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Commissioning: The Business Case for Commissioning and Retrocommissioning 

You can’t get a clear picture until you solicit input from both the facilities and finance departments.

Why does anyone construct and/or own a building? Very few people do it for the fun or glory of it; most people need a building to serve a purpose. Shelter and protection from the natural elements are a fundamental purpose of buildings. However, what is being sheltered varies, including but not be limited to:

  • People

  • Product

  • Collections

  • Process equipment

After shelter has been achieved, most buildings need to maintain some level of environmental control inside the structure. Required environmental conditions are widely variable and can be dictated by:

  • Personnel comfort

  • Contents preservation

  • Laboratory experimental needs

  • Infection/contagion control

  • Safety

This brings us to mechanical and electrical systems which, for the most part, are what make shelters useful. These systems allow for:

  • Lighting

  • Temperature control

  • Humidity control

  • Pressurization

  • Ventilation

  • Security

  • Life safety

The mechanical and electrical systems are the most often commissioned and retrocommissioned systems in a facility. Building envelope commissioning (i.e., the “shelter” function of a building) is gaining ground in the commissioning market but currently lags behind the other systems. Because the mechanical/electrical systems are so critical to making a building useful (valuable) for its owner, why would anyone not commission them?

I recommend that building owners ask themselves how building systems affect their bottom line (profit) — i.e., if the mechanical and electrical systems do not function as expected/needed/intended, what is the cost to the owner’s business? Things to consider include:

  • Personnel productivity

  • Tenant retention

  • Production quality

  • Customer perception

  • Inventory preservation

  • Energy costs

  • Maintenance costs

Commissioning of new buildings and retrocommissioning of existing buildings is all about achieving and optimizing system performance goals for building owners. The documentation and training aspects of commissioning/retrocommissioning help the owner’s staff and service contractors maintain optimal performance over time.

Each business owner needs to assess for himself the financial risk of system non-performance against the cost of commissioning or retrocommissioning the systems. I am not proposing that it will make financial sense for every business. However, if a business requires a building, it seems like the building is, in some way, important to business success. If that is the case, I recommend that corporate financial people be brought into the decision to commission or not to commission. It is not just a capital projects department or facilities department decision.

The financial analysts can assess the importance of the systems to:

  • Reduced maintenance costs

  • Increased equipment life

  • Energy conservation

  • Carbon footprint reduction

It is only together that these two groups (who typically do not talk with each other on a regular basis) can make a strong business-based decision about commissioning or retrocommissioning.

 

Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, June, 2010

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