Energy commissioning is a quality-based process that documents the efficiency of a facility and all of its systems and processes.
It essentially ensures that all systems are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and well maintained to work to the best of the their ability. By undertaking this process, it can be determined if a system is working as efficiently as intended. Commissioning also helps identify the most effective opportunities for both energy and cost savings. Through its use, facility managers can achieve reductions in energy and operating costs, while providing a more efficient building and comfortable environment for its occupants.
Why is commissioning needed? Many problems can arise in a building otherwise. Over time, indoor air quality issues can worsen, providing an uncomfortable environment for building occupants, and operating equipment can prematurely fail due to a lack of inspection. One of the most significant problems, however, is extreme energy and construction costs. Without an ongoing building assessment, outdated processes and equipment can cause building owners to lose a great deal of money. To avoid such issues, owners should consider commissioning a top priority.
Commissioning is most effective when introduced at the start of the design process. When a commissioning agent is immediately brought on to a project, all processes can be initially reviewed, including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing services (MEP), and operations and maintenance (O&M). With O&M designed and implemented early-on, long-term energy efficiency strategies can be included in the building design. Introducing commissioning at the beginning of a project is one of the most significant factors to ensure its long-lasting success.
Types of Commissioning
Three main types of commissioning are listed below:
- Commissioning relates to the initial commissioning process for new construction or existing buildings.
- Continuous Commissioning is an ongoing process that resolves problems and improves the quality and energy use of existing buildings. Tests are scheduled periodically to ensure that original standards are continuously met over time.
- Retrocommissioning is the systematic process of commissioning on a building that has had retrofits or other major changes from the system’s original designs. It is recommended throughout the lifespan of the building to ensure building systems are properly functioning to the best of their ability.
Systems Tested During Commissioning
During energy commissioning, the selected systems that are tested are dependent on the type as well as function of the building. Below is a list of common tests that are performed:
- Building Automation
- Building Envelope & Partitioning Systems
- Electrical and Power Systems
- Energy Management Systems
- Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Condition (HVAC) Units
- Industrial Process Systems
- Information Technology Systems
- Mechanical Systems
- Plumbing Systems
Benefits of Commissioning
Commissioning is so popular today because of the many incentives that it provides:
- Increases the Building’s Potential: Commissioning ensures that building owners achieve the best performance out of their systems by gaining a better understanding of the building’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEP). Commissioning maximizes the quality of a building in terms of energy use, health, and overall performance.
- Increases the Lifespan of Equipment: Systems are ensured to last longer if they are continuously assessed and maintained.
- Financial Savings: Most building inefficiencies waste not only energy but also billions of dollars worldwide. With energy commissioning, the United States could potentially save $30 billion dollars annually in energy costs by the year 2030¹.
- According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, owners can achieve saving of $4 over the first five years of operation as a direct result of every $1 invested in commissioning. Thus, owners not only save money on energy bills by reducing their energy use, but they also can receive a great return on investment.
- Reduced Energy Use and Cost: By ensuring systems work as efficiently as possible, both energy use and energy costs can be reduced over time.
- Occupant Comfort & Safety: Commissioning will identify problems that may affect occupants’ comfort, health, and safety. The process targets temperature, indoor air quality, and fire protection and safety systems.
Common Problems Found During Commissioning
Although energy commissioning is an extremely beneficial process, a few complications can occur:
- Leaky air distribution systems
- Oversized equipment
- Malfunctioning efficiency features
- Simultaneous heating and cooling
- Inefficient existing building performance
- Malfunctioning energy management controls and sensors
- AABC Commissioning Group
- Building Commissioning Association
- Building Commissioning for New Buildings
- Whole Building Design Guide: Building Commissioning
- Advantus Engineers
- AllFacilities Energy Group
- BDA Engineering (Mechanical System Engineering)
- CJL Engineering
- dck worldwide
- H.F. Lenz Company
- Horizon Engineering Associates
- LLI Engineering
- Loftus Engineers
- Tower Engineering
- Mills, E. Building commissioning: a golden opportunity for reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Energy Efficiency 4, 145–173 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12053-011-9116-8