Commissioning (Cx) a building is like a person going to the
doctor for a checkup.
While buildings — like patients — may look fine on the
outside, their overall health cannot be determined without
measurements, tests and exams conducted by specialists
with the proper training and experience to analyze results and
recommend proper treatment plans.
Cx begins when a building is just an idea, a drawing or
schematic. It is a systematic process of verifying and
documenting that a facility and all of its systems and
assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated
and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements.
Ideally the commissioning process begins in predesign,
continues into the warranty period for a minimum of one
year after construction, and involves the proper preparation
of operations personnel. Unfortunately, most buildings have
never gone through any such a preventive medical exam, and
therefore perform well below their potential.
Retro-commissioning (RCx) is when a building undergoes
the Cx process after the building has been constructed but
performance has degraded. The building’s processes and
systems are tested and tuned to perform optimally. Low-cost
By Brian Lindstrom, PE, DCEP, and David Meyers, AIA, CxA, PMP, LEED AP
and no-cost improvements such small repairs and set-point
adjustments as well as energy conservation measures and
reliability enhancements are determined and implemented.
Cx and RCx focus on the ability of facility systems — HVAC,
electrical, controls, IT, baggage handling, building enclosure
and many others — to function the way they’re supposed to
according to the needs of the owner and occupants. These are
critical factors in the effective operation of a facility that affect
its energy consumption and operations and maintenance costs
as well as its overall environmental comfort for its occupants.
An owner may ask: Do my buildings need commissioning?
Among obvious factors that often lead to a resounding
yes: rising energy costs or a catastrophic failure, a visible
consequence of poor or no maintenance. But often the culprit is