Answers to common questions
What does Cx stand for?
Cx is the industry recognized abbreviation for Commissioning.
What sets you apart?
We offer a true 3rd party commissioning service. We only perform commissioning, that means we have no ties with Design or Construction Team Members. No conflicts of interest.
We utilize CxAlloy which is a web-based program for housing all of our test sheets and issues logs - this makes communication amongst Team Members more efficient.
We have a broad experience background.
We are very proactive in our approach and prefer to utilize a technical commissioning approach.
What is technical commissioning?
There are basically two different approaches to delivering the commissioning services. One is a technical approach and the other is a process approach. While all of the same services and deliverables are provided, there are a few key differences which occur during the construction phase of the project. These differences are in who performs the "boots-on-the-ground" work of filling out prefunctional checklists and performs functional performance testing.
A technical approach is where the commissioning provider's staff are the ones who perform on-site commissioning activities, i.e., prefunctional checklists and functional testing. This approach has commissioning staff filling out prefunctional checklists and typically (2) commissioning staff members performing the functional performance testing.
A process approach is where the Commissioning Provider provides the check sheets and test forms and relies on the installing Contractor(s) to verify compliance and fill the prefunctional forms out. The Commissioning Agent would then spot-check the completed check sheets after the Contractor(s) have filled them out. This spot checking can range from 1-100%. The Contractors would also participate in functional testing at the direction of the Commissioning Provider who directs and documents testing results.
Why should I commission my building/project?
Commissioning can provide the following benefits:
Reduced construction cost
Reduced energy usage (typ. 8-20% more efficient)
Fewer occupant complaints
Longer equipment life
Reduced liability for the Owner
These are just a few benefits, but don't just take our word for it. Click the following links for more benefits.
Why monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx)?
Do you know if the mechanical systems in your building are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing at the times when they are supposed to be doing it? Do you know how much money it costs when an air handling unit schedule gets over-ridden and forgotten? Do you have someone watching your building 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, looking at every piece of equipment, every control input and output and ensuring they are operating properly to ensure energy and cost efficiency? In most cases the answer to these questions is “No.”
The building automation system trending is a powerful tool; however, it is limited by storage space. Typically using the building automation system, operational data on equipment can be captured and trended to provide the equivalent of a snapshot of how that equipment was operating during that period. Often the use of trending is a solution for a short-term problem for a single piece of equipment or zone in a building and the trending data is not looked at or analyzed again until the next issue.
What if all that operational data produced by the building automation system could be captured and continuously analyzed in real time? It would be the equivalent of turning that snapshot into a full-length feature film. This level of monitoring would allow the ability to watch how all the equipment in a facility operates together over days, weeks, or even years and would help to uncover operational deficiencies that have gone unnoticed and provide insight on areas that could be improved. How can this be achieved? Through implementing a monitoring-based commissioning process.
Read more about MBCx in our blog post here.
What is the purpose of re-commissioning my building?
Over the course of normal usage of a building, several things can drift out of calibration or optimal operation which will increase energy usage and reduce occupant comfort. Some of these things could be items such as:
Sensors can drift out of calibration (temperature, humidity, CO2, etc.)
Actuators can slip on damper shafts
Belts can break or stretch if not regularly serviced
Actuators can fail
Schedules and setpoints can get inadvertently overridden and forgotten
Space usage changes can mean original sequences are no longer applicable
Airflow measuring stations can become fouled and inaccurate
Bearings fail if not serviced regularly
Coils can become fouled if not cleaned and filters changed regularly
Re-commissioning your building can identify these issues and more and bring efficiency and performance back in-line.
What should I look for in a Commissioning Provider?
This is a good question, and a little complicated to answer. This is because each building/project/Owner is different, but here are some guidelines:
Look for a Commissioning Provider (CxP) who:
Understands that each project is unique and has its own challenges. The commissioning approach needs to be customized to each individual project.
Visits the job-site on a regular basis and is proactively involved in the project. We do not believe in showing up on the job-site at the end of the project and expect to commission it in one pass.
