Why Is Commissioning So Critical To LEED?

  November 15, 2011

Today's tip is about commissioning. Commissioning is an absolutely critical strategy for facility managers who hope to bridge the gap between a LEED certified design and efficient operations. Without adequate time to commission before the building opens and while the building is still in its infancy, the building may be getting off on the wrong foot from the get-go.

Just ask Jeff Schorzman, facility manager at Providence Newberg Medical Center in Oregon. Schorzman says that when the LEED Gold certified hospital opened in 2006, it was almost immediately apparent it was using much more energy than expected. And he says a rushed commissioning process was part of the problem. After a three-plus-year process of tuning the building and tweaking the BAS, Schorzman says the building was much more energy efficient. "Our biggest lesson learned here is to give ourselves time to come in and drive the building before it opens," says Schorzman

That's a notion Gary Christensen, who developed the LEED Platinum Banner Bank Building in Boise, Idaho, says he would definitely agree with. The Banner Bank Building had similar performance issues after it opened, and beyond a controls issue, Christensen says he wishes he would've spent more time on commissioning. "Commissioning was treated as a step to get through, rather than trying to understand it as an important part of the process," he says.

In addition to making sure commissioning gets its proper due, here's another thing facility managers should consider: Commissioning as it's usually delivered in the field these days does not consider the efficacy of the design itself. It only considers whether what was designed was installed and is operating properly. To go the extra mile, it's useful to have a third-party expert commission the design before ground is broken. Additionally, make sure to plan for ongoing or continuous commissioning. Develop a frequency that you're comfortable with and are sure you can stick to — perhaps twice a year. Such a plan helps ensure that building systems don't drift out of tune.


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