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Commissioning: BCxA Essential Attributes, Part 6  

Who is supposed to say what to whom? That is often the question.

I will finish 2010 with the last two of eleven Essential Attributes of Building Commissioning defined by the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA). As I noted in my July, 2010 column which started this series, I believe the Essential Attributes need to be more widely understood and appreciated. This is true not only for people providing commissioning services but also for those procuring them.

Attribute #10 - The commissioning authority provides constructive input for the resolution of system deficiences.

This is one of the trickiest parts of providing commissioning services and, perhaps, one of the most likely to be misunderstood by potential building owners hiring commissioning professionals. The key is that the commissioning authority (CA) should provide “input” to the resolution of problems found during the commissioning process, but the CA is not responsible for correcting the deficiencies or even directing how they are to be corrected. The CA’s role as “objective, independent advocate of the Owner” (Attribute 2) does not include usurping the design engineers’ or construction contractors’ contractual responsibilities.

The type of input the CA can often provide involves details regarding the exact nature of a deficiency. The FPT process should be rigorous enough for the CA to be able to narrow down the possible root causes of each deficiency.

For example, if the supply air temperature does not increase upon a call for heat at a VAV reheat terminal unit, is it because (1) the control system failed to call for the reheat valve to open; (2) the reheat valve physically did not open when commanded to do so by the control system; (3) there was no hot water flow through the open reheat valve; or (4) any other scenario? Any clues as to the root cause of a deficiency are invaluable to the design engineers and/or contractors in order to expeditiously assign responsibility for correcting the problem. It is the design engineer and/or contractor, not the CA, who needs to provide direction to the apparent responsible party.

If there is a disagreement between the design and construction teams regarding what is or is not a deficiency, the CA’s unbiased third-party status can help the building owner understand and process both sides of the argument. Again, it is not the CA’s responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the owner. However, the CA’s technical expertise and sole interest in the owner receiving systems that meet the owner’s requirements will allow the building owner to make informed decisions.

Attribute #11 - Every commissioning project is documented with a commissioning report that includes:

  • An evaluation of the operating conditions of the systems at the time of functional test completion,

  • Deficiencies that were discovered and the measures taken to correct them,

  • Uncorrected operational deficiencies that were accepted by the owner,

  • Functional test procedures and results,

  • Reports that document all commissioning field activities as they progress, and

  • A description and estimated schedule of required deferred testing.

The first three items are meant to answer the question, “Do the systems as designed, installed, and tested meet the owner’s requirements for the commissioned systems?” Ideally, these requirements would have been clearly documented during the pre-design or design phase of the project. At the end of the project, the CA should be able to go point by point through the owner’s project requirements document to confirm that each acceptance criterion was achieved.

Any criterion that was not achieved would have been identified as a deficiency during the commissioning process. As the project comes to a close, there may be unresolved deficiencies lingering for a variety of reasons. Those will remain open issues until they are verified as being corrected or until the owner decides that a particular requirement is not worth the effort/cost/time to correct the problem. Those types of accepted exceptions need to be clearly documented as approved by the owner. As such, the commissioning report may be the only document that concisely — and in one place — explains how the “as built” and “as accepted” systems should perform. This is critical information for on-going operations staff to understand.

The fifth item can include a variety of documentation developed during the commissioning process but almost always includes meeting minutes, design review comments, submittal review comments, and site observation reports. If O&M training oversight is included as part of the commissioning process, copies of the training record should also be included in the commissioning report.

As a final note on the commissioning report, my one caution is to limit the report to documentation that will matter to the building owner and system operators in the future. Filling it will every piece of paper generated during the commissioning process may produce an impressively large report but it may also result in an intimidating document. If you must include everything, please consider breaking it down with meaningful system performance information in one volume (the technical reference volume) along with commissioning process-related documentation in a separate volume (the project record volume).


Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, December, 2010

Rebecca Ellis, PE, LEED AP, CCP, CPMP, CxA
Questions & Solutions Engineering
1079 Falls Curve
Chaska, MN  55318