Getting a building commissioned involves getting certified professionals on the project as soon as possible to ensure systems are designed to function properly, efficiently and in a way to allow for working with other systems without issue or failure. Commissioning in general is most commonly related to new building construction, but recommissioning or retro-commissioning is used for existing buildings.
A large part of the commissioning process involves creating, completing and organizing many documents. Some of those documents are: the Commissioning Plan, Prefunctional Checklists (PFCs), Functional Performance Tests (FPTs), Issue Logs, System Manuals and the Final Commissioning Report along with the documents that result from the Design and Warranty Phases. Not to mention, the multiple reports that result from site visits, meetings and design reviews. Is all that documentation really necessary? The short answer…Yes. One reason is because it serves as a historic record to refer to when the systems begin to wear down and experience issues. It also goes a long way towards helping the commissioning process run more smoothly.
Here are some examples of how:
The commissioning plan is a living document that is updated throughout the project. It should be created during the predesign or design phase and shared with the project team. The purpose of the commissioning plan is to outline the scope of the commissioning activities, identify the commissioning team, clarify responsibilities and procedures, and share the commissioning schedule. Basically, it is the foundation for getting everyone on the same page in regards to commissioning the project.
Prefunctional Checklists (PFCs) document the equipment installation and start-up processes. Their purpose is to ensure the equipment meets the standards set forth in the owner’s project requirements (OPR) document. The PFCs serve to document observations and issues that occur during the install/startup stage. This could help during the investigation stage down the road if problems were to occur.. The PFCs are completed by the contractors and/or subcontractors who complete the checklists and turn them over to the commissioning agent for review and approval.
Functional Performance Tests
Functional Performance Tests (PFTs) are tests that are developed and used to test the functionality of the systems once the construction is complete. Where the prefunctional checklists are focused on the individual pieces of equipment, the functional tests are about the entire system and how the equipment works together. These tests are one of the most important steps of the entire commissioning process because this is when the owner and contractors find out if the project was successfully completed or not.
The mechanical system is put through rigorous testing by manipulating the controls to perform under various conditions. If an issue exists it will be found during this process. The airflows are also audited to ensure the amount of air designed to come out of the vents is, in fact, the correct amount. There are many other details involved with the FPTs but those two are the primary. The activities and system manipulations are completed by the contractor with the Commissioning Agent observing. The Functional Testing should never be completed without the Commissioning Agent in attendance.
The Commissioning Issue Log is a record of ongoing issues and concerns identified by the commissioning agent. It should contain the date the issue was found, the party responsible for corrections, the issuing agent and the resolution status. The issue log is another living document used during the project and is one that is shared with the contractors and owner. It is essential for making sure nothing ‘falls through the cracks.’ It is very easy to lose track of an issue that was identified at the beginning of construction so the Issue Log serves as a kind of tracker.
The Systems Manual provides all the information from the project that anyone unfamiliar with the project (future employees/owners) would need in order to understand and operate the building’s systems properly. It should be created in a digital form that can be updated during the life of the building. It should include O&M manuals, as built drawings, certifications, training documents, submittals and commissioning documentation. It should be made available before training begins and it should be integrated during the training process.
Final Commissioning Report
All commissioning documentation is combined into a Final Commissioning Report. That would include all site visit reports, meeting minutes, TAB report, checklists, tests and pictures. The report should also include a narrative that explains the system, issues identified, actions taken and any recommendations. The final commissioning report is given to the owner and contractor.
This serves as a ‘one stop shop’ for all commissioning documentation that was produced throughout the life of the project and prevents anyone from having to search through endless emails or files looking for a report. It also comes in very handy for future troubleshooting procedures.
Why You Should Have Your Commissioning Team Perform Your Documentation
A building owner may wonder why they shouldn’t just have the contractors organize and submit their own documentation, or maybe consider having their O&M department take care of assimilating and organizing it all. When you have your commissioning team complete your documentation, you will get unbiased and complete results. Consider this:
The commissioning team has a more ‘system wide’ perspective vs. a singular focus of one trade such as hvac or electrical. For example, a hvac contractor may not have a specific part available and substitutes it for an equivalent part (in their opinion) but they’re unaware of how that new part will now affect the energy efficiency or the maintainability of the system. Of course, there should be processes in place to prevent any changes from occurring without authorization but mistakes do happen and it is our job to identify them.
Any issues identified will be documented and tracked until they are resolved. Sometimes, as a contractor, when you notice you made a mistake on something and you fix it, that mistake/issue may not be documented – not because they’re trying to hide something but because they think it was minor so there’s no point or maybe they’re just so busy they forget.
The commissioning team understands the value and purpose of the documentation and will, therefore, manage it with the future in mind. It will be more detailed and complete.
If you are getting new construction work performed, commissioning is essential. Call 5D’s Inc for reliable service you can count on. We have extensive experience commissioning and troubleshooting complex systems, we will work with you and the construction team to deliver a high- performing building with all the appropriate documentation.