• Alex Mathers

Innovating Commissioning with Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

Updated: Jun 29

Innovating Commissioning with Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

The new construction commissioning process has not evolved much since its inception around 30 years ago. While commissioning is now standard practice for many projects, in many ways it’s tied to construction, where adoption of new technology is slow. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, technology in the construction industry has been growing at ~1% a year, compared to other industries like manufacturing which has seen 3.6% growth year-over-year. Things often get done the way they always have, because “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it”. Well unfortunately, it is broken… Limitations in supply chain and labor shortages are making it hard for design and construction professionals to deliver in fast-paced and technically challenging environments. With building owners wanting higher quality for cheaper and faster than ever, how can the commissioning industry maximize technology and contribute to much needed innovation in the construction industry? We believe data is the answer.

Leveraging Your Data

Data is everywhere. Data has become one of the most valuable assets in the modern world. But the value of data is relative to its use, and commercial building data is highly under-utilized.

Take for example a simple piece of data, like a space temperature sensor in your office. If this sensor didn’t tell the HVAC system to heat or cool to maintain a setpoint, it would have almost no value. It would just be an ugly box on the wall. But what if that data could be further analyzed to provide more value? What if we could analyze that data to know how warm or cool that room gets over time? Based on that data, what if we could predict what the temperature in that room will be tomorrow, and optimize the HVAC system operation to reduce energy consumption while maintaining optimal comfort? What if we could scale this level of data analysis to the entire building? What if we could:

  • Evaluate thousands of data points to find issues with equipment operation

  • Provide diagnostic data on how to fix these issues

  • Implement Machine Learning for building wide system interoperability and optimization, and

  • Enable Artificial Intelligence to automatically test and report on building systems to maintain peak efficiency

Well, with SkySpark Analytics, we can.

Calibrated Commissioning™

Combining traditional building commissioning processes with advanced data analytics is a true game changer for the future of the construction, commissioning, and facility operation industries. Our Calibrated Commissioning™ approach creates value by harnessing the untapped potential of your building’s data. Using SkySpark, we can integrate data from nearly any building system, including the Building Management System, Lighting System, Fire Alarm System, Electrical, and Metering Systems, allowing us to analyze and optimize data beyond the capability of traditional controls systems:

Below are some examples of how we’re using SkySpark Analytics to support construction, commissioning, and ongoing facility operation:

1. Controls Contractor Oversight: One of the key players in supporting a successful building commissioning effort is the Controls Contractor. Tracking progress of their installation and pre-testing can be a challenge, with much of the work happening behind the scenes. Historically this lack of transparency has resulted in commissioning agents being called onsite multiple times to test systems which are not actually complete, costing everyone time and money. SkySpark provides the project team with a secure remote access connection to the BMS network, where we can track the progress of network device communications, third-party system integration, point mapping, and graphics completion. Additionally, SkySpark’s data historian can trend data without the need for controls contractor support, enabling our commissioning team to prove systems are functional, with real data, prior to scheduling onsite activities.

2. Automated Functional Testing: SkySpark’s network communication provides read and write capability to the BMS, enabling the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze and command points based on predefined testing scripts. Our “Commissioning Robots” are programmed to analyze and automatically test repetitive systems like HVAC terminal units 24-hours a day. This technology eliminates “sample testing” of equipment, optimizes testing efficiency within tight construction schedules, reduces testing cost, and keeps our Commissioning Agents focused on the highest value items.

3. Fault Detection & Diagnostics (FDD): Used in conjunction with automated functional testing, fault detection and diagnostic (FDD) algorithms continuously analyze historical data to find issues with building system operation and provide specific diagnostics for resolution. This allows us to prove stable operation over time, not just at a single point in time. During construction, FDD and the associated trend data also provide contractors and engineers with valuable data to assist with commissioning issue resolution and facility optimization.

4. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Custom KPI’s measure performance vs. targets to ensure the building owner gets what they paid for. Visual dashboarding assists facility operators in tracking building- or portfolio-wide metrics like occupancy comfort, energy use, building occupancy, and indoor air quality.

5. Energy Analysis and Prediction: Importing data from the Building Energy Model, we can compare actual energy use vs. energy model or code baseline. Going even further, we can use machine learning tools like linear regression analysis to predict future building energy use based on actual data and anticipated weather conditions. The output of this data can be leveraged for optimization strategies like demand response load shed, where building occupancy schedules and temperature setpoints can be adjusted to reduce peak energy demands and proactively manage load on HVAC systems.

6. Ongoing Commissioning: Developing SkySpark during the new construction commissioning process pays further dividends when the buildings keys are handed to the facilities team. The investment made in automated AI testing, FDD, KPIs, and Energy Dashboarding becomes the foundation for a turnkey Ongoing Commissioning system, providing the facilities team with the most advanced technology available to maintain peak comfort, safety, and efficiency for the life of the building.

The Bottom Line

This innovative approach to commissioning has a significant cost benefit. Implementing Fault Detection and Diagnostic systems have proven to reduce overall building operating expenses (OpEx) by ~15% per year. Automating functional testing of terminal unit HVAC systems reduces testing cost by ~30% and schedule duration by ~75%, while maintaining 100% testing of equipment.

Alongside other forward-thinking commissioning and energy providers, we are challenging the status-quo and driving innovation in the industry. With these tools, and our team’s experience, the sky is the limit. Get in touch today to discuss how our Calibrated Commissioning™ can take your project to the next level.


The Slow Revolution - Five Technology Trends In Construction 2020 (forbes.com)

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