Building Commissioning and Retrocommissioning FAQ

Questions about building commissioning and retrocommissioning? Here are some frequently asked questions.

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What is building commissioning?2020-06-28T16:49:20+00:00

Commissioning is a formalized process that helps ensure the performance of key building systems [HVAC, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, etc] for new construction or major renovation projects. Independent professionals review the design to confirm that equipment selected will meet the needs and efficiency goals of the building and client. Observation and testing during construction then verify correct installation and proper functionality of all systems before the contractor closes out the project.

Why is commissioning important?2020-06-28T16:41:23+00:00

The primary goal of commissioning is to identify and correct issues before they adversely impact the building. Confirming key equipment is installed correctly and operating efficiently provides piece of mind, but also reduces the lifetime costs of building operations, maintenance, and system repair/replacement. Furthermore, commissioning helps to ensure reliability and resiliency for facilities with mission critical or 24/7 operational requirements.

How does commissioning benefit me as a building owner/operator?2020-06-30T15:22:31+00:00

US Department of Energy research has proven that commissioned buildings use up to 20% less energy than similar un-commissioned buildings1. Properly functioning and maintained equipment also lasts longer, minimizes downtime, and enhances indoor environmental quality which contributes to increased occupant well-being and productivity.

1 DoE Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/advanced-energy-retrofit-guides

What should I look for in a commissioning firm?2020-06-28T17:48:13+00:00

All commissioning providers are not created equal. The biggest differentiators are process and expertise. Identifying certified firms with credentialed professionals is the first step to ensure the providers are knowledge and attuned to current best practices. Next, firms with robust processes and tools in place are able to more effectively measure, track, and resolve issues in order to fulfill your project goals. These qualities, along with a commitment to correcting problems not just identifying them, are the hallmarks of a strong commissioning firm.

Is commissioning required to achieve LEED certification?2020-06-28T18:23:49+00:00

Commissioning is crucial to confirm system optimization and energy efficiency therefore it is a requirement under the Energy and Atmosphere [EA] section of the LEED manual. The USGBC outlines options for LEED Fundamental and LEED Enhanced commissioning services.

At what phase should I engage a commissioning agent?2020-06-30T14:30:42+00:00

While commissioning is beneficial across all project phases, a commissioning agent brings the most value when engaged early in the design process. Early identification and resolution of issues is the core objective of commissioning. Pre-design and design phase involvement consistently results in better engineering solutions, enhanced document quality, and maximum cost savings and building efficiency. An experienced agent leverages knowledge and lessons learned to help you define the performance objectives for your building, weigh initial costs with lifecycle costs, and support the architect and engineer’s equipment selection.

How much does commissioning cost?2020-06-30T14:43:02+00:00

Commissioning services represent a very small portion of a project’s total cost – between 0.6 and 1.8% of the construction budget. Commissioning fees vary and are determined primarily by the scope of services and phases of involvement [design and construction, construction only, or design through post-construction support]. The quantity and types of systems to be commissioned can also impact the cost and can include HVAC, electrical, lighting, renewable energy, building controls and automation systems, as well as fire/life safety systems and building envelope. When framing the costs of commissioning it is important to weigh the long term performance benefits, with energy savings lasting up to 4.5 years, as well as increased system reliability and extended equipment lifespan.

What is retro-commissioning?2020-06-30T15:19:05+00:00

Many factors can impact the overall performance of your building and equipment over the life the facility. These can include regular wear and tear, insufficient maintenance, changes to original equipment, and more. Retro-commissioning involves inspection and testing of key systems to understand the current level of functionality, provide recalibration or tune ups, pinpoint issues reducing efficiency and implement corrective measures.

What is the difference between an energy audit and retro-commissioning?2020-06-30T15:19:40+00:00

Both energy audits and retro-commissioning identify problems with key building systems. An energy audit of your facility will tell you if there is equipment in need of maintenance, repair or replacement. Energy audits also compare your utility usage to that of similar buildings in a process called ‘benchmarking’ to determine deviations from the average that may indicate a problem. Retro-commissioning takes the process one step further to include implementation of corrective measures to achieve the cost savings identified.

How does retro-commissioning or an energy audit benefit me as a building owner/operator?2020-06-30T15:36:44+00:00