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:
- The importance of checklists in insuring that systems are ready for functional testing.
- Timing in the commissioning effort is critical.
- 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.
- 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.