- Balancing Security/Safety and Sustainability Objectives
- Facility Performance Evaluation (FPE)
- High-Performance HVAC
- Indoor Air Quality and Mold Prevention of the Building Envelope
- Measuring Performance of Sustainable Buildings
- Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)
- Sustainable O&M Practices
- Threat/Vulnerability Assessments and Risk Analysis
- UFC/ISC Security Design Criteria Overview and Comparison
- Value Engineering
Determine Project Performance Requirements
Last updated: 06-11-2012
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A proposed building's scope, schedule, and budget are developed in Pre-Design Stage programming documents. In this stage, the level of project and/or systems criticality must also be determined, based on an owner's requirements and risk management strategy for the activities and mission housed in a building. It is essential that the Pre-Design Stage programming documents also include Quality Assurance strategies and budgets to verify that delivered systems and assemblies meet performance expectations. The Commissioning Process involves a systematic means of verifying that the critical systems are installed, functioning, and maintained in optimal condition. In organizations with in-house planning staffs, the commissioning program is initially scoped at the same time that the owner's team determines initial project performance requirements. In organizations without an in-house planning staff, a commissioning provider with experience in the building type can be instrumental in determining initial requirements and performance objectives.
This WBDG page provides guidance and resources on determining commissioning needs and requirements.
Understand Needs of Special Building Types
The focus for commissioning varies based on the purpose of the building. Health care facilities are highly sensitive to temperature and relative humidity, as are museums, libraries, and archives. Laboratories require fume hoods to operate correctly, while data centers demand reliable power. Governmental facilities have special requirements for access control, internal security, and communication technology that are essential to their function. Sustainable buildings with highly energy efficient mechanical, lighting, and control systems must be designed, constructed, and operated properly to achieve their projected energy and water savings. Of course, some buildings must meet more than one of these requirements.
Virtually any building project will have building systems; assemblies or features that could benefit from commissioning. To date, commissioning has been used most often on the following building types:
- Call centers
- Classified sites
- Colleges and universities
- Co-location sites
- Command and control centers
- Data centers/computer rooms
- Health care facilities
- High rises
- Mail processing centers
- Munitions plants and storage
- Network operation centers
- Optic transport facilities
- Process manufacturing facilities
- Large retail facilities
- Storage and distribution centers
- Switch facilities
- Telecommunications and Microwave/radio tower facilities
- Trading floors
- Web-hosting telecom sites
- Zero/Low energy building
Determine Key Program Goals and Objectives
Commissioning of mission-critical facilities is often focused on ensuring high levels of reliability, power quality, maintainability, and flexibility—as well as other design objectives and building system attributes. Programming for commissioning requires going beyond the simple allocation of space, enclosure, finish, and equipment to examine business goals and facility mission as determinants of its programming goals and objectives. Design objectives and functional characteristics that need commissioning to verify building performance may include:
- 24x7 facility reliability
- Building pressurization control
- Energy efficiency goals
- Flexibility in audio visual systems
- Redundant and resilient HVAC systems for climate control
- Security / Safety
- Sophisticated detection and fire suppression systems
- Space and organizational process functionality
- Structured raceways for flexible cabling installations
Define Threats, Risks, and Consequences
In order to determine performance expectations and measures, the project team must have a clear understanding of overall key business objectives. The project owner must guide the project team in establishing priorities by which project success will be measured. It is important for the owner, or qualified experts to define business risks, occupant threats and risks, hazards, and consequences and impacts that a system failure may have on the overall mission performance of a facility.
Recognize Systems Criticality to Achieving Goals
System criticality, and the need for its performance verification through commissioning, is determined by examining how each system, assembly, or building feature supports key program goals and facility mission. For example, buildings with a high risk of airborne contamination must be designed for enhanced occupant safety measures. This may necessitate high-performance HVAC system design that provides constant airflow direction and pressure differentials between interior spaces—under all operating conditions. This type of building functionality can only be achieved through systems based planning, design, construction quality assurance, and testing and verification of the operating systems under various conditions.
The GSA Program Goals Matrix in Facilities Standards for Public Buildings, P-100 indicates critical Program-System relationships that must be addressed within Building Systems Programming Directives to designers
Another example is the need for Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) equipment in mission-critical facilities. Requirements for these buildings may be as stringent as 99.999 percent power reliability, which means just five minutes of unscheduled downtime per year. By comparison, typical utility reliability is 99 percent. Commissioning of mission-critical power systems, therefore, focuses on ensuring high levels of reliability as well as power quality. A power interruption of only 8.83 milliseconds can shut down or even damage computers.
Routine quality assurance is needed for all building components. Usually the decision to commission specific building systems is made during the Design Development phase of a project, but may also occur in concept design or Construction Documents as project performance requirements and Design Intent Documentation evolves.
