When it comes to commissioning a commercial building, we’ve heard all the reasons for delay. It’s going to cost too much… We don’t have the time… We can patch things together for now… We’ve been given the run-around before and don’t know which provider to trust… While we certainly appreciate these concerns, the benefits of commissioning, retrocommissioning, and recommissioning are clear and undeniable. By addressing some common worries, we will hopefully encourage owners, managers, and operators to take a major step forward toward saving money, creating or maintaining an efficient building, increasing property value, and providing a healthy and comfortable environment for all.
Commissioning, Retrocommissioning, and Recommissioning: What’s the Difference?
Simply put, commissioning ensures that a new building’s operating systems – mechanical, electrical, and plumbing – are efficiently functioning according to optimal design and that personnel using these systems are properly trained and equipped with maintenance strategies. Commissioning creates a foundation for reduced energy consumption and healthy indoor air quality, among other benefits. Retrocommissioning is a similar process utilized for existing buildings that were never initially commissioned. Once a building has been commissioned or retrocommissioned, periodic evaluations that focus on verifying, recalibrating, or fine tuning operating systems are recommended – recommissioning. A comprehensive commissioning or retrocommissioning program should ideally include a plan for recommissioning. Commissioning of any type is a low risk, high reward undertaking.
A Short-Term Cost that Delivers Long-Term Gains
When considering the cost of commissioning, it’s important to look at things from the right perspective. Yes, there is an initial outlay of money, but an expertly crafted commissioning program will pay for itself and start generating savings far sooner than you might think. A host of benefits will even kick in immediately.
Those reluctant to initiate commissioning often argue that it will be cheaper to make do with operating systems as they are. However, experts typically estimate that it is 8-20% more expensive to operate a building that hasn’t been commissioned. In addition to higher than necessary energy and other costs generated by operating inefficient systems, repeated or unexpected repairs can wreak havoc with budgets and throw building personnel and occupants into disarray. Equipment not operating according to design will also have a shorter lifespan, meaning replacements will need to be bought more frequently.
Beyond generating energy and related savings, commissioning can pay off immediately in another important way that should be factored into any consideration of cost. Within a well-maintained, well-ventilated, and mold-free working environment, employees won’t face the assorted illnesses associated with Sick Building Syndrome and will be less likely to pass contagions around. In short, a healthy building means a healthy staff and fewer sick days. Productivity can be impacted, too. Who, for example, can work as well when uncomfortably too hot or too cold? Or when lighting controls are malfunctioning? The list of distractions caused by inefficient operating systems is indeed a long one.
Do You Really Need to Spend Money on Recommissioning?
Cost concerns can be particularly pressing when a building has already been commissioned. Why go back in and spend money all over again to recommission? Stakeholders can wonder, “Didn’t we already do that?”
The fact is that the operating profile of even the most expertly commissioned new building will change to some degree once it is occupied. Body heat, equipment running, doors opening and closing, kitchens in use – all of these things have an impact. Once a building settles into regular use in roughly six months to a year, recommissioning can verify that operating systems are functioning efficiently and, when needed, can highlight the need for recalibration or fine tuning to ensure that systems more closely match the demands of a building in full operation.
As years pass, the importance of recommissioning increases. Remodeling might have been done, building usage may have changed, equipment has aged, new operating staff members have come on board, and technology has undoubtedly advanced. All of this has an effect, and recommissioning ensures that maximum savings and other benefits will continue unabated.
When the Team is Stretched Thin and Available Time is Limited, Duct Tape Isn’t the Solution
When building personnel tell us that “we don’t have time for commissioning,” we understand. Maintenance people, in particular, are pulled in dozens of different directions every day. But, much like monetary investments, time investments in commissioning, retrocommissioning, or recommissioning will more than pay off down the line.
Consider the demands on maintenance staff when badly maintained or failing operating systems regularly go awry. How many times are team members called down to help Sally with the thermostat or Roger with the latest water leak? Time spent on calls like these can stack up quickly. Personnel can also struggle to address problems (and sometimes even make them worse) when they haven’t received adequate or up-to-date training.
Well-trained maintenance team members operating efficient systems will look like superstars, not failed MacGyvers trying to patch things together with duct tape and hope. Their top performance reflects well not only on them but also on building owners and management.
With good preparation and an expert provider leading the way, any type of commissioning process can proceed quickly and smoothly with minimal disruption to busy building personnel – and all involved can feel satisfied that their time was well spent.
The Importance of Finding the Right Commissioning Provider
The key to a successful and minimally disruptive commissioning, retrocommissioning, or recommissioning process is an experienced provider with a proven track record who can customize a program and guide you through its implementation every step of the way. Cautionary tales of “smoke and mirrors” are far too common, and building stakeholders are right to be wary. One way to ensure that providers have a powerful incentive to deliver on promises is to link payment to savings, with savings in a given month translating into that month’s payment to the provider. Also look at references and case studies, and make sure your provider has successfully commissioned buildings like yours in the past.
If your provider doesn’t come in organized from the get-go, think twice about your decision. Expect to be asked for material including copies of mechanical, electrical, and building controls drawings, a test and balance report if one is available, any previous commissioning reports, details about system manufacturers, a list of equipment quantities, and past energy bills. You will get a more accurate quote by providing this information, and a request for it is an early indication that your provider is on the right track.
A Building You Can Be Proud Of
No owner, manager, or operator wants a sub-par building that is unnecessarily expensive to operate and that frustrates or even harms those within it. Whether the answer is commissioning, retrocommissioning, or recommissioning, the benefits of a building operating at peak performance will make your investment of time and money well worthwhile.
Want to generate savings and improve the quality of your building’s indoor environment? Explore EMG’s Commissioning Services or contact EMG Senior Program Manager Richard Compton at 407-687-8947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.