Spotlight on 10-Year CCP: Bryan Welsh

Bryan Welsh didn’t set out to be a commissioning provider. In fact, he didn’t know he was commissioning buildings back in the day, because the term wasn’t yet in circulation. As a mechanical engineer, he spent his early career years as the Director of Maintenance Operations for a Seattle area school district. When projects came online he found they rarely worked as planned. Brand new buildings weren’t performing and often consumed twice the energy as expected.

My training for building systems came from the responsibility to take care of them. A mechanical engineering education gave me tools, but they don’t teach systems…it was important to get familiar with all types of building systems at the school district.

Being Bryan, he went to school to learn how building control systems work and how to use them for trending. He met with the district’s design team to review building performance, worked with them to develop a plan for quality assurance improvement and, in the process, reduced energy consumption well beyond the goal.

When BCxA Founder, Pete Keithly, started his commissioning business in 1990, Bryan was working on a master’s degree in business administration. He decided to join Pete and they worked together for six years – at first out of Pete’s basement – until Bryan struck out on his own in 1996. Over the years, Bryan built a well-trained commissioning team which was formalized as Welsh Commissioning Group in 2005.

Early on, Bryan joined the BCxA where he was among the members who wanted to formulate a quality credentialing process. At the time, commissioning was not viewed as a discrete profession, and the group believed that a legitimate certification would be a valid measuring stick to judge an individual’s – and a company’s – ability to provide good commissioning services. Bryan saw certification as a need, and volunteered to participate in its development.

As a result, Bryan became chair of the committee that developed the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) credential. The committee took a rigorous approach to the process in order to define, design and build the program and eligibility requirements. They polled BCxA members and NCBC attendees to understand what a credentialing program should look like and what would be important to them for the certification process and goals for achievement.

It was a learning exercise for all of us on the committee. We figured out what it should look like, laid out program requirements, and created test writing committees. I insisted that we all formally apply for the exam, then cross-reviewed the applications, and took the test. It was a chicken or egg thing – how to get CCPs on the review board while showing people we didn’t grandfather ourselves in.

A lot of discussion – including both agreement and criticism – ensued. It was agreed at the beginning that the test should not include technical questions, but instead should focus on certifying for a process that applies equally across building systems. Some of the steps were investigative, others procedural:

  • How much and what kind of education should be necessary?
  • How much experience to qualify?
  • What should be included in CCP testing?
  • How high to set an achievable bar?
  • Should the CCP committee function in a testing role? A review role?
  • How would committee members avoid a conflict of interest?

The committee hired a consulting firm to help guide them through the defensible and logical steps for developing a certification program. There were several accreditation vehicles available; ultimately they designed the program in general accordance with International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements in preparation to apply for accreditation at a later time. In order to ensure transparency and avoid a conflict of interest, the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB) was established as an independent nonprofit entity with its own Board of Directors.

Bryan believes the CCP credential shows that individuals are serious about their commissioning career. “Any credential that’s targeted toward what you do commands respect – it’s recognized as an achievement. For commissioning providers, the CCP is like having a PE behind your name. From the beginning it’s been a good credential on resumes and qualifications.”

The CCP, he says, is a requirement on some RFPs. He, and others, were able to get the military to include certification requirements in their solicitations. In fact, one of his best Post Occupancy Review sessions was for the military. “I didn’t think there would be a person with feedback and project ownership, but they were totally into talking about how things worked, and solving communication protocol issues.”

According to Bryan, the main challenges to certification come from the industry itself. “There’s a fair amount of agreement about what constitutes commissioning,” he says, “but now there is confusion – too many organizations and certifications are confusing clients. There needs to be more CCP brand recognition as a premier certification…we need to help people understand it’s the best product, and why.”

Words for New Entrants to Commissioning

On hiring: “It’s not always easy to get candidates to understand what they’ll be doing – we spend a long time in the interview process. It’s really difficult for them to get a grasp of it without spending time doing it. They need a good education in sciences, physics and math. They must find buildings and systems interesting. They need to be able to work with diverse people and skill sets, not just as a good engineer; often they must put on a counselor hat. They must have knowledge of systems. I look for candidates who are fastidious, curious, forensic, collaborative [and] logical. I look for people who have those basic ideas and personal traits; we can teach them about air handlers, but we can’t teach them how to treat other people.”

Advice to newcomers: Bryan encourages his employees to earn the CCP because it’s a rigorous and valuable certification. He advises newcomers:

  • Evaluate whether you fit those basic traits and look for a company where you can use them; you can go to class to learn the technical parts.
  • Job-shadow someone.
  • Attend an NCBC Conference.

On the commissioning process: Bryan clearly defines the role he and his company play. “We are facilitators. We are there to facilitate delivery starting with the OPR and ending with post-occupancy review at 10 months. We like to stop in to see how the building is doing, see how we might improve the Cx process, or learn if a particular system was or wasn’t a good idea. We like to gather lessons learned and how to make it better before the warranty runs out.”

“My view of the commissioning profession is to verify that all parties along the way have done their job, including the owner, design team and contractor,” he says. “The process is there to make sure people have done the right thing and not skipped anything. We work hard to get everyone to take it seriously.”

And that, Bryan, is a serious commitment. Thank you.

by Diana Bjørnskov, Senior Program Manager