Have you ever entered a meeting room that was colder than the rest of the office space, experienced low water pressure coming out of faucets, or seen water leaks inside a building? These issues clearly affect occupant comfort and impact your bottom line. How? Consider the hours and costs associated with maintaining deficient systems or replacing aging equipment. These problems could be mitigated or even prevented through commissioning.
According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Guideline – 0, “The Commissioning Process is a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project by achieving, validating, and documenting the performance of facility elements in meeting the objectives and criteria of the Owner. Commissioning extends through all phases of new construction or major renovation projects, from predesign to owner occupancy and operation, with tasks during each phase to ensure verification of design, construction, and operator training.” For more information on what the typical process contains, see Mike Amstadt’s article “Do You Really Know What Commissioning Is?”
Not only does commissioning have numerous benefits for new construction or renovation projects, but it can also bring tremendous value to existing and occupied buildings. As buildings age and occupants need change, the facilities maintenance staff is tasked with ongoing finetuning and managing multiple systems and equipment while looking for ways to improve the system efficiency and cut back on resource consumption.
Existing building commissioning can help clients improve the maintenance processes and reduce energy and operational costs. Much like scheduling a regular oil checkup for your car to avoid engine problems, existing facilities should be recommissioned regularly, every three to five years, to prevent new issues that may have arisen and stop energy costs from creeping up.
After working with the client to define the project objectives, the commissioning provider will review the facility’s documentation, perform functional tests and identify low-cost and no-cost changes and capital improvement opportunities. The recommended actions can bring the building up to the original design intentions and optimize the performance of the current usage. Typical improvements include:
- Automating HVAC systems schedules to better match occupant’s needs
- Adjusting outdoor (ventilation) air to match demand
- Eliminating simultaneous heating and cooling
- Reducing flow from oversized pumps
- Resetting supply air temperatures
- Enabling economizer controls
- Resetting static pressures and optimizing variable frequency drive operation
- Staging chillers properly
- Lowering condenser water setpoints
- Correcting lighting control operation
- Implementing night setback/setup temperatures along with morning warm-up and cool-down sequences
- Implementing occupancy-based zone ventilation
In addition, building owners and facilities maintenance teams can achieve even greater results with ongoing commissioning. This type of commissioning is a powerful tool to help facilities maintenance teams proactively manage buildings. The commissioning provider uses an automated remote testing platform that samples hundreds of building automation points and identifies real-time data trends.
Clients can tap into trend data and identify optimization opportunities to reduce overall utility and maintenance costs. These improvements are often dramatic, with average additional energy use savings between 5-9% on top of what one receives from standard existing building commissioning, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In addition, during ongoing commissioning, automated remote testing functionally proves the operation of 100% of the HVAC equipment and can be scheduled to occur during unoccupied hours.
Each form of commissioning brings value to new and existing facilities, but all commissioning has the same primary outcomes. The main goals are seeing the owner’s requirements are met, improving occupant comfort, and optimizing systems to generate utility savings. There is a direct correlation between the emphasis put on commissioning activities and the money saved due to the energy and operation savings that can be more than 10% annually.