Combination of In-House and Agency Best Fit for Retrocommissioning Project
For managers in the market for a retrocommissioning partner to complement in-house expertise, the selection process can be challenging. No single agency or organization certifies whether a commissioning authority firm is capable of, or at least meets a standard of quality, to provide commissioning services.
At least four different organizations provide commissioning certification programs. ASHRAE has developed an excellent set of documents — Guideline 0 and Guideline 1 — that define the commissioning process.
The difference between basic commissioning and retrocommissioning is important to understand. Basic commissioning focuses more on managing a construction-related process, while retrocommissioning is much more technically based. Managers will need to understand the difference when selecting a retrocommissioning provider.
The manager's goal is to establish criteria to compare competing firms and then select a firm to provide quality commissioning services. To make a smart selection, managers should remember three criteria:
References. Contacting managers who have gone through the commissioning process on a similar size project with the commissioning authority is recommended. Ask how well the company worked with the in-house facilities staff or how well the company got along with the design and construction team. The goal is to determine if the company has good team-building skills and strong communication skills, especially regarding documentation. Better yet, ask for a complete list of retrocommissioning projects the company has completed, as well as the associated references. Managers should not call only the potential partner's references. Instead, they should review the project list and make calls to managers not on the preferred list.
Similar experience. Does the retrocommissioning involve a laboratory project, but the prospective commissioning partner only has experience with retrocommissioning schools? Is this a $100 million project but the company's largest project was much less complex? If the project is seeking LEED certification or already is a LEED certified project, what is the company's experience with LEED, and specifically the rating system the facility achieved or is pursuing? Is the company's commissioning staff LEED APs?
All projects pose challenges and complexities for the commissioning authority, but managers cannot afford to pay the company to learn a solution.
Technical skills. Does the commissioning authority's personnel have field experience in this type of project? If so, for how many years? Educating the in-house staff on the way the systems are to work is vital to the successful ongoing operation of the building. Does the company's staff have substantial training experience on these systems? Is the staff populated with former controls, HVAC, and electrical systems technicians? What certifications have they earned? Do they have direct experience in installation and troubleshooting of such systems? Or are they simply former designers of mechanical and electrical systems without much in-the-field experience?