Why Facility Managers Can’t Ignore Commissioning Anymore

More sophisticated buildings mean greater need for either retrocommissioning or monitoring-based commissioning. But the payback is quicker and the savings can also be greater.

By Greg Zimmerman, Senior Contributing Editor  

The one downside to buildings becoming more sophisticated is that more can go wrong. This is an issue with which facility managers are well familiar: The more points of possible failure, the greater odds failure will occur. 

Thankfully, though, with that digital sophistication has come better fault detection and diagnostics, actively alerting facility managers when there is an issue. That issue could include when something is malfunctioning, like a damper stuck open, or a broader issue, like if energy use has increased and is outside of an acceptable range. Then facility managers can investigate, figure out what’s wrong, and correct the problem before energy is wasted. 

As well, the facilities management industry as a whole has gotten more sophisticated about retrocommissioning and monitoring-based commissioning. Both of these strategies are centered on the idea of returning equipment that has drifted out of spec back to optimal operation. The benefits are clear: Energy savings, improved equipment life, less maintenance, and much more.  

We spoke recently with Jeffrey Miller, a commissioning expert at consulting firm Terracon. Miller, who is senior principal and senior mechanical engineer, talked about retrocommissioning, monitoring-based commissioning, their possible energy savings when implemented correctly, and their overall value for facility managers.  

FacilitiesNet.com: For facility managers, why is retro-commissioning (RCx) such a crucial strategy for re-harmonizing a building and saving energy?  

Miller: Just a few benefits are improved mechanical system and equipment operation going beyond routine operation and maintenance, optimized HVAC control strategies and sequences of operation of the mechanical HVAC and lighting, improved equipment performance leading to longer life spans, more reliability, fewer repairs, lower energy costs to operate the systems, and improved temperature and relative humidity control for occupant comfort. Other benefits may also include improved indoor air quality by reducing moisture infiltration through the building enclosure, ensuring outside air intake is adequate, reviewing air balance for proper air circulation and net positive indoor air pressure in the building, observing for air leakage and ductwork degradation, improved documentation such as up-to-date manuals, system diagrams in Systems Manual, a preventative maintenance plan and an ongoing Re-Commissioning plan.  

FacilitiesNet.com: What savings are possible?   

Miller: By implementing a four step RCx program, operating cost savings could range in the 25 to 40 percent range depending on the benchmarking of the property’s current operating costs. 

FacilitiesNet.com: Can you describe monitor-based commissioning?  

Miller: During the implementation of identified RCx strategies, the RCx agent will install monitoring equipment such as utility meters, temperature and relative humidity recorders, and perform trending using the facility’s energy management system using periodic, remote access by the RCx agent. The agent will perform data recording and trending to verify the anticipated results of RCx activities over a typical 12-month period. Monitoring also documents RCx activities and ECMs implemented, updates the Master List of Findings, updates the utility cost savings, recommends the frequency of re-commissioning, completes documentation, and provides a list of further capital improvements warranting investigation.  

FacilitiesNet.com: Why is this also an important part of an energy saving strategy?   

Miller: Monitoring of the RCx activities and ECMs implemented by the RCx agent helps verify that estimated utility cost savings are realized and reflected in the owner’s utility billings. 

FacilitiesNet.com: How have improvements in building technology — specifically the wider availability of IoT devices — enhanced the capabilities of facility managers to do monitor-based commissioning effectively?   

Miller: By installing high quality monitoring equipment that communicate over wired and wireless networks, utility meters, temperature and relative humidity sensors, building pressure meters, valve and damper position transducers in the building systems that have been the subject of RCx activities can be remotely accessed by the owner’s facility manager and a RCx agent and allow for periodic and ongoing trending and lead to a long-term strategy of re-commissioning at the facility. 

Greg Zimmerman is senior contributor editor for the facility group, which including FacilitiesNet.com and Building Operating Management magazine. He has more than 19 years’ experience writing about facility issues. 

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  posted on 2/15/2023   Article Use Policy

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