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Building projects begin with consideration of the purpose and operating intent of the facility or project. To manage a successful project, sufficient information must be gathered, and details defined and recorded, to inform and prepare the project team to implement the project requirements. This includes the usage, size, and location of the project along with intended functions and performance. This information guides the design and project documentation process to produce construction documents for new construction projects, the construction process stipulations including testing, verification, and commissioning, and ultimately the operation and maintenance of the project.
For new construction and major renovation/systems modification projects, the written document that is originated by the Owner and Owner's team, and ideally includes the CxP, is called the Owner's Project Requirements or OPR. It is created at project inception, and utilized and updated throughout the project as the primary guidance document.
ASHRAE Standard 202–2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, defines the OPR as "a document that details the requirements of a project and the expectations for how it will be used and operated, including project goals, measurable performance criteria, cost considerations, benchmarks, success criteria, training requirements, documentation requirements, and supporting information."
A CxP with experience in the building type can be instrumental in determining initial requirements and performance objectives. In organizations with in-house planning staffs, the commissioning program can be initially scoped at the same time that the Owner's team determines initial project performance requirements.
The OPR document needs to be available to the project team no later than the pre-design phase. Many other project documents evolve from the OPR, as described in this and other sections of this WBDG commissioning series.
There are several ways to develop the OPR, depending upon the Owner's procedures and project requirements.
The Owner or their staff, along with the CxP, may prepare the initial outline of the OPR for further development by the project and Cx teams. An initial project team defined by the Owner can conduct meetings, workshops, and studies as necessary. The proposed building's scope, requirements, schedules, and budgets are generated in this 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 Project Requirements (OPR) and risk management strategies for the activities and mission to be 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.
For institutional Owners with multi-building portfolios, a boilerplate OPR may be available that has been utilized on previous projects that could be updated for the specific project.
From an optimum commissioning process prospective, the CxP is brought on board at the start of the OPR process and participates in the meetings and OPR workshop development of the OPR with the Owner's team.
Depending upon the project requirements and the schedule for selecting and hiring the design team, the necessary elements of the design team could be involved in the OPR development workshops with the Owner's team and the CxP. This would ultimately facilitate the development of the Basis of Design by the design team.
The OPR: Document Content
The OPR defines the Owner's project goals, measurable performance criteria, cost considerations, benchmarks, success criteria, and supporting information for the project. The OPR is unique to each project.
The OPR must be composed with significant Owner and/or Owner's representative input and ultimate acceptance. The CxP typically facilitates the process for the Owner in identifying the facility's requirements regarding such issues as energy and water efficiency measures, environment and sustainability issues, specialty building systems, and operations and maintenance of the building.
An effective OPR development process incorporates input early from the design team, operations and maintenance staff and end users of the building, and is updated throughout the project with initial input and current updates (e.g., questionnaires, or group processes and/or workshops, etc.) Once the OPR is generated and accepted by the Owner, the succeeding documents can be created, revised, and evaluated against the OPR.
For new projects to be successful, programming documentation must summarize or include the OPR's general and specific critical requirements. The OPR is a summary of critical planning and programming provisions and Owner expectations that are updated by the project and 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.
The following subjects are included in the OPR document where appropriate to the project and Owner's needs; some items form the foundation for additional documentation as the project proceeds and additional requirements are determined:
- Facility objectives, size, location, user requirements, and Owner directives
- Environmental, sustainability, and energy and water efficiency goals and benchmarks along with facility certifications such as LEED®, Green Globes, Living Building Challenge, WELL, etc.
- Indoor environment requirements, including temperature, humidity, and ventilation
- Space use and occupancy and operations schedules
- Facility systems setpoints with allowable tolerances for operation
- Applicable codes and standards in addition to local building codes
- Community requirements including accessibility, aesthetics, health and hygiene
- Clearly defined Cx scope (summarized level of confidence required for each system's performance), requirements, documentation, and budgets
- Equipment, systems and assemblies requirements, expectations, integration, and warranty provisions
- Maintainability, access, and operational performance and constructability requirements
- Adaptability for future facility changes and expansion
- Installation evaluation and testing requirements
- Benchmarking requirements
- Quality requirements for materials and construction
- Acoustical, vibration, seismic, security, and communication system requirements
- Project documentation including Cx Progress Reports, Systems Manual requirements with submission and format requirements
- Training requirements for Owner's operations and maintenance (O&M) personnel, emergency response personnel, and occupants, including level of training required, qualifications of trainers, and documentation requirements.
- Project schedules including opposite season verification, and budgets
- Special project requirements
- The content, organization, and milestones of Basis of Design (BOD) development and submittals for the design and construction process
- The number, format, and scheduling of design and submittal reviews
- Sampling procedures, if permitted, for all reviews, evaluations, and testing
- Cx Progress and Final Report formats and distribution intervals
- Post warranty building and systems operation and ongoing commissioning requirements
The above list of programming documentation varies by project depending on scope, size, complexity, and budget. This information comes from many sources and must be carefully managed, verified, and documented. Many design and construction programs execute careful planning and programming that is embodied in master plans, building engineering reports, special studies, feasibility studies, and program design studies.