Is independent from systems design/engineering. In what we have seen, when individuals try to fulfill multiple roles of Design Engineer and Commissioning Provider, one or the other will eventually have to be put on hold while working on projects. Yes, the argument can be made that this makes the CxP well-versed in current design and codes practices. However, commissioning your project can be time-intensive and require flexibility in scheduling and should not be expected to be placed on hold while waiting for your CxP to show up. Also, reviewing and commissioning multiple projects and designs from multiple design firms allows a CxP to stay equally up-to-date on current design and codes practices.
Has strong communication and documentation standards.
Provides a technical commissioning approach: ok, we’re a little biased on this one! We feel strongly that the technical approach provides significantly more value than the process-approach to commissioning. See the FAQ above on “What is technical commissioning?” (For more details on WHY we feel so strongly about technical commissioning see the next FAQ.) With that being said, each project is unique and there may be certain situations or Clients who prefer the process approach over the technical approach.
Hold accreditations, certifications and/or degrees for commissioning.
Has an understanding of how a building functions as a whole. It is important to understand how one system can affect the next or how changing one variable can affect things down the line.
What benefits does the technical process have when commissioning?
Utilizing the technical commissioning process has multiple advantages over the process approach. While the same basic services are performed there are some key differences which provide advantages.
Some of these advantages are:
A fresh set of eyes looking things over during the construction process.
Can have less of a negative impact on the overall project schedule. By having the Commissioning Providers (CxP) staff performing field work such as filling out prefunctional checklists and performing functional performance testing, the CxP can be more proactive and engaged in the project. By taking this burden off Contractors, they can focus on their work rather than filling out a bunch of paperwork. IF there are issues identified, they can be brought to light sooner in the project which saves time and money!
Can increase communication between the CxP and Contractors.
Typically, the CxP has more of a global understanding of how equipment and systems interact and operate within the building. This knowledge is vital when performing site observations and verifying installations.
While it does require more time by the Commissioning Provider to be on-site, it reduces time requirements for multiple Contractors (Sheetmetal, Plumbing/piping, Electrical, General).
These are some of the advantages off the top of my head.
When should I get my Commissioning Agent on-board for my project?
Ideally the Commissioning Agent should be under contract and involved during the beginning stages of schematic design. In doing so the Commissioning Agent can help develop the Owners Project Requirements (OPR) and Basis of Design (BOD) documents which the Design Team will utilize when designing the building. However, we realize that this doesn’t always happen, so we will default to our usual “as soon as possible!” answer. The earlier the Commissioning Agent is involved in the project, the more effective they can be and the more value they can bring to the project.
Here are some rough guidelines for certain circumstances:
LEED certified projects – the Commissioning Agent needs to be under contract and involved at the 50% CD phase at the very latest. Otherwise not having the Commissioning Agent involved to perform document reviews during that stage could jeopardize the LEED certification.
MN B3 projects – this is very similar to LEED projects; however, they don’t list the 50% timeline. The Commissioning Agent does need to provide (2) document reviews which typically occur at the 50% and 99% CD document phases. We would recommend the 50% CD phase as a deadline date for getting commissioning involved.
Non-certified projects – again the sooner the better. Commissioning can be brought onto these projects at any point during design or construction really. Just keep in mind that certain milestones for commissioning activities may pass and the efficiency of the commissioning process in general may suffer.
What certifications and training do you have?
Our staff are certified through the following organizations:
Building Commissioning Association as a Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP)
NEBB Building Systems Commissioning (BSC) Certified
University of Wisconsin-Madison certifications for Building Enclosure Process Provider (BECxP), Accredited Commissioning Authority + Building Enclosure (CxA+BE), and Qualified Commissioning Process Provider (QCxP)
What are some of the code requirements of commissioning?
There are several codes, organization, and certification requirements that call out for commissioning. Here are links to these sites for Minnesota and North Dakota projects.
2015 IECC (ND State Building Code references this. Chapter 4, section C408)