How to approach a building's ongoing commissioning process

How to approach a building's ongoing commissioning process

Ongoing commissioning is a complex part of building operations. When monitoring the control sequences of a building's mechanical system, its lighting schedules, occupancy flows, system design improvements and more, ongoing commissioning collects a large amount of input data used to generate precise information. Once the data is analyzed, new insights about building performance can be used to improve upon current practices and conditions.

Every part of a building management team is involved to make the commissioning process run smoothly. After all, ongoing commissioning takes place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What set of information does each level needs to work with, and how should they use it?

Each team member in an ongoing commissioning project has a specific set of responsibilities and decisions to make – which requires looking at a different set of key performance indicators (KPIs). With this in mind, the first step to take when implementing an ongoing commissioning process [or even a simpler Measure and Verification (M&V) process] inside a building is to identify the information you want to share with each management level.

Next, ask how to share the right information with the right person at the right time. The inputs and outputs of the ongoing commissioning process are detailed below, along with the specific roles and unique KPIs important to a building owner, property/facility manager, design engineer, commissioning agent and field technician.

Photo of building provided by Vladitto/Shutterstock



-Available resources time, money, manpower, subcontractors)

-Energy bills (gas, electricity, steam, oil, coal)

-Mechanical systems drawings and control sequences (temperature resets, sizing, design specs)

-Building occupancy/Scheduling (standard work schedule, people flow, exceptions)

-Targets and objectives (KPIs, certification, awards)



-Prioritized action list

-Field team training plan

-Complete history
 of a building

-A review of mechanical control sequences and design

-A review of operational procedures


It’s also important to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each member on the building commissioning team. They are as follows: 

Building Owner

The building owner is generally not involved in daily operations. Useful information that owners can take away from ongoing commissioning is the building’s overall performance. Insight gained from this can lead to small daily savings -- and long-term payback. A cumulative sum (CUSUM) can help the building owner see and understand the ROI of some projects. It also helps determine future budgets by showing the tracking of variables such as tenant complaints/month, global operating expenses/initial budget, and the value of a building’s assets.

Property/facility manager

The property/facility manager is involved in daily operations at a project level. The daily progress compared to the owner's targeted objective is key information for the manager. A measuring and verification plan may be used to generate monitoring dashboards and reports. This information helps the manager make faster decisions with a better understanding of the building’s complexity. It also provides quick feedback to fine tune the operations process. Some useful KPIs for the property/facility manager are the number of tenant complaints/week, ROI/project, expenses/initial project budget vs. project completion.

Design engineer

The design engineer is usually a subcontractor working on a retrofit project identified during the ongoing commissioning process. This person needs to access precise data in order to create efficient designs. Sensor and meter values, set points and control sequences are just some of the huge amounts of data gathered by the ongoing commissioning process. This information will reduce the risk of errors -- as well as the costs for engineering services -- because it is a continuous flow of data compared to the usual snapshot provided by a small data sample. The design engineer can also use some pre-calculated data (generated from tools that calculate this information from standard equations) that can accelerate the design process and reduce cost. Some useful KPIs here include KW/System, KWh/Period, degree–day and building occupancy.

Commissioning agent

The commissioning agent is the link between all the players on the ongoing commissioning team. This person is looking to meet the owner’s expectations within the facility manager’s budget for the project, using the design engineer’s services and the field technician’s hard work. A fault detection system is really useful in order to identify out-of-specifications equipment, as well as non-efficient control sequences such as simultaneous heating and cooling. In order to prioritize actions, the commissioning agent also needs to look at the targeted objectives and actual maintenance processes and performance. Having access to the maintenance log helps to pinpoint critical maintenance needs. Some useful KPI are late maintenance work orders, the top five identified faults, KW/equipment and building occupancy.

Field technician

The field technician executes the prioritized the project actions. To operate correctly, he needs to have a precise description of what needs to be done. A simple graphic to explain the problem with its root cause helps the technician to fix the problem. The technician can be trained to use the fault detection system to become independent to a point where he’s able to identify, confirm and prioritize necessary actions. Some useful KPIs are late maintenance work orders, top five identified faults, KW/equipment, tenant complaints/equipment.