Determine Key Commissioning Goals and Objectives
All commissioning projects require detailed planning for project success. 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 the project outcome.
The CxP should involve all key project personnel in the planning of the project commissioning to ensure identification of the key program goals and objectives. Once they are identified, the Commissioning Plan must be produced by the commissioning team. Team makeup, key tasks, roles and responsibilities should be identified, and the commissioning schedule should be developed. Team communication protocols should be decided for the project and clearly communicated to the team. The Commissioning Plan, like the OPR or CFR, is a living document that will need to be updated throughout the project by the CxP.
Define Threats, Risks, and Consequences
To determine performance expectations and measures, the project team must have a clear understanding of key business objectives. The project Owner must guide the project team in establishing and documenting (in the OPR or CFR, as well as elsewhere) priorities by which project success will be measured. It is important for the Owner or qualified experts to define business and occupant risks, hazards, consequences, insurance requirements, and impacts that a system failure may have on the overall mission performance of a facility, so that the project team and CxP considers these defined priorities when reviewing and verifying integrated systems design and performance.
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, and the integrated aggregate systems, support key program goals and facility mission. For example, buildings with a high risk of airborne contamination must be designed for enhanced occupant health and hygiene 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 both systems and whole building-based planning, design, construction quality assurance, and commissioning testing and verification of the operating systems under various conditions.
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 pre-design or design phases as project performance requirements and design intent documentation evolves in a new facility project. This could include the building enclosure commissioning (BECx) process to help assure the building performance meets the requirements of the design.
Understand Needs of Special Building Types
Most building projects will have building systems, assemblies, or performance features that will benefit from commissioning.
The focus for building function and related 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. Some government and private sector facilities have special considerations 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, commissioned, and operated properly to achieve their projected energy and water savings, and building systems performance.
OPR Application Process Description
Commissioning is much more than a document, test, or event. It starts at project inception and project management and commissioning activities continue through facility operation. Each activity can involve a variety of participants and produces documents from plans and instructions to reports. Similar to the Owner's function, there needs to be one person or entity managing the commissioning process from beginning to end, and that is the CxP. This position has been called many things including agent, authority, and manager. The currently accepted industry term is "Commissioning Provider," abbreviated as "CxP." All the project participants need to understand the function of the CxP and their related function; those relationships are defined in the Cx Plan.
Documentation related to the commissioning process that should be in the commissioning requirements of the OPR includes:
- Owner's Project Requirements
- Basis of Design (generated by design team)
- Commissioning Plan
- Commissioning Specifications
- Design Review Reports
- Submittal Review Comments
- Field Observation and Testing Forms and Reports
- Functional and Performance Verification Plans, Forms and Reports
- Issues and Resolution Logs and Reports
- Systems Manual
- O&M Training Manual, Records and Reports
- Preliminary and Final Commissioning Reports
Additional documentation is often required for post-occupancy building operation and ongoing commissioning. These documents and their interrelationships are described further in Roles and Responsibilities in the Commissioning Process, Existing Building Commissioning, and Ongoing Commissioning of this commissioning series.
The facility commissioning process involves many entities in the design—construction—testing and verification—operation continuum for buildings and facilities in general. This process is a "team sport." It is important that each team member understands their function in the process and the functions of the other participants. The project teams and their relationships must be defined in the OPR and managed by the Owner or Owner's representative throughout the project. These requirements and relationships must be reviewed and updated on a regular basis and any updates communicated to the applicable team members.
The Owner is ultimately responsible for defining the project and managing the process. The OPR documents the project requirements and process, including the roles and responsibilities of the project team members and the commissioning team.
The project, systems, and equipment functional performance requirements and the testing criteria documented in the OPR ultimately determine the commissioning process, activities and documentation. The thoroughness of the documented project and process requirements will determine the ultimate success of the project and the teams. These requirements are outlined at the time of project inception and OPR development and are updated and managed throughout the project.
Current Facility Requirements (CFR) for Existing Building Commissioning
For existing buildings and direct equipment replacement, building and system performance is determined by the current and future needs of the building functions and occupants at the time of analysis. Existing building commissioning projects have similar needs. Commissioning requirements are determined in the building systems analysis and verification activities of existing systems in EBCx process and are ultimately based on the CFR application as described in Existing Building Commissioning.
The facility Owner, their staff, and building operations and occupants, ideally with the assistance of a CxP, need to analyze factors similar to the new construction projects and develop a CFR document to guide the field observation, investigation, and application of tune up and upgrade activities in the facility. The existing building commissioning (EBCx) process is described in Existing Building Commissioning.
See the Additional Commissioning Resources page for more information.