Commissioning of building systems is not just smart — it’s required!

By Kenny Stewart, CxA, Building Commissioning Team Leader

As of 2011, the California Building Standards Commission enforced commissioning as a mandatory code requirement. Under the California Building Standards code (section 5.410.2), the code states:

"For new buildings 10,000 square feet and over, building commissioning shall be included in the design and construction processes of the building project to verify that the building systems and components meet the owner’s or owner representative’s project requirements. Commissioning shall be performed in accordance with this section by trained personnel with experience on projects of comparable size and complexity.  Commissioning requirements shall include:

1.     Owner’s Project Requirements
2.     Basis of Design
3.     Commissioning measures shown in the Construction Documents
4.     Commissioning Plan
5.     Functional Performance Testing
6.     Documentation & Training
7.     Commissioning Report

All building systems and components covered by Title 24, Part 6, as well as process equipment and controls, and renewable energy systems shall be included in the scope of the Commissioning Requirements."

National attention was brought to Commissioning by the introduction of LEED Pilot Version New Construction (NC) v1.0 in 1998 which introduced EAp1 Fundamental Commissioning as a required prerequisite for any level of LEED certification. LEED also introduced the EAc2 Enhanced Commissioning credit, further endorsing the impact of Commissioning as a crucial component of the sustainable design and construction process.

But what is commissioning? For starters, it is much more than a LEED certification prerequisite. It is also much more than just functional testing. Commissioning, (Cx), is “a systematic quality assurance process that spans the entire design and construction process, that includes verifying and documenting the building systems and components are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements.” The commissioning methods vary through specific codes and sustainable project requirements, but all types of commissioning require the fundamental basics: Cx Specs, a Cx Plan, a review of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) and the engineer’s Basis of Design (BOD), and verification of proper installation and performance of commissioned systems such as HVAC, plumbing, lighting controls, and renewable energy.

CALGreen commissioning requires fundamental commissioning basics as well as irrigation system testing, a systems manual, and building facilities training. Title 24 is very similar to CALGreen commissioning, it includes additional requirements including a design review of the 100% design documents to ensure compliance with the basis of design and owner’s project requirements. When pursing LEED, the project team can achieve extra points by meeting the Enhanced commissioning requirements. The independent commissioning team is required to provide a 100% design document review, a review of the MEP submittals, a project specific systems manual, confirmation of facilities training, and completion of a 10-month post-occupancy review in addition to the fundamental commissioning requirements.

When performing the state code or sustainability required commissioning tasks, the Cx team is fully engaged with the systems design teams to ensure the project is delivering on the energy savings goals, as well as providing feedback to the engineers on actual system performance. The commissioning team is present at the beginning of the project all the way through owner training. The commissioning agent’s field knowledge paired with the design team’s expertise ensure outcomes consistent with the owner’s vision. Working as an advocate for the owner, the commissioning agent creates the connections between the design team, the construction team, and the facilities team. A commissioning agent enhances the value of a project as they are another set of eyes for the building owner and the design team. The agent assists the owner in setting realistic expectations and avoiding system modification that might deviate from the owner’s project requirements. The commissioning agent also works with the engineering team to design or modify the project to provide solutions for problems to ensure the design intent.

Constructing a building is a complex process. Each piece of equipment installed affects the systems that are integrated with it. Without commissioning we do not have a clear perspective into the design, installation, and functional testing with considerations of an efficient integrated system. Our Meyers+ Commissioning team has over ten years of experience in integrated systems testing. Our hands-on experience, knowledge of controls systems, and design expertise allow for the team to see the big picture while recognizing the important details of the process. Our team not only provides testing activities, we provide design guidance and construction oversight to ensure an optimal environment in an efficient building