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Commissioning: BCxA Essential Attributes, Part 4  

More on how to spot — and convey — what needs to be fixed.

Over the past three months, I have written a series of columns addressing the Building Commissioning Association’s (BCxA) eleven Essential Attributes of Building Commissioning. This month continues my commentary on the Essential Attributes in hopes of them being more widely recognized and understood.

Attribute #7

On new building commissioning projects, the CA [Commissioning Authority] reviews systems installation for commissioning related issues throughout the construction period.

Fundamentally, construction phase site observation and review is a critical step to the desired goal of successful system functional performance testing (FPT) at the end of construction. If the hardware installation is not correct and/or is not accessible, then one cannot expect the systems to pass their FPTs. By identifying installation-related system problems during construction, a project team will benefit from the opportunity to address and correct the problems before functional testing begins.

Presumably, it will be less costly and less disruptive to the project schedule if remediation can be absorbed into the construction period instead of being rushed to resolution at the end of construction.

The purpose of construction phase installation reviews is not to duplicate the contractors’ quality control processes. Note that Attribute #7 specifically states that “systems” installation should be reviewed. Although every system consists of multiple components, I interpret this verbiage to imply that commissioning site observation should be focused on system-level installation issues, instead of the details associated with individual component installation.

Traditionally, the contractors’ quality control processes focus on specific pieces of equipment or components, such as pumps, strainers, filter banks, VFDs, humidifiers, etc. Although the CA may observe and comment on any aspect of the installation compared to the contract document requirements, a commissioning installation review should focus on how all of these devices are installed relative to each other and to their surroundings.

A major focus of a commissioning review should be future maintainability and operability. The CA needs to put herself in the shoes of future building operators and envision accessing, maintaining, and troubleshooting all components that are likely to need attention over the life of the systems. This is particularly relevant as ceilings, walls, and doors are installed, as these tend to be the barriers to timely and reasonable access to system components such as shut-off valves, control panels, damper actuators, etc.

In addition, the commissioning review should confirm that installation of wiring and other interfaces between equipment and/or systems is underway, so that the individual components can communicate with each other in addition to operating in a standalone fashion. If no such wiring is terminated at the various devices and construction has progressed to the point where it normally would be installed, then it is a good idea for the CA to raise the question of who is responsible for the system interface wiring. It has been known to happen that no one on a project believes that is their responsibility.

Attribute #8

All commissioning activities and findings are documented as they occur. These reports are distributed as they are generated, and included in the final report.

The key to Attribute #8 is the concept of documenting the activities and findings “as they occur.” Timely dissemination of commissioning information is critical for efficient and successful commissioning team performance.

If a commissioning meeting results in action items being assigned, the sooner those meeting minutes are distributed, the sooner commissioning team members will be reminded/motivated to complete their assignments. Similarly, if the CA has concerns following a construction site visit (see Attribute #7), those concerns need to be documented in a site observation report and distributed to the project team as soon as possible. With construction in full swing, even a few days’ delay in formal documentation may result in the “fixes” being increasingly more disruptive. Of course, if deficiencies are discovered during FPT, their immediate correction is often critical to final completion/acceptance of the systems by the owner — at a point when there is very little time left in the project schedule.

One approach practiced by many CAs is to informally share the results of construction observations and FPTs with the project superintendent (or other contractor-in-charge) prior to leaving the site each day. This is a courtesy that can be used to the contractors’ advantage by allowing them to get a jump on problem resolution before formal documentation is issued. Depending on the formality of the project team hierarchy and lines of communication, however, this is not always an acceptable approach. It may be appreciated by the people on site, but some contractors are unwilling to take any action until they are specifically directed to do so through proper channels.

In summary, commissioning documentation should be unambiguous, concise, easy to read, and issued as quickly as possible.

 

Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, October, 2010

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