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Commissioning: Communication

Many of the shortcomings in the HVAC industry these days have been related to poor communication. The timely and meaningful transfer of information and ideas between design engineers, owners’ project managers, owners’ operations and maintenance staff, building users, installation contractors, and subcontractors is fragmented at best and practically non-existent at worst.

During the design phase, users need to communicate their environmental control needs and expectations. O&M personnel want to have input into the types of equipment and systems specified and into exactly how those systems are implemented and documented. Engineers need to communicate their design assumptions and potential system liabilities to the  owner in order to obtain approval to proceed with confidence.

During construction the entire team needs to be kept informed of changes made in the field and the implications of those changes. Equipment submittals and system shop drawings should, ideally, be reviewed by all interested parties simultaneously in order to keep projects on schedule. O&M manuals and personnel training are critical aspects of project communication, i.e., system hand-off to the long-term operators, which are often neglected completely or delivered too late and incomplete.

Throughout the life of a building, the users and operators typically continue to “discover” things about the systems which need to be tweaked slightly or retrofitted completely in order to serve the users’ needs. These learning experiences are rarely communicated back in to the design and construction team a constructive manner. This knowledge could be invaluable to improving future projects.

I believe it’s time for the HVAC industry to embrace the World Wide Web and utilize available information technology to improve the communication among all project team members through all phases of a project. Information disseminated through the Internet and system data stored electronically for all to see is not only beneficial to successful project implementation, but is also a single source of useful information required to properly understand and operate building systems throughout their lives. Finally, when it comes time to retrofit or add to the systems in the future, the new design and construction team will have the original design intent and system configuration data just a mouse click away instead of having to spend days searching, often in vain, through incomplete historical records.


Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, December, 1998

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