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Hire a CxA by Starting at the End – The Commissioning RFP


A great construction project starts with a complete and well written Request for Proposal (RFP). Every time I see construction projects go south, the cause can typically be traced back to an RFP which was assembled in haste, did not include sufficient information, and did not define the owner’s expectations.

An RFP is a document that solicits a bid and proposal from prospective consultants or contractors. The RFP defines the bidding requirements and describes the project scope for the potential contractor or consultant.

RFPs can be either open (anyone can bid) or closed (only sent to pre-qualified firms). An RFP is different from an RFQ or request for a quote. An RFP typically involves more than a request for the price. A proposal to an RFP should include basic corporate information, technical capability, project team resume’s and methods and approach. The benefit of an RFP over an RFQ is the RFP opens up the opportunity for the bidders to suggest adjustments to the deliverables or delivery methods based on their experience in the industry.

Writing an RFP is an arduous task. The author must be able to predict what their organization will expect from the contractor or consultant in the future. In most cases, the organization needs to know what they want before they know what they have.

An RFP, just like a contract, needs to be clear, curt, concise, comprehensive and correct. A well written RFP results in quality proposals that provides transparency and accountability to the deliverables expected by the owner. To do this the RFP must include answers to all of the bidders’ questions including:

  1. Who – Who is the point of contact. Who is the client. Who is working on this project

  2. What – What are the terms. What is the scope. What are the deliverables. What are the goals

  3. When – When is the proposal due. When are the deliverables due. When is the project complete.

  4. How – How many deliverables. How do you want me to complete the tasks.

  5. Why – Why is this project different. Why is there a need for my services.

Writing an RFP for commissioning is particularly difficult. The commissioning RFP should be issued early in the project schedule. It is counterintuitive that tasks required near the end of construction should be considered at the beginning, but for compliance with some State Building Codes, LEED, ASHRAE, and other building organizations the CxA must be onboard during the DD Phase at the latest. Still, it is recommended that the RFP be issued and the CxA be onboard during the Planning Phase for best results.

It is often difficult to plan for testing of equipment before a system is even designed, but the most successful projects begin with the end in mind. Additionally, the commissioning RFP should be written by the owner; however, most owners are not familiar with all of the State Building Codes and LEED commissioning requirements.

The Commissioning Agent (CxA), as an agent of the owner, needs to know directly from the owner’s stakeholders specifically what systems and equipment they want to test over and above typical requirements. At GMC Commissioning we recommend Calibrated CommissioningSM, a service where the owner’s CxA is hired through a quality RFP to create and manage the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) at the planning phase and provides commissioning services calibrated to the OPR.

Because of these issues we at GMC Commissioning have created an RFP template to assist owners and owner’s agents to start off their project on the right foot and hit the ground running. This template covers all phases of a design and construction project and includes all tasks typically required for commissioning agents by Code, LEED or Owners. You can find and download a free copy of this template on our Member’s Page by clicking on this linked image below:

-Alex Mathers P.E.


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