This explanation is intended to inform those new to commissioning about what it entails, and to give potential clients an idea of the Allen Consulting philosophy about Commissioning and Building Performance Management. If you have questions after reading it, please call or send an email.
Commissioning, Validation, and Performance Management are regimens to define required performance, reduce the risk of failure, and prove that the project delivers the required performance. The FDA requires validation for medical device and drug manufacturing processes and buildings. Commissioning pertains to buildings. Commissioning, re-commissioning, and retro-commissioning apply to new buildings, old buildings that were commissioned a while ago, and old buildings that have never been commissioned, respectively.
This article uses Performance Management (PM). The person who manages this work is the Performance Management Engineer (PME).
Performance: Buildings are big business machines with jobs to do. That job is to portray the desired image and create environments that are safe, comfortable, and correct for the business functions. The building contributes to profits with the productivity it allows in exchange for the energy it consumes. A high performing building creates highly productive environments without wasting energy.
There are two questions you must answer to determine whether or not your building performs well:.
How productive are the environments it yields?
How much energy gets wasted?
If you don’t like the answer to question 1, is there any point trying to answer question 2? Some people try to save energy without considering question 1, and if they make progress, it is often short lived. If reducing energy cost is your only objective, you could simply turn off the utilities and go home. But no sensible business person would do that, would you?
Understood and agreed to by users
In users’ language
Tells: how room is used; what should be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt; and any special process requirements.
Input: How much should these environments cost?
Your PME, design architects and design engineers can help you with the answer.
Things to consider:
Is this to be an architecturally and/or environmentally prominent building?
What is a label like LEED certification or an EPA Energy-Star label worth to our image?
How much energy do competitive buildings use?
“Our process is dusty, and we want a cleaner, safer environment for our workers to eliminate respirators. Humidity: 60-70%RH at temps comfortable for people doing physical work in heavy clothes. Our business is highly competitive, and we require a 10% ROI on our investment in energy reduction measures.”
“Our library is a place where we study and have meetings with up to 10 people. Our existing library smells musty and people get lethargic in larger meetings. We want to correct these problems. Since we will lease our new space, we want to know that the CAM charges will be low. We want to tell our customers that we have a high sustainability space.”
“We need a new tissue culture laboratory. Other labs have extremely high operating costs because of the high outdoor air requirements. We expect this lab to use less than half the energy of other TC labs. We’re part of the EPA Labs 21 program, and confident this can be done with reasonable investment. We are willing to take a lower ROI to claim best in class.”
Performance Requirements Definition documents the needs of space users in their own words, and the energy and operating cost expectations. The PME then works with the design team to translate these into engineering language. The RESULT is the basis of design and acceptance criteria for the building’s performance.
The PM path diverges at this point, depending on whether the project is for an existing facility or one that is being designed.
|If the building exists, historical data and building user experience is available.
Use Qualification questions:
Does the building meet user needs?
What are the operating costs?
Is the building meeting sustainability goals?
Are there parts that serve no purpose or are detrimental?
|If the building is being designed, you must predict how well the design will work.
Design Qualification questions:
Will the building meet user needs?
Will it have good operating costs?
Will it meet the sustainability goals?
Are there any parts in the design that aren’t needed?
The team answers these by studying the plans, specifications, and/or the building. If opportunities are unveiled, then changes are recommended and negotiated until there is team consensus.
Construction Qualification ensures that systems are installed according to the plans and for proper operation and ease of maintenance. This is often a joint effort by the PME, Design Engineers and owner.
Contractors submit plans of how they intend to build the work, and the materials and equipment they intend to use. These plans and submittals are reviewed for compliance with the design.
When field conflicts occur, the PME works with the team to create solutions that won’t degrade building performance.
The PME inspects work, produces written reports of needed corrections, and manages corrections.
Contractors perform quality assurance and equipment set-up tests during construction. The PME reviews test reports and witnesses enough tests to be confident of their validity.
Performance Qualification tests systems to prove they perform as intended. The PME prepares the test protocols, oversees or conducts the tests. Because every building is unique, and every system is custom built, they rarely work correctly when first turned on. They must be debugged and tuned. The PME works with the contractors to achieve proper performance. If this can’t be achieved, the PME works with the designers to make necessary changes.
The PME prepares a report that documents the tests that were conducted and the conditions of systems.
It is now up to the owner to operate and maintain the building so that it continues to perform as intended throughout its life. This is Performance Maintenance. The PME works with the maintenance and operations managers to incorporate the performance qualification tests and results into planned maintenance inspections and tests.
Here are a few tips about real world performance management.
When should you hire a PME? The best time is when you decide to start a project, before you start setting expectations with users. But, commissioning can begin anytime. The later it starts, the more difficult it is to do the job well, and the more likely it is that deficiencies will be found that require costly rework or redesign to achieve good performance. Earlier is better and more beneficial. Later does not reduce cost.
Who should hire the PME? The business that will use the building should hire the PME directly so there is no question of allegiance. Sometimes the PME is hired by a contractor or is an employee of the design engineering firm. Both cases create a potential conflict of interest that is best avoided.
Do all Commissioning firms follow the same process? No, the process, work included and skill level varies greatly from firm to firm.
Who should do the inspections and testing? That depends on the size and skill of your maintenance organization. If your company has a skilled internal maintenance staff, having them do the inspections and testing under direction of a PME gives them an excellent learning opportunity. If your company uses outside contractors for maintenance, or has limited internal resources, discuss this with your PME to decide what will be most effective and economical.
Is it okay to skip some of these steps to reduce cost? There are risks associated with trying to skip steps and every step gets done even if you try. A better question would be “will they be done well if we don’t pay attention to them?”
For example: You decide to eliminate the Performance Requirements Definition step. Are you assuming that the designers and contractors know what you want and need? What do you do at the end of the project if your assumption was wrong and the building doesn’t meet your needs? You did reduce the amount you paid the PME at this step, but you added work to the design engineers because they had to come up with assumed performance requirements in order to do their work. And if you don’t also skip the Performance Qualification step, then the PME has to document the acceptance criteria to test the building. The real result of the decision: Performance Requirements Definition is reduced to assumptions, your recourse if the building fails to meet your needs is limited, and you pay more for the work you intended to avoid.
Hopefully this gives you a general understanding of the PM process, and how you might use it to make your building work better. If you would like more information or have questions, please let AC know.