Monthly Archives: July 2015

What I’ve Learned from 20 Years of Providing Building Commissioning Services

customer experience predictions

My firm is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. When I started Horizon Engineering Associates, LLP (HEA) in 1995, I could clearly see that building commissioning was needed and had a future as a trusted construction process. It interested me because not only did it provide a building that is delivered exactly the way the owner wanted – it also provided a building that used energy efficiently, provided a healthier environment for end users and a clear pathway for timely and effective maintenance. Over the past 20 years, the biggest change is technology and sustainable development; as buildings need to change to address social needs. In the mid to late 90s, there wasn’t the high number of “people per square foot” in each building, computers were much larger and used a lot more power, building controls and management systems were just starting to incorporate the internet and wireless technology was still being developed. HEA likes to stay informed of the technological advances and sustainable products available so that we can properly commission new buildings and also provide up-to-date solutions for retro-fits. Today, we see an increased focus on retro-commissioning, as our current stock of buildings are aging and were not built to meet modern energy codes. For the future, I see increased activity with professional organizations creating and updating guidelines (incorporating energy efficiency processes) and increased legislature developed to allow States and Cities to be able to keep tabs and regulate building energy use.

Here’s a quick list of 20 things I’ve learned over the past 20 years:

  1. Systems are becoming more complex and the time frames to deliver a project have not changed. Having commissioning on a project helps to ensure timely turnover, as systems will perform better.
  2. Energy in some parts of US is getting cheaper. This, however, will not last and with the aging electrical grid and increased emissions, will drive the cost of electricity up. Making commissioning a viable solution to reduce energy.
  1. Once an independent third party commissions a building, attorneys typically stay away as everything will be working in accordance with the owner’s project requirements.
  1. Commissioning bridges the gap between design and construction and from construction to operations
  1. Commissioning is only as good as owner involvement and owner support.
  1. I have never seen a contractor call out his own deficiencies. That’s why third parties are a must!
  1. Nobody shows up to work and says “let me see how I can mess up on this project today”. Everyone is well intentioned a tries to perform to the best of their ability. Its just everyone has their own expectations on a project.
  2. Involve the commissioning provider as soon as possible. Its cheaper to fix things on paper then it does in the field
  3. Start viewing efficiency as a the fifth fuel.
  4. Hire a firm you trust. Make sure they are certified by the BCA.
  5. The value of the service pales in comparison to the cost of the service.
  6. Make sure the firm you hire is staying up-to-date on systems and technology they need to know about the systems in your building then you do.
  7. Teamwork is path to success on every project. There is not one project that I have ever seen that one person single-handedly built the entire project.
  8. Customized testing procedures are a must as every project has its own variations.
  9. It is the responsibility of the Cx provider to ensure operational understanding and provide that understanding to the end user.
  10. Third party commissioning agent provides the objectivity needed to successfully complete the project.
  11. Commissioning helps to drive the construction schedule by making sure the items that are needed for TCO actually work.
  12. USGBC and the LEED rating system have raised the bar in sustainable building design 20 years ago. Now it is time we raised the bar in providing more sophisticated buildings and materials for the world.
  13. Getting the O&M staff involved in the Cx process helps with overall success, they need to know what’s behind the walls and above the ceiling.
  14. Keep learning and keep striving to stay ahead of the curve in this ever changing innovative design process.

We are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to provide these services to countless buildings over the past 20 years. Here’s to our bright future and thank you for your support.

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