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What is the cost to commission a healthcare facility?

In my recent posts, I have outlined some of the benefits of commissioning your healthcare facility: the commissioning process helps to protect patients, to reduce risk, and to conform to code requirements. What I haven’t specifically outlined yet is the fact that a well-functioning building will save you serious time and money.

Don’t just take my word for it, shown below is an estimated cost for commercial building commissioning according to a 2009 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on over 640 buildings representing 99 million ft2 of floor space across 26 states.

“The median normalized cost to deliver commissioning was $0.30/ft2 for existing buildings and $1.16/ft2 for new construction (or 0.4% of the overall construction cost). Over 10,000 specific deficiencies were identified across the half of our sample for which data were available. Correcting these problems resulted in 16% median whole-building energy savings in existing buildings and 13% in new construction, with payback times of 1.1 years and 4.2 years, respectively.”

The preceding paragraph provides a reasonable guideline for establishing project budgets or spot-checking commissioning costs. However, there are situations under which the preceding rules simply will not hold resulting in commissioning costs that are significantly higher. Thus, the amounts above should be used with caution and used as a general ball-park when budgeting.

Some items that can affect the cost of commissioning a project include:

  • Duration of Construction: Is this a multi-year multi-phase project?

  • Project Meeting Requirements: Does this project have unusual meeting attendance requirements?

  • Site Inspection and Testing Requirements: Are there any unusual systems in the design that will require more site inspections than normal?

  • System Complexity: Are there multiple systems that interact with each other? This is highly likely in a healthcare setting and will drive the cost of commissioning towards the upper end of the spectrum.

  • Will sampling strategies be utilized?

  • Which systems will be commissioned?

  • LEED Requirements: Is this project looking for LEED certification?

Though having a building commissioned is an expensive upfront cost– it more than pays for itself in terms of energy savings, longer equipment life, and fewer labor hours spent troubleshooting problems. By hiring a knowledgeable independent Commissioning Team, the value provided to the project can far exceed the fee sought via:

  • A third-party resource that provides independence and unbiased findings directly to the Owner.

  • Does not get trapped into defending the design or installation without seeing the bigger picture.

  • Provides testing, commissioning and maintenance suggestions during the design phase.

  • Reviews testing plans, equipment selections and interfaces between systems to minimize gaps between design and construction parties.

  • Implements post occupancy operational and seasonal (summer and winter) building tuning (to ensure system performance) during the post-handover phase.

We find that it helps to view the building costs over the life of the building rather than focus on up-front costs. It’s the same concept as value engineering (VE) a project in the beginning phases to get the construction budget lower. Many times, Owners will go through the VE process only to regret these short-term decisions over the life of the building. Don’t let the up-front cost of commissioning lead to regrets in how the building performs over the life of your facility.

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