The Commissioning Profession Through a Student’s Eyes – Letter from the BCCB President

Greetings fellow commissioning providers,

We take for granted what we already know and have experienced; the younger generations are eager to have those same experiences. The cool projects, the amazing buildings, the jaw-dropping stories—they want to be able to tell those stories from their own experience. I recently attended the New Construction (NCCx) and Existing Building (EBCx) commissioning courses taught by Craig Hawkins and Tracey Jumper in Vancouver, B.C. There was a total of 47 students, including myself, who furthered our commissioning skills and knowledge during these four days of training. What struck me most was the wide range of age and experience in the room. What made me really happy was the number of young, up-and-coming commissioning providers (CxPs) who saw the value of learning from the best and taking the BCxA’s Essential Attributes back into their careers. In the two 2-day courses, I was able to see commissioning through the eyes of students.

The younger generations are eager to learn and eager to bring the lessons learned from those with a bit of grey hair (Craig) to those who are their role models (Tracey) for shaping the future of commissioning. Commissioning is not taught in most universities which, for the most part, don’t provide classes on HVAC until graduate school. BCxA University and its peers/mentors are where newer entrants get their knowledge. We are their educators! This struck me—how important it is to have the fundamentals of what is taught in the BCxA’s courses, webinars and TechTalks, and how important it is to attain the credentials of a Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) or Associate Commissioning Professional (ACP), and become a Certified Commissioning Firm (CCF). With leaders who are qualified and adhering to the Essential Attributes, our industry will remain strong, competent and respected.

I have had the pleasure of being involved on the BCCB board for 18 months now. My first year was as Vice President and now I am President. I have witnessed steady growth in the number of CCPs. Now that the ACP program is up and running, there is a significant increase in ACPs, and in Requests For Proposals (RFPs) or Request For Qualifications (RFQs) that mandate holding the CCP credential. That bodes well for the BCxA and BCCB, our companies and our futures. One student asked me how long it would be, after graduating, before she could qualify to write the ACP exam and then the CCP exam. Those types of questions mean we are getting the proper message out there and that the future leaders of our profession are recognizing the importance of certification.

On behalf of the BCCB, we thank all of the current CCPs, ACPs and Certified Commissioning Firms (CCFs) for their continued renewal and support. We encourage you to continue your Continuing Education by attending training courses (i.e., NCCx and EBCx) and the BCxA’s National Conference. Encourage the younger commissioning providers in your businesses to strive to become an ACP and CCP. With continued support and growth, we will all ensure that our building owners get the buildings that they envisioned at the beginning of their projects. We are quite often the last people the owner interacts with on site; let’s keep our image strong and respected. That begins and ends with the people we are training.

Kevin Thurston, P. Eng., CEM, CCP, BCCB President

Thurston Engineering Services, CCF

How and Why CCP and CCF are Important to Owners

By John Gibbemeyer, BSME, PE, MBA, LEED AP Manager, Facilities Project Management and Construction George Mason University

Years ago, I found a memorable LinkedIn post from one of my university colleagues. The quote from Bob Sheeran, Vice President of Facilities at Xavier University, reads, “There is nothing more expensive than cheap engineering.” I believe that the same thing can certainly be said for commissioning services.

My sense is that most owners have found procuring commissioning services to be difficult. In the beginning, we struggled to bring commissioning providers on to the project early enough. The current focus of Owners is obtaining more consistency from their commissioning providers. I have lots of respect for the design engineers, commissioning providers, and contractors who are involved in commissioning. Most owners will agree that commissioning is VERY challenging, but that there is significant added value!

How can owners obtain more consistency from their commissioning providers, construct a building with the lowest life cycle cost, and meet the needs of its occupants?

Over the last 15 years, the commissioning industry has evolved rapidly. I’ve learned many important lessons along the way. Here are a few:

  1. The importance of checklists in insuring that systems are ready for functional testing.
  2. Timing in the commissioning effort is critical.
  3. OPRs (Owner’s Project Requirements), BODs (Bases of Design), and Commissioning Plans are necessary documents (not optional) that serve the projects as good management tools; they should be created and updated throughout the project.
  4. Systems Manuals are living breathing documents; the intent is for Facilities Managers to use their Systems Manual to become a standard operating procedure for the building HVAC systems throughout the life of the building.

In my experience, the importance of having a commissioning provider who has learned these same lessons and understands these issues cannot be overstated. There are many commissioning certifications available — seven by my last count and I‘m sure that I am missing some. All of them are very useful; but, my experience is that the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) from the Building Commissioning Certification Board stands out from the rest and is the most comprehensive certification on the market.

Obtaining the CCP demonstrates a commitment to the commissioning field and to excellence as commissioning provider. It is the most rigorous certification to earn and requires having led commissioning efforts on projects. It was also one of the first certifications and, in my opinion, continues to be the leader in the market. Most importantly, the certification requires agreeing to a strong code of ethics and BCxA Essential Attributes. In my opinion, ethics matter as much or more in the commissioning process as anywhere else. The ethics requirement aligns itself well with the Vision and Mission statement of the institutions that we represent as Owners.

Currently, cost is a heavily weighed factor in choosing a commission provider. I am hopeful Owners will consider additional aspects of the commissioning proposals in the future. I strongly believe that requiring a CCP, or a Certified Commissioning Firm (CCF), for your commissioning providers is the best way of insuring that you obtain a quality commissioning process, and a successful project outcome.