"A Building Commissioning Fable" is presented here as a humorous analogy of what can be expected from a building which is not properly commissioned. While one would expect aircraft to be fully tested prior to production and public use, buildings regularly are not, which, with no exaggeration, results in the same problems as the hapless aircraft in the story. When we are describing the reality of our industry, it really is not very humorous. Buildings are complex and one-of-a-kind (even identical designs have significant differences due to the different trades, products and people involved). Buildings need commissioning.
A properly commissioned project requires that the commissioning agent involved with the project have expertise in many varied disciplines. Some of these disciplines are:
- Mechanical systems
- DDC control systems
This combination of skills is rare, and care must be taken to ensure that the selected commissioning agent possess all these skills and more. Past performance (on completed projects) must be reviewed prior to deciding upon which commissioning agent will ensure your project is completed successfully.
Types of Building Commissioning
Building commissioning can being carried out under various scopes and contractual arrangements and. Here is a list of the major types of building commissioning.
- For the Mechanical Contractor
Mechanical Commissioning for the Mechanical Contractor (contract tender through to demonstration) - as generally practiced in British Columbia, Canada
- For the Owner
Mechanical Commissioning for the Owner (design through to full operation) - also known as: Total Quality Management
Electrical Commissioning (Division 16 should not be overlooked)
Re-Commissioning (making it work again - or perhaps for the first time)
Building Commissioning started in British Columbia following the publication of the "Code of Practice for Commissioning Mechanical Systems in Buildings" which was authored by the Standing Committee of Consulting Engineers and Mechanical Contractors of British Columbia. This document was approved for release in January of 1986.
As stated in this document, its purpose was to "define the process of ensuring that a mechanical installation, when completed, will operate in conformance with the contract documents."
Commissioning is defined in this document as "the procedures, responsibilities and methods involved in advancing a total system from a state of static physical installation to a state of full working order in accordance with the contract documents during which time the owner's operating staff are instructed in system operation and maintenance."
Since this document was released, commissioning has increasingly been utilized. Today almost all projects in British Columbia, Canada incorporate commissioning to ensure the systems installed perform as intended upon occupancy.
By far the most predominant type of building commissioning currently being done in British Columbia, Canada is mechanical commissioning for the mechanical contractor (contract tender through to demonstration).
The type of commissioning referred to in the above story "A Building Commissioning Fable" is full scope commissioning (for the owner), which starts at the design stage and continues through to proper training of the operators.
As the story highlights, this type of commissioning (full scope commissioning for the owner) ensures that:
- The project is on time
- The project is within the budget
- The design is proper to meet owners needs
- The systems and sub-systems perform properly
- The operators are properly trained
- The documentation is correct and sufficient
Electrical commissioning is generally done for the owner. This work can also be performed under division 16 of the contract.
Many older buildings exist which have systems which no longer properly function. Very often a short payback can be realized when these buildings are re-commissioned.
The Commissioning Team Members and their Responsibilities
(as generally practiced in British Columbia, Canada)
A successful commissioning process cannot occur with the commissioning agent operating in solitude. Every party which has a hand in completing the project, must contribute to the commissioning process to achieve, in the end, a building which functions to meet the needs of the owner. The roles of these team members must be clearly defined within the contract. These parties are listed below (along with their responsibilities):
All Commissioning Team Members
- Attend commissioning meetings
- Act promptly on items of work indicated in commissioning meeting minutes
- Work with other team members to derive a realistic commissioning schedule
- Ensure commissioning schedule is maintained
- Provide required documentation promptly
- Cooperate with the other commissioning team members to complete the project as efficiently as possible (this is to everyone's benefit)
- Assign a person to be responsible for overall system knowledge
- Organize personnel to be demonstrated to and trained
- Sign-off "Demonstration to the Owner"
- Inspect static completion items (such as seismic restraint, code compliance, maintenance concerns, etc.)
- Ensure static system tests have been performed (such as pipe pressure testing, duct leakage testing, etc.
- Clarify contractual documents as required
- Indicate design intent as required
- Sign-off "Demonstration to the Engineer"
- Organize own resources and those of sub trades (suppliers, sheet metal, controls, fire protection, duct cleaning, etc.) to meet the schedule and perform corrective work as required
- Keep informed on commissioning meeting minutes and ensure minutes are responded to by appropriate parties
- Keep the commissioning agent fully informed on all aspects of the project (change orders, supplier delays, scheduling problems, etc.)
- Perform equipment startups (with suppliers as required)
- Operate equipment during tests
- Controls Contractor:
- Perform own controls commissioning
- Show commissioning agent control system in sufficient detail to allow commissioning agent to perform his checks
- Coordinate the engineer's approval of a detailed sequence of operation
- Produce independent report to the approval of the mechanical engineer
- Report, to the commissioning agent, problems as they are encountered
- General Contractor:
- Organize own resources and those of sub trades (painters, drywall, flooring, millwork, electrical, etc.) to meet schedule and perform corrective work as required
- Assist mechanical contractor in the overall responsibility for the commissioning of the project as per above definition and contractual documents
- Predict problems before the occur, as is possible, and initiate resolution
- Identify and initiate resolution to problems as they occur
- Derive commissioning schedule and monitor for accuracy
- Hold commissioning meetings and generate minutes
- Witness and document system verifications
- Ensure that documentation is obtained as per the requirements of the specifications
- Coordinate demonstration of systems to engineer and owner
- Issue commissioning report
The Commissioning Report (as generally practiced in British Columbia, Canada)
The Commissioning Report contains a historical record of the process of commissioning. It is useful as a final verification document, as a starting point for eventual re-commissioning, and even as an important asset when the building is being sold.
The Commissioning Report can be explained by describing the various pieces of documentation which it contains. This documentation is described below.
Summary Commissioning Item List
This list is an all-inclusive list of outstanding concerns at the time the report is issued. These items are cross-referenced into the checkout sheets listed below.
System Checkout Sheets (Point and Functional Verification Sheets)
These sheets pertain specifically to the various systems on the project. System Checkout Sheets are divided into the following three main sections which are described below:
Identification and Data Section
Tag, Make, Model, etc.
Checkout Items Section
The checkout items are specific checks to be made. These checkout items are of two main types depending of whether the System Checkout Sheet is subtitled Functional Verifications or Point Verifications.
Functional Verification Checkout Items are the specific functional checks which were performed. These items are in accordance with the approved sequence of operation and as per the design intent.
Point Verification Checkout Items are the system point checks of the four types (analogue in and out and digital in and out).
Checkout Notes Section
The checkout notes section is where numbered notes or deficiencies are recorded. These checkout notes are referenced from the "Note" column of the checkout item section above.
Equipment Checkout Sheets
These sheets pertain specifically to the various pieces of equipment on the project. Equipment Checkout Sheets are divided into the following three main sections which are described below:
Identification and Data Section
Checkout Items Section
The checkout items are specific equipment checks to be made. These checkout items are divided into three categories, which are:
- Pre-start Checks
- Startup Checks
- Adjustment Checks
Note that some checkout items indicated on the Equipment Checkout Sheets are for the contractor to certify. These checkout items are either not verifiable by the commissioning agent or they are the work of other contractors. Examples of such Equipment Checkout Items are:
- Unit has been properly lubricated
- Setscrews and fasteners have been tightened
Checkout Notes Section
The Checkout Notes section is where numbered notes or deficiencies are recorded. These checkout notes are referenced from the "Note" column of the checkout item section above.
Certification letters, sign-off letters and miscellaneous reports and certificates as is required.