Commissioning (Cx)

commissioning is a quality assurance process

Commissioning is a systematic quality control and assurance process for buildings and facilities.   It is the process of planning, reviewing, verifying, and testing all of a building or facility systems and subsystems.  These systems include mechanical (HVAC), plumbing, electrical, fire/life safety, building envelopes, lighting, wastewater, controls and monitoring.  The goal of Commissioning is to achieve the owner's project requirements as intended by the building owner and as designed by the building architects and engineers. 


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.  HVAC 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.  

History

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 USS Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned 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

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

 

Retro-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.

Re-commissioning

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.