.
• Verification: This inspection is typically performed by the contractor once the equipment has arrived on site (or to the contractor’s controlled warehouse). Verification includes a visual inspection for damage, documentation of nameplate data, receipt of installation and operations manuals, and receipt confirmation of any accessories that were shipped loose. 
• Pre-Functional Testing: Once the contractor has set the equipment in place and made all necessary connections, the commissioning agent will inspect the installation for compliance with design specifications and to ensure the equipment is ready for start-up.
• Functional Testing: After the manufacturer’s start-up is completed, the commissioning agent will operate each piece of equipment to verify its performance. Controls, set points, alarms, and sequences are validated with support from the manufacturer’s technician.
• Integrated Systems Testing: After infrastructure systems and the building automation system are proven to work successfully, the systems are tested as a whole. Staging of individual modules for fail-over capacity and lead-lag rotations are demonstrated and validated. Each piece of equipment is tested under each mode of operation, including failure scenarios.
• Training and Demonstration: Often not included in the basic commissioning process, this step is perhaps the most important. The commissioning agent prepares Methods of Operating Procedures during this phase, providing step-by-step instructions the facility operators will need to transfer systems offline and perform maintenance on the full array of infrastructure equipment. These processes are tested with the owner’s staff in a controlled environment to ensure they have the confidence to transfer and operate the systems prior to the facility going “live.”

Continue Reading: Critical Facilities

Successful Critical Facility Commissioning

Evaluating Commissioning Agents For Data Centers And Other Critical Facilities

Should A Design Engineering Firm Self-Perform Critical Facility Commissioning?

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  posted on 5/26/2015   Article Use Policy

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