How can owners and facility managers be sure that HVAC commissioning is successful — that things that might cause problems in the future have been caught and corrected?
Communication is the key to successful commissioning. Commissioning is a team effort; a commissioning agent cannot successfully commission a building alone. It is important when commissioning a building that open dialogue and clear lines of communication are established between the commissioning agent and all parties of the commissioning team, including the owner and the FM team. The commissioning team will consist of designers, contractor installers, equipment vendors and—very importantly—the owner’s project manager, facilities management staff and often end users. This team will be coordinated by the commissioning agent, whose role it is to facilitate the commissioning process and enable productive and positive communication among the members of the commissioning team. There are several key strategies that can help achieve good communication on the project:
Define the OPR. The OPR is the benchmark against which the finished facility is ultimately measured. Therefore, it is very important that this document adequately communicates the owner’s operational needs. The OPR should be developed and communicated to the project team very early in the construction process – the earlier the better – as this document will help define design strategies, system and material selections, construction techniques and operational and maintenance practices and policies. To confirm a successful commissioning process the commissioning agent should be brought on board as early in the project as is possible. FM staff should be encouraged to be actively involved in the selection of the commissioning agent and to play an active role as members of the commissioning team at this very early stage.
Incorporate Lessons Learned from Past Projects. An important element of the commissioning process is continuous process improvement. Lessons learned from past projects should be effectively communicated and improvements should be incorporated at the front end of new projects. An effective commissioning agent will also identify, at an early stage in the project, the practical experience of the project FM team and help develop strategies that address issues that may affect the efficient operation of the building.
Develop a commissioning specification and site-specific commissioning plan. Before the project is bid and prior to finalizing the construction documents, the team should agree on a commissioning plan. The plan should include design and constructability reviews at SD, DD & CD (Schematic Design, Design Development and Construction Document) phases, and regular site inspections. A kick-off meeting early in the process (within 30 days of mobilization after the contractors are appointed) will help confirm roles and responsibilities, lines of communication, test documentation, participation in the commissioning process and acceptance criteria. The commissioning agent and the design team should review the equipment submittals and coordinate one set of comments back to the contractor maintaining normal construction project protocol. A good commissioning agent and commissioning process will require that the commissioning team work alongside the FM operator for a short period after the contractor has demobilized to look at trend data and help tune the building to real operational load and conditions. The commissioning agent should also return to the building in the opposite season, probably 6 months after handover, to review the plant and systems in real environmental conditions.
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