Commissioning (Cx)

commissioning is a quality assurance process

Cx (Medium).jpg

Commissioning is a Process, not a Point


Commissioning is the systematic quality assurance process of proactively verifying facility equipment and systems meet owner requirements, Building Code mandates, and certification prerequisites.  This process is performed through review, documentation, feedback and acceptance at all phases of a project.  

The commissioning process is a framework for a quality management system.  This formalized system focuses on fulfilling and delivering the requirements of project stakeholders by translating expectations into documented and tangible results.

Commissioning is not just functional testing. Testing and inspections alone do not improve nor guarantee quality. Starting with inspection is too late. You can not inspect quality into a project.  Quality and commissioning starts in the planning phase. Integrating the process of commissioning early into construction projects delivery is critical to ensure quality for owners and occupants. 

A properly executed commissioning process clearly expresses the Owner’s Project Requirements, often leading to fewer change orders and system deficiencies, fewer corrective actions implemented while contractors are on-site, improved planning and coordination, reduced energy consumption during building operation, and overall lower operating costs.

Selecting the commissioning provider represents one of the most important commissioning decisions that a building owner makes.  Commissioning requires a team approach.  The leader of the commissioning team is the Commissioning Provider (CxP) also known as the Commissioning Authority (CxA).  A Commissioning Agent (also CxA) is a representative of the CxP.  

How does Commissioning Help Me?

Quality begins with intent and ends with delivery. Poor quality affects cost, reliability, efficiency, and reputations. Out-of-sight defects and errors are hidden liabilities. Under performing systems critically impact business continuity.

Reduction in operating costs, enhanced energy efficiency, improved occupant safety, comfort and health, and increased maintainability are only a few of the proven benefits of commissioning. It has been well documented that owners save $4 as a direct result of every $1 invested in commissioning.  Building commissioning provides tangible and quantifiable benefits to building developers/owners, occupants, construction and design teams.

US Department of Energy research has proven that commissioned buildings use up to 25% less energy than similar un-commissioned buildings*. Properly functioning equipment lasts longer, has less downtime, and improves indoor environmental quality resulting in increased occupant well-being and productivity.

*DoE Advanced Energy Retrofit 

Save your time, save your money, get what you expect, get quality.


Building commissioning is rooted in the military shipbuilding industry.  This tradition is some three centuries old, observed by navies around the world.  The act of placing a ship "in commission" marked her entry into active US Navy service. When the commissioning pennant is broken at the masthead, a ship becomes a Navy command in her own right. Once in commission, the commanding officer and crew are entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of maintaining their ship’s readiness in peace, and of conducting successful operations at sea in time of war.


The Zumwalt-class ship is the most advanced naval vessel

Ship building, similar to facility building, is expensive, labor intensive, complex and a one time event.  It therefore requires careful quality control to ensure the end product meets the intended purpose.  Ship commissioning is known as the act of placing a ship in active service but many quality control milestones were completed and considered before it was ready to be designated a commissioned ship. The engineering plant, weapon and electronic systems, galley, and multitudinous other equipment required to transform the new hull into an operating and habitable warship are installed and tested.


The prospective commanding officer, ship's officers, the petty officers, and seamen who will form the crew report for training and intensive familiarization with their new ship.  Prior to commissioning, the new ship undergoes sea trials to identify any deficiencies needing correction. The preparation and readiness time between christening-launching and commissioning may be as much as three years for a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

The concept of commissioning began to be applied as a building construction quality assurance process during the environmental and energy crisis of the 1970s and 1980s as an energy saving measure.  The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have advanced the commissioning industry through standards, guidelines and certifications.

As buildings and facilities become more complex, systems' scope increases and energy use continues to be a major factor in ownership the need for more sophisticated quality assurance measures has increased. Building commissioning helps fulfill this need by ensuring that the building systems are installed, tested, and are operating as designed.  Just like officers and crew of military ships, building owners and facility engineers need the assurance the building will operate as intended and require the training and turnover for successful operation of the building as it is "in commission".

Guidelines & Standards

Building commissioning is performed in accordance with the following industry guidelines and standards:

  • ASHRAE Guideline 0 - The Commissioning Process

  • ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 202 - Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems

  • AABC ACG Commissioning Guideline

  • BCxA New Construction Building Commissioning Best Practices

  • NEBB Standard S110

  • ICC 1000 Standard

These documents form the framework, provide the process and prescribe the best practices of modern whole building commissioning.  



Retrocommissioning is the application of the commissioning process to existing buildings. Retrocommissioning is a process that seeks to improve how building equipment and systems function together. Depending on the age of the building, retrocommissioning can often resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, or address problems that have developed throughout the building's life. In all, retrocommissioning improves a building's operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures to enhance overall building performance.


Recommissioning is another type of commissioning that occurs when a building that has already been commissioned undergoes another commissioning process. The decision to recommission may be triggered by a change in building use or ownership, the onset of operational problems, or some other need. Ideally, a plan for recommissioning is established as part of a new building's original commissioning process or an existing building's retrocommissioning process.