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  • Michael Conway

Continuous Commissioning Systems in New Construction

What is Continuous Commissioning, and why do I need it?

The terms “continuous”, “ongoing” and “monitoring-based” commissioning are synonymous. Although scope and level of features in each of these can vary, they all generally refer to a software solution which manages ongoing commissioning of buildings to maintain energy performance. The term Continuous Commissioning, as trademarked by Energy Systems Laboratory (ESL), is defined as “an ongoing process to resolve operating problems, improve comfort, and optimize energy use.” To explain what Continuous Commissioning really means, let me first explain retro-commissioning (RCx) and re-commissioning (ReCx).

Retro-commissioning is a process of commissioning a facility that was never commissioned during the original design and construction of the facility. Re-commissioning is exactly what it sounds like, repeating the commissioning process on a facility that was originally commissioned. The main difference between interval retro or re-commissioning is with Continuous Commissioning a permanent software system is typically used to collect facility energy and equipment data, and that data is used to assist the building’s facilities team with fault detection and diagnostics (FDD), advanced building analytics to refine optimization strategies, and automated ongoing commissioning procedures.

Generally, building energy use will drop after a re-commissioning or retro-commissioning effort, only to creep back up over time. Continuous commissioning systems reduce energy spikes and automate system performance continuously using historical and current building data to maintain energy performance. Continuous commissioning is like am automatic transmission in your car. The system automatically changes based on current conditions. Re-commissioning is like a stick shift where an owner must manually update settings for optimal results.

We believe Continuous commissioning systems are the future of the building Cx and energy industry. Sustainably focused cities around the United States, including Seattle, are mandating “building tune-ups” with goals of reducing existing building energy use in order to meet carbon footprint goals set forth in Climate Action Plans. In the 2008-2009 ASHRAE meeting, president William Harrison sited a study by ESL stating, “Energy use in buildings could be reduced by 10 to 40 percent by improving operation strategies. This reduction is energy was not so much the change in hardware or systems as it was the improvement in software and expert knowledge.” The USBGC LEED v4 rating system now includes “Monitoring-Based Commissioning” as a path to receive optional points in the Enhanced Commissioning Credit under New Construction Energy and Atmosphere . Leaders in sustainability and building energy performance understand the value a continuous commissioning system can bring to the life of a building, and software solutions are catching on.

It is tough to predict the future energy use of a building after 1, 5, 10, 20, even 50 years. What we do know is energy-water use traditionally increases, as do the costs of utilities themselves. The life-cycle cost benefit of these systems is attractive. Automating the process of building and equipment performance monitoring is like adding a full-time facility engineer to the buildings staff… a very smart one!

Ok, how do I get started?

Designing and implementing these system on new construction is the key. Continuous commissioning should be identified as an Owners Project Requirement (OPR) before the start of design. By defining this requirement early, the CxA and owners facilities team can develop a Continuous Commissioning Plan which will help detail the system requirements. This early planning helps the design team in specifying proper integration features for equipment, serves as a scoping document for the construction team, and explains how the system will integrate into the commissioning process.

This is not to say they can’t be installed is existing buildings. However, with old buildings come old equipment and controls systems. Integration of legacy controls systems is difficult and often results is poor communication performance, and decreased reliability of data. “Garbage in, Garbage out”. You need to be able to trust the data your getting, so that important decisions can be made. For existing facilities upfront due diligence and commissioning of the existing systems is essential to success.

Continuous commissioning systems are complex. They can include integration with building MEP systems, measurement and verification, base lining building energy consumption, control system protocol integration, fault detection and diagnostic settings, defining analytical algorithms for energy and water, specifying automated commissioning logic and parameters, energy dashboards, and reporting… WOAH!

The largest challenge is ensuring the project has a subject matter expert involved in the project early to define requirements and see them through completion. GMC Commissioning addresses this challenge and provides a value-added service of self-performing building commissioning, and design and implementation of the Continuous Commissioning Systems. Integrating these processes to the CxA’s scope consolidates the project team and enhances project delivery by increasing performance testing efficiency, expediting schedule, and reducing implementation cost.

Continuous commissioning is an integral part of our Calibrated Commissioning model. The end of construction signals the beginning of operation. GMC Commissioning provides a valuable focus on operation and is here to support optimal performance for the life of the building.

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