Commissioning Design-Build Projects


To complete a successful design-build project, companies must enforce communication, plan out a clearly-defined scope of work and hire an experienced contractor. That’s why commissioning has become a key ingredient in the mix, ensuring that buildings are delivered according to the owner’s project requirements.

Commissioning is defined as “the process of ensuring that systems are designed, installed, functionally tested and capable of being operated and maintained to perform in conformity with the design intent,” according to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Atlanta, and The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), Washington, D.C., guidelines.

But, for design-build firms such as ESI Group, Hartland, Wis., commissioning (Cx) requirements go beyond the start-up and documentation.

“ESI strives to validate that the building design meets the owner’s expectations, that the building is constructed to meet the design documents and that the systems operate to maximize comfort and energy efficiency,” says Michael Kopp, senior mechanical engineer for ESI Design Services, Inc., Hartland, Wis.

And, Cx doesn’t just apply to LEED-certified buildings, or those looking for a more sustainable approach.

quick facts

Commissioning benefits owners through improved energy efficiency, enriched workplace performance due to higher quality environments and prevention of business losses, as outlined in NIBS’ Whole Building Design Guide.

“Commissioning is a value-added resource in which our clients can expect to benefit in areas such as first cost, safety, comfort, reliability, energy use, staff acceptance and knowledge of the building systems,” Kopp adds. “Commissioning integrates into your design and construction process and aligns with designers, engineers, installers, equipment providers and the owner’s building stake holders, whom will become part of the Cx team.”

On the other hand, Cx does reveal some common deficiencies like differential pressure, air filtration, balance issues and graphics. Sometimes specified control strategies are not followed, and third-party equipment, alarms and safeties fail to communicate with building automation systems. There are also times when occupancy sensors are not calibrated, which affects lighting control, HVAC setbacks and operating times.

At the end of the day though, Cx assists in the delivery of a project that provides an efficient, safe and healthy facility, according to NIBS’ Whole Building Design Guide. Cx optimizes energy use, reduces operating costs, ensures adequate O&M staff orientation and training and improves installed building systems documentation.

“If you’re taking your facility to the next level through a design-build project, take it a step further through commissioning and verify your facility is operating as the design intended,” says Kopp. ­


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