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Trust, but Test


The Russian proverb, “Trust, but Verify,” made popular by Ronald Regan in the ‘80s combines two business principles; caveat emptor and due diligence.

Caveat Emptor is the principle of the buyer alone being responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made; simply, buyer beware!

Due diligence is the investigation that a reasonable person is expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party. Due diligence is asking qualifying questions and receiving quantitative and verifiable answers.

Commissioning builds confidence

through quality assurance

Commissioning is all about trust through testing. Trust is made by placing high belief and conviction in what information or object that another person presents to you. However, even trusting a well-intended person can lead to disappointment. Everything is subject to human error, changes, and misinterpretations. We should always err on the side of caution and make decisions based on multiple reliable sources.

Commissioning as a quality assurance process for the construction industry takes the trust, but verify approach. As agents of the owner we must understand what the owner wants in terms of quality and ensure that is what is delivered as a final product. Owners are buyers, and they need to beware of the quality they will receive.

Commissioning Agents start with a level of trust. We trust that all parties involved in the project are focused and intentioned to do one thing; plan, design and build what the owner wants to the quality they expect. There is an undefined, but well understood “industry standard” which provides the minimum quality to trust our partners in the project. Any owners’ requirements above that level give better insights into the level of quality to anticipate and the amount of trust to apply.

Building design, construction and operation is unlike any other industry. The products we create are one of a kind. There are no prototypes. Every design is from scratch, each construction project is distinct, and all facilities operate differently. Buildings are large, complex, and forever defined by the relatively transient projects that created them.

This large and quick project style makes trust required, not optional. It would be impossible for any CxA to plan, document, review, test, diagnose, fix and re-test every aspect of a project. Therefore, focused reviews and sampling (sample testing) and a good sampling strategy is important to any commissioning plan. Random sampling, stratified sampling, and cluster sampling all provide efficient methods of verification. Failure rates above normal usually indicate an overlying issue and result in a recommend full system test.

CxA’s trust engineers and contractors and verify the quality of work performed though reviews (design drawings, specifications, submittals, RFIs) and testing (pre-functional, functional and integrated systems testing). This review and testing is our due diligence on behalf of the buyer so they can beware of issues before move-in.

We always assume all project team members are acting in good faith. Our activities are not an assumption of fault, but a supposition of risk. It is always important to check, verify and test, even if you’re taking somebody’s word for it.

Testing creates trust,

and trust establishes confidence

One of the best results of commissioning is the result of confidence. Confidence that the building or facility will operate as intended, especially during unplanned events. Testing creates trust, and trust establishes confidence. Owners, facility engineers and operators all benefit from this trust and confidence which is why we, as agents of the owner, focus our efforts on trust, testing and turnover.


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© 2020 by GMC Commissioning, Inc.