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We hear a lot about commissioning (Cx) and retro-commissioning (RCx) these days, but what do we really know about it, and what standards do we use to ensure that it is done correctly? ASHRAE’s answer to that question is the 2013 edition of ASHRAE Standard 202: Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems. Its purpose is to ensure the proper procedures, protocols, and documentation are used in the completion of all building and systems commissioning. It identifies the minimum acceptable commissioning process that must be used.
The standard was developed by taking best practices from ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005, The Commissioning Process, which was first published in 1989 and then revised in 1996. The current Guideline 0-2005 was compiled by ASHRAE and the National Institute of Building Sciences to provide the guidelines for a universal commissioning process.
Standard 202 is designed to benefit the building industry by ensuring that all participants follow the owner’s process for verifying and documenting that the performance of buildings and systems meets defined criteria. The standard was officially approved by ASHRAE at its June 2013 meeting.
This article will discuss the basics of Standard 202-2013, but more importantly provide several examples from recent RCx projects that show that commissioning really is needed.
In summary, the standard describes the commissioning process, the role of the commissioning authority (CxA), and a framework for developing the owner’s project requirements (OPR), basis of design (BOD), commissioning plan, specifications, procedures, documentation, and reports. This standard also describes the general requirements for a training program for continued successful system and equipment performance. It addresses the need for a document with more detail and content than was previously available.
Whereas Guideline 0-2005 provided suggestions and guides through the Cx process, Standard 202 details the mandatory requirements of Cx that can be used and adopted by code officials. The new standard restates the same information contained in Guideline 0-2005 and also provides the minimum requirements for the owner and the Cx team. It details the mandatory role for the owner in defining requirements and developing the OPR. The main points are:
1. Purpose: The purpose is to identify the minimum acceptable commissioning process for buildings and systems.
2. Scope: This standard provides procedures, methods, and documentation requirements for each activity for project delivery from predesign through occupancy and operation, including:
|Initiate Cx process||Roles and responsibilities|
|Decide project requirements||Owner's project requirements|
|Develop Cx plan||Cx process plan|
|Design approach to requirements||Basis of design|
|Set contractor Cx requirements||Cx specifications|
|Review design to requirements||Design review report|
|Review submittals||Submittal review report|
|Observe and test||Construction checklists and reports|
|Resolve issues||Issues and resolution log|
|Assemble systems manual||Systems manual|
|Conduct training||Training plans and records|
|Post-occupancy operation||End-of-warranty Cx report|
|Assemble Cx report||Cx report|
4. Initiation of the commissioning process: The standard delineates the owner’s responsibilities including CxA selection and development of the OPR, and also lists the overall Cx requirements.
5. OPR: The standard states that the OPR should be developed by the owner and the CxA during the pre-design phase, and list all of the systems to be commissioned. At a minimum, the OPR should contain the following:
OPR should be included in contract documents for informational purposes, and be updated regularly throughout the Cx process to reflect any changes necessitated by the owner.
6. Commissioning plan: This provides the organizational plan and requisite documentation including:
7. BOD: The BOD lists the design team’s approach to meeting the OPR, and provides the owner with a better understanding of the design issues. The BOD is submitted by the design team to both the owner and the CxA and should contain:
9. Design review: The CxA shall perform a review of the design documents to ensure that they comply with the OPR before construction documents are issued. A copy of this review shall be included in the final commissioning report. The CxA shall provide a design review report with comments, questions, and observations to the owner and design teams for compliance with the OPR. This design review is not design peer or code review.
10. Commissioning submittal review: The Cx team shall perform a review of the requisite submittal documents for all systems being commissioned, to ensure that they comply with the OPR. The CxA shall submit a written report to the owner and design authority. A copy of this review shall be included in the final commissioning report.
11. Construction observation and testing: The proper installation, operation, and systems interaction shall be tested and verified for all equipment listed in the Cx plan. This step in the process shall consist of:
12. Issues and resolution documentation: The Cx team shall develop a formal issues and resolution log, and document any open or continuing item from the Cx progress reports. The log will list all continuing items along with the person/organization responsible for their resolution. The log will be maintained throughout the project until all issues are resolved, or accepted by the owner.
13. Systems manual: This shall provide the information needed to understand, operate, and maintain the building’s systems. It is provided to the owner for training purposes, and should contain the following:
14. Training plan: O&M personnel and occupants shall be trained in the operation and maintenance of the commissioned systems. The training plan should contain:
15. Post-occupancy operation: The post-occupancy activities begin at substantial completion and include any delayed or seasonal testing not yet completed. Also, any warranty issues should be dealt with at this time. The owner or general contractor is responsible for contractor call-backs. At the conclusion of the post-occupancy operations, the systems manual, testing documentation, and final Cx report shall be submitted to the owner.
16. Commissioning report: The final Cx report shall summarize the Cx process and building operations, and be submitted to the owner. It shall contain the Cx plan and results of that plan. An executive summary will identify all systems commissioned and the location of the final OPR and BOD documents and project record drawings. It should also contain the following:
Cx in the real world
As important as the Cx process is, in reality it is often not completed thoroughly, if at all. The examples in this article reveal projects in which one or more of the critical commissioning process steps were not completed properly—or were omitted entirely. The consequences of these omissions became apparent in the forms of high energy use, poor system operations, and occupant comfort complaints.
The four examples cited are indicative of what we find almost everywhere, and clearly indicate the need for more complete and rigorous commissioning. The new ASHRAE Standard 202 provides an excellent and straightforward manual from which to complete the commissioning process.
Terrence Malloy is project manager for the energy solutions group at exp US Services Inc. He focuses on energy conservation, retro-commissioning, and renewable energy systems.
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