Conduct Key Commissioning Programming Activities
Many design and construction programs execute careful planning and programming that is embodied and encompassed in Master Plans, Building Engineering Reports, Special Studies, Feasibility Studies, and Program Development Studies. Yet, some building programs execute planning and programming only minimally. For commissioning to be successful, programming documentation must summarize or include the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) that are both general and specific to critical requirements. The OPR is a summary of critical planning and programming requirements and owner expectations that is updated by the commissioning team as the project evolves. If program or mission elements change during the span of project delivery, the OPR should be updated to reflect changes in building performance requirements. ASHRAE Guideline 0 - 2005 (Annex J) provides a general format for developing an Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) which includes:
- Project schedule and budget
- Commissioning scope and budget
- Project documentation requirements (submissions and formats)
- Owner directives
- Restrictions and limitations
- User requirements
- Occupancy requirements and schedules
- Training requirements for owner's personnel
- Warranty requirements
- Benchmarking requirements
- Operations and Maintenance criteria
- Equipment and systems maintainability requirements
- Quality requirements for materials and construction
- Allowable tolerances for facility systems operations
- Energy efficiency goals
- Environmental and sustainability goals
- Community requirements
- Adaptability for future facility changes and expansion
- Systems integration requirements
- Health, hygiene, and indoor environmental requirements
- Acoustical requirements
- Vibration requirements
- Seismic requirements
- Accessibility requirements
- Security requirements
- Aesthetics requirements
- Constructability requirements
- Communications requirements
- Applicable codes and standards
Note: This is a general list of programming documentation that will vary by project depending on scope, size, complexity, and budget.
The Basis of Design (BOD) is a narrative and analytical documentation prepared by the design A-E along with design submissions to explain how the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) are met by the proposed design. It describes the technical approach used for systems selections, integration, and sequence of operations, focusing on design features critical to overall building performance. An OPR is developed for an owner/user audience while the BOD is typically developed in more technical terms.
Commissioning Specifications Requirements are developed to outline commissioned systems and equipment performance benchmarks, system integration details, submittal requirements for commissioned systems, initial construction contractor inspection procedures, tests, start-up, turnover procedures, owner training, and final documentation requirements.
Systems Manual Requirements—When determining commissioning requirements, it is also important to define documentation needs that will facilitate and support operation of commissioned systems. O&M Manuals are typically prepared by the construction contractor at the turn-over phase of a project, but are often inadequate to fully explain how a complex facility should be operated. ASHRAE GL-0 recommends that a "Systems Manual", containing commissioning and commissioning documentation be prepared for commissioned buildings. Systems Manuals should provide all the information needed to understand, operate, and maintain the systems and assemblies. The Systems Manual should be the repository of information on updates and corrections to systems and assemblies as they occur during the Occupancy and Operations Phase. A best practice is to develop a Systems Manual Outline simultaneous with selection, design, and specification of the commissioned systems.
Training Requirements—An important element in the commissioning process is ensuring that O&M personnel are properly trained in operation, care, adjustment, and required maintenance of commissioned systems and equipment. O&M personnel must be trained in the knowledge and skills needed to operate a facility in conformance with its design intent. Training needs must be addressed in the early planning stage to inform operating personnel about staffing budgets and hiring, qualifications, O&M contracts planning and procurement, construction contract training specification development and commissioning authority contract responsibilities.
Some owner groups are beginning to task commissioning authorities with operating facilities for up to one year after turn-over to conduct seasonal testing and systems optimization, allowing for an overlap in O&M contract start-up and training.
Increased Emphasis on Occupant Security/Security
In the post 9/11 environment, providing occupant safety to visitors and workers in public facilities has been a driving force to deliver and commission facilities with enhanced building safety measures. This trend is not expected to decrease, but will likely increase the standard of care necessary in the design and operation of all forms of public and corporate buildings.
Certification Programs and Standards
Building projects are increasingly requiring performance certifications such as LEED, Green Globes, Energy Star, OSHA, and others. The project team must discuss and decide on certification requirements in planning and design phases so that a commissioning for certifications can be included in the OPR and Commissioning Plans. USGBC has developed additional certification standards for Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Schools, Core and Shell, Health Care, Retail, Neighborhood Development, and Homes.
The benefits of Retro-Commissioning, Continuous Commissioning, and Systems Optimization are well documented in annual energy savings in studies conducted by many institutions, such as Texas A&M System Energy Systems Lab. Fewer studies are available to demonstrate the cost benefits of commissioning new construction. However, threats and risks to operational/business continuity, occupant safety, and health and systems degradation and inefficiency often warrant the added expense of utilizing the Commissioning Process.
Relevant Codes and Standards
- ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005: The Commissioning Process—The industry accepted model Commissioning Guide
- NIBS Guideline 3-2012 Building Enclosure Commissioning Process BECx, National Institute of Building Sciences, 2012.