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Commissioning: Core & Shell and Tenant Fit-Out Projects, Part 3

This month brings an end to my trio of columns regarding some of the special commissioning considerations associated with a building developed as a Core & Shell (C&S) facility and then fitted out by individual tenants. May, 2007 and June, 2007 addressed the performance requirements and testing aspects of commissioning. This month I want to cover the other critical aspects of commissioning so important to sustained proper operation of the systems – documentation and training.

The Importance of Documentation

The need for complete and accurate documentation of as-installed equipment and distribution systems is no different for a C&S project than for a complete building project. The timeliness of the owner and/or developer receiving as-installed drawings and equipment manuals may actually be more critical for a C&S project. There is almost always an immediate need to reference those documents by the design and construction teams assigned to Tenant Fit-Out (TFO) projects in the building.

Systems level documentation is also critical for C&S projects with multiple tenants. Information such a the final Owner’s Project Requirements/Design Intent Document (OPR/DID – see May, 2007 column), system schematic diagrams, sequences of operation, integrated system features, and systems-level operating and maintenance instructions and/or limitations are valuable tools for the developer, tenants, and building operators. Although the individual components of a building system may be common and well-known, their exact configurations and operating strategies will differ from building-to-building. Even with “prototype” buildings variations exist due to different design engineers, controls programmers, and/or updated equipment models.

Documenting comprehensive systems-level information is a significant undertaking which requires input from a variety of sources; designers, installers, controls programmers, and commissioning professionals. Someone needs to be responsible for defining the systems manual requirements, collecting and reviewing submissions from the various responsible parties, and compiling it all into a user-friendly reference document for use throughout the life of the building.

As important as a systems manual is, it will not benefit any of the building stakeholders if it is not used or understood. That’s where training comes in. The traditional operations and maintenance (O&M) training provided by the installing contractors for individual pieces of equipment is important, but not as important as systems-level training. The purpose of systems-level training is to communicate the same information contained in the systems manual in a series of classroom and/or hands-on training sessions. The systems manual should serve as the training manual.

Only after such systems training will the building owners, occupants, and operators appreciate what is in the systems manual and remember to reference it at appropriate times in the future. Building operators and/or tenant groups may choose to extract salient points for communication to building users. For example, if it is important that certain doors be closed at all times in order for the building pressurization system to function properly, the building operator may post signs to that effect at those doors. Tenants may choose to copy the indoor temperature and relative humidity design limits from the OPR/DID into their employee manuals as a way of setting expectations for working conditions.

The Importance of Training

Returning to O&M equipment training, one of the most important questions to be asked and answered in a timely manner is, “Who will be responsible for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of the components of each system?” If the project is part of a large developer’s portfolio, the answer is likely to be the developer’s in-house engineering and maintenance staff. A developer may also contract with outside service providers for this work. Is the developer responsible for maintenance of the TFO components/systems or do some tenants perform/contract for their own service? How does the maintenance (or lack thereof) of TFO components impact the operation of the C&S systems?

The answers to these questions help determine who should receive the equipment training provided by the installing contractors. Should the contractors train outside service contractors; all of whom sell themselves as experts in all types of building equipment? Will the service contractors be identified prior to substantial completion of the C&S project? Should C&S equipment training be deferred until an O&M staff is in place? Does the owner/developer obtain good value from the cost of O&M equipment training specified in most contracts?

There are no right answers to the above questions, because every project, developer, and owner organization is different. What is important is that these questions be asked and understood early enough to allow for the right amount of equipment training to be reflected in the contract documents. Of course, whoever is responsible for equipment/component maintenance should receive systems-level training as well. In today’s highly integrated buildings, knowledge of system operation and interfaces is important for anyone in a position to influence the performance of individual components.

Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, July, 2007

by
Rebecca Ellis, PE, LEED AP, CCP, CxA
President
Questions & Solutions Engineering
1079 Falls Curve
Chaska, MN  55318
rteesmag@QSEng.com