Ongoing Commissioning Is Part of Comprehensive Approach
To properly commission new installations, facility managers should plan to take a comprehensive approach to the commissioning process. That comprehensive approach should include team members (whether in-house or third-party consultants or commissioning agents) with design as well as operational experience. The team should be well-versed in control systems and system integration, with specialists that can assist with all building systems including building envelope and electrical, mechanical, and fire-protection systems. Also needed is a full understanding of energy consumption and how each of the building components and systems affects the overall energy consumption.
With a comprehensive approach, return on investment will be met through the energy and maintenance savings and the improved facility reliability.
When a building is initially commissioned, or a retrocommission performed at some point well after the building opens, facility managers can derive significant value from maintaining these improvements through ongoing commissioning.
An ongoing commissioning process includes daily monitoring of the facility's HVAC systems, site inspections, comparison of the current data with expected results, and continued adjustments to control sequences and set points for optimum HVAC system performance and occupant thermal comfort. The process also uncovers new issues as they arise in the operation of MEP systems and the building automation system. Moreover, an ongoing commissioning team is able to resolve most issues quickly, before they make a significant impact on the facility's operations.
At Heifer International Headquarters, daily monitoring — initiated following the recommissioning in 2011 — and an ongoing commissioning site survey performed in May 2012 revealed and documented 64 issues, with specific recommendations for corrective actions. Implementing corrective action resulted in a 15 percent reduction in energy use, and a 36 percent cut in natural gas use.
Over time, the reliability and efficiency of every building dissipates. For Heifer International, recommissioning provided a greater level of reliability and an improvement in the energy usage of the facility. The value of the most significant issue discovered through the recommissioning project is not fully realized when the process is initiated. A comprehensive approach — and one that is performed by commissioning professionals who have both extensive design and engineering experience — is vital to gain the full value of the process.
Todd Kuhn, PE, CxA, CPMP, is a principal partner and director of energy services at Cromwell Architects Engineers. Kuhn is a licensed professional engineer and a Certified Commissioning Authority. He has 25 years of design, construction, and commissioning experience.