As defined by ASHRAE, commissioning is “a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project. The process focuses upon verifying and documenting that all of the commissioned systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the Owner’s Project Requirements.”
In short, commissioning ensures that a building owner gets what they pay for. It verifies that the building systems meet owner requirements and operate as intended to achieve maximum efficiency. Commissioning is typically utilized for a building’s HVAC and lighting systems, but it can also be expanded to include all building systems such as the building envelope, domestic hot water system, electrical distribution system, and process systems.
Building owners are increasingly realizing the value that commissioning offers, and it is rapidly becoming the norm on construction projects across the country. Commissioning is required for all projects seeking LEED certification. Many states, such as California and Massachusetts, also include provisions in their energy codes that require commissioning for new non-residential projects.
STAN has been awarded the role of Commissioning Agent for 181 projects since 1995, totaling over 41 million square feet of commercial, educational, laboratory, and medical space. Seventy-six of these projects, totaling over 19 million square feet, have been designed/commissioned to LEED standards including Fundamental and Enhanced Commissioning.
There are two distinct “schools” on commissioning present today: “process” versus “hands-on.” It is very important that you determine which you desire. Let’s address the difference.
The “process” school believes that the commissioning agent is not required to have a detailed background in HVAC, controls, or electrical design, but only knowledge of the commissioning process. In this philosophy, they have the contractor write the test plan, which they review and approve. The Contractor does the testing, while they watch and approve. It raises the question, why should the Contractor be checking their own work, isn’t that why we hired a commissioning agent? Based on our experience, nearly 80 percent of commissioning firms take this approach! We do not believe that this is what the Owner wants or needs.
The “hands-on” approach that STAN Engineers provides is based on our unique background in HVAC Systems, Controls, and Electrical Systems. We write the test plans, perform the tests, and often know more about the controls than the installing contractor or design engineer. This has the effect of reducing the overall cost of commissioning. It also has schedule advantages as the contractors are not spending man-hours with us but are working to finish the project.
We approach a commissioning project as a team. We feel that the combined strength of the Owner’s staff, Contractors, Construction Managers, Architects, Engineers, and STAN Engineers will lead to optimal commissioning results.
The commissioning goals are simple. First, make it work! The goal here is to reduce occupant complaints, owner troubleshooting, hidden defects, and operating costs for energy. The commissioning also documents initial performance, increases the owner’s knowledge of the installed systems, and increases maintenance staff confidence.
STAN Engineers is an experienced team. We are knowledgeable in systems commissioning with a broad base of experience, which demonstrates our capabilities. Every project is different, and we adapt to the situation at hand for the best possible results. Our complex controls engineering experience is second to none, and this adds immeasurably to the commissioning quality.