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Staffing, supply chain issues and workplace changes are the challenges facing FMs
The goal for managers is to find the right mix of the in-house team's strengths and needs and the working knowledge of the commissioning authority that will fill in the gaps. In most cases, managers should look for a partner that has a solid engineering background with a very strong measure of hands-on experience in facility maintenance and troubleshooting of the specific mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the facility.
The commissioning authority also needs to have a solid understanding of changes in building systems technology and strategies that actually work, not simply unproven promises of a salesman pushing the latest technology.
The retrocommissioning company cannot overshadow the managers or in-house staff with its knowledge. The company will work in the best interests of the team for the best results and will work within the department's schedule, not its own. The commissioning authority also will ensure the in-house team understands the issues it discovered and their impact on the energy efficiency and operation of the building. The company will want the facilities team to manage the changes and repeat the process to ensure ongoing savings.
To make certain the combination of in-house staff and commissioning authority delivers the maximum benefit for the investment in the retrocommissioning process, managers can take a few proven steps.
For example, establishing a clear understanding of the goals before the company submits a proposal. A company providing a general price based on square footage alone does not address the specifics of the building. It is often best to start with the desired results. What kinds of improvements are expected? What amount of savings is the department targeting? What level of detail should the commissioning report contain? Managers need to ensure a process exists to measure the results. No one wins if it is not possible to measure improvements to the department and the facility.
The retrocommissioning process looks for low-cost and no-cost improvements for energy and operational efficiency. But if the staff of the commissioning authority has the skill set to provide a more in-depth building assessment that can identify additional mid- to high-cost energy-conservation measures for managers to consider.
Implementing the most feasible of these measures can result in capital projects that further reduce energy use and potentially providing other outcomes managers seek, including better controls, improved indoor air quality, fewer repairs, and replacement of older equipment. These additional savings opportunities are icing on the cake, but managers need to communicate the desire to include this work in the retrocommissioning effort before seeking quotes.
A well-executed retrocommissioning plan typically involves a hybrid approach that matches in-house technicians with an experienced commissioning partner to guide technicians in discovering the deficiencies in building systems. Also, in light of today's high energy costs, one of a manager's best options is to put an ongoing commissioning plan in place and hire a qualified commissioning authority to assist in monitoring and managing the overall effort. With this plan in place, managers should be able to achieve additional savings on utility costs.
Donn Young is the commissioning services manager for Heapy Engineering. He is a commissioning process management professional (CPMP) by ASHRAE, a registered commissioning process provider (QCxP) by the University of Wisconsin, and a LEED Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC). Michael Berning is a senior principal and director of sustainable design for Heapy Engineering. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Ohio, Indiana, Colorado and Michigan, a certified energy manager by the Association for Energy Engineering, and a LEED Accredited Professional by the USGBC.
Streamlining the Members of Your Retrocommissioning Team