• Michael Conway

Cx Issues Log - Is bigger really better?

There is a common misconception in the commissioning industry; the more commissioning issues on the log, the better the commissioning agent (CxA). Do the number of construction related commissioning issues truly quantify the quality of the CxA? I don't think so.

Early in my career, before moving to the into commissioning, I programmed control systems for a design-build mechanical contractor. During those 8 years, I worked on numerous projects, from small to large, simple to complex, and dealt with a lot of challenges, including commissioning agents... It became clear to me over the years that the commissioning agents who really benefitted the process, and helped me get my job done, were the ones who understood the challenges and spearheaded them BEFORE they became issues.

My early projects had a lot of issues on the log... Sure there were some programming issues, sure there were a few bad sensors, sure the graphics needed to be tweaked... every project has these issues, but the majority of the "issues" were due to a lack of project planning, coordination, and clear information, which became my problem.

Insanity had set in, the same issues were coming up on every project... As the years went on I got smarter, realizing I could use the CxA to bring me to coordination meetings with the design team, and ask for missing information related to owners requirements. A lightbulb clicked.

I moved on from construction to the commissioning world for two reasons; I couldn't sit on a bucket in an IDF room staring at a computer screen until 8PM anymore, and I wanted to create a positive impact on the construction and commissioning process. I felt that commissioning agents weren't doing their clients any good by pointing fingers at everyone except themselves when projects went sideways. How experience and expertise are delivered to a team is more important than the information itself.

So.... with experience on both sides of commissioning, common thoughts pass through my brain when I see a commissioning issues log that has 500+ documented issues at the end of construction. Here are a few:

1.) Why are 200+ of the issues related to Building Automation Systems (BAS) graphics? Did the specifications require a graphics submittal specific to the project? Could the graphics have been review and approved during construction submittal phase by the owner, CxA, and design team before the equipment was even installed? Why didn't this happen? Why didn't the CxA make this happen?

2.) Why is the commissioning agent wanting to change the approved sequences now? Didn't their firm have an opportunity to review the design and provide feedback to the A/E team? Why didn't this happen? Why didn't the CxA make this happen?

3.) Why are the other 200+ issues related to nuisance alarms generated by the BAS? Why wasn't a Points List developed identifying all required alarm timers and thresholds? Why wasn't this thought thru during design? Why didn't this happen? Why didn't the CxA make this happen?

Successful commissioning requires a team to execute a robust and detailed plan with common goals; which should be the owners project requirements. Implementation of that plan is the job of the CxA. Early project planning and coordination is the key to reducing the number of construction issues on a project.

So you tell me; commissioning agent A turns over the building A successfully after uncovering 1000 commissioning issues, and commissioning agent B turns over the building A successfully after uncovering 100 commissioning issues... Who's plan worked better?