State Building Code & LEED Commissioning

What is Building Commissioning?

Commissioning is "a quality-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of facilities, systems, and assemblies meets defined objectives and criteria".

Commissioning is intended to be an all inclusive process for the planning, delivery, verification, and managing risks to critical functions performed in, or by, facilities. Commissioning ensures building quality using peer review and in-field or on-site system performance verification. Commissioning also accomplishes higher energy efficiency, environmental health, occupant safety and improves indoor air quality by verifying that the building components are working correctly and that the Commissioning plan is implemented with the highest efficiency.

Essentially, the commissioning process formalizes the review and integration of all project expectations during planning and design, construction, training and occupancy phases by way of inspections and functional performance testing. This initial commissioning event also becomes the Owner’s “baseline of reference" for system operations and functional model of the building.

Who Commissions a Building?

Who actually performs commissioning depends on the owner and the project. Typically, the building owner hires an independent third party to perform commissioning. This individual is often referred to as the commissioning agent (CA).

Those involved in the building commissioning field generally believe the CA should work for the owner and represent the owner's interest. However, there are numerous options. The commissioning agent can work under contract to the construction manager. This works well when the construction manager is independent of the contractor's team. There is interest among architecture and engineering firms to include commissioning as part of their services to help ensure they deliver quality buildings to their clients.

What are the Steps in Commissioning?

The extent of the commissioning process can vary as well as the roles of those involved in the project. Ideally the CA is hired during the predesign phase and is involved through the post-acceptance phase of the construction process. The roles of the CA in each phase of the design and construction process are described below.

The CA, working with the owner, establishes the parameters and expectations for the commissioning process. The CA may have a limited input and review role in this phase.

Design Phase
The CA will outline the scope of design requirements and design intent, describe the systems to be installed, outline the documentation requirements for each party involved in the commissioning process, define subsequent commissioning procedures, and document the process.

Construction Phase
The CA completes the commissioning plan at the beginning of the construction phase. The CA obtains project schedules and gathers and reviews the contractor submittals and operation and maintenance manuals. The CA writes detailed functional performance test plans for each system and piece of equipment involved in the commissioning process.

The CA makes site visits to observe construction, noting details that might affect equipment and system performance or operation. He or she coordinates with the various contractors to perform the pre-functional performance tests. The CA oversees all start-up tests and ensures that pre-functional performance tests and checklists are completed and all deficiencies resolved.

Acceptance Phase
Using the functional performance test plans, the CA observes and verifies the proper operation of equipment, systems, and controls per contract documents. He or she verifies that corrective measures are taken, and ensures the presence of complete operation and maintenance manuals. The actual performance testing is usually carried out by the various contractors. The CA oversees this process and may be actively involved. Shortly after the functional performance tests are complete, the CA finishes a commissioning final report, including all documentation, and submits it to the owner.

Training for the building operations staff generally occurs near the end of the acceptance phase or shortly after the building is occupied. The training should be done by the installing contractors, designers, and manufacturers' representatives and may include the CA. The CA should be involved in establishing the training needs of the building operations and maintenance staff and ensuring those needs are met.

Post-Acceptance Phase
Building operations and maintenance staff ensure the proper functioning of the facility's systems, adapt the system to changing occupancy and use, maintain a history of the facility, and document all changes. The CA can be involved in establishing the documentation methods for this phase and in reviewing performance and recommending improvements.

What About Cost?

The price of building commissioning varies depending on the size of the project, complexity of building systems, and the systems to be commissioned. The following ranges provide rough rules of thumb:

Total building commissioning: less than 1% of total construction cost. Equipment commissioning: 2% to 5% of equipment cost. Owners often say they cannot afford to pay for building commissioning. It is important to recognize the potential costs of not commissioning. These costs include schedule overruns, change orders, litigation costs, high vacancy levels, uncomfortable occupants, excessively long shakedown periods, costly post-occupancy corrections, and inability to perform adequate operation and maintenance. These costs can far exceed the price paid for commissioning. Commissioning reduces the risk of incurring these costs. Also, experience has shown that a building that is not commissioned will cost 8% to 20%more to operate than a commissioned building.

New for the State of Florida Building Code 2014 5th edition.  Newly built commercial buildings will require 3rd party commissioning.  At Two Trails we have experience commissioning buildings since this is a requirement for sustainable certified commercial projects.  While this is new to you, rest assured this is business as usual of us.

Here are a few items that are required under the new Florida building code.

  • Commissioning plan by a registered design professional or agency
  • Commissioning of the building mechanical, electrical power and lighting systems
  • Air distribution system testing, adjusting and balancing
  • Air system balancing
  • Hydronic system balancing
  • Functional performance testing