What is Commissioning?
Commissioning Defined-Commissioning (Cx) is a systematic quality oriented process that begins at project inception. Commissioning verifies that the design meets the needs and functions of the facility, verifies that the project performs as designed and intended, and prepares the customer to effectively and efficiently maintain the facility for its service life. The commissioning process includes specific tasks that must be done in a specific order. Following the commissioning process will assure a consistent approach for delivering completed construction projects that meet and exceed the needs of The University of Michigan.
Commissioning can add value and be applied to any type of project. Plant Engineering uses commissioning to facilitate quality built construction projects. These projects can range in size from the replacement of a small air-conditioning system to a complete $500 million hospital.
Who does Commissioning?
Plant Engineering is actively involved in project commissioning. Most Plant Engineers have attended the University of Wisconsin course on “The Commissioning Process for Delivering Quality Construction Projects” and are in the process or have already become Accredited Commissioning Process Authority Professionals (CxAP).
Plant Engineering works as a member of the Commissioning Team with Plant Extension’s F.E.C. (Facilities, Evaluation, and Commissioning Department) on large construction projects usually over $15 million and up to $500 million such as the new Children’s Hospital.
Plant Engineering works as a Commissioning Authority (CxA) and leads the commissioning effort for infrastructure, utility, and renovation projects typically under $15 million such as the new North Campus Chiller Plant or Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) replacement projects of rooftop A/C units and DDC (Direct Digital Controls for HVAC) upgrades.
Why do Commissioning?
To make sure you got what you asked for. To help project management and contractors determine when the project is completed.
The objective of our participation in Commissioning is to provide the Plant Operations viewpoint to the project no matter what role we play. The commissioning blanket is interwoven with our other activities in technical support and review. We work with the end in mind because Plant Operations will be the eventual custodian of the project.
During new project concept development, we provide information on facility condition and operation. Our relationship with maintenance staff, building managers and occupants allows us to help the process and define the intent of the project so that it is designed in the best interest of The University of Michigan.
During document design and review, we provide proactive technical support to the design process. Focusing on life cycle cost as a measure for evaluating alternatives, we help the project team define the design intent for systems. The resulting Design Intent Document records the project’s goals, goals that will be evaluated during later stages of commissioning. We place particular effort on heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which have historically had the greatest impact on environmental health, maintenance cost, and energy efficiency.
When Plant Engineering is the Commissioning Authority, we lead a detailed process that guides the evaluation of the installation and its performance in the context of the project Design Intent, and helps prepare the project for turnover to occupants and maintenance. The documentation of that evaluation is an important element of Commissioning.
In reality, every project is a prototype. We have never done the same thing twice and we never will. That is why we are committed to getting it built right the first time because there is no second chance.
How do we Commission a Project?
We do it one step at a time.
Plant Engineering is committed to making the commissioning process well defined and simple for everyone involved.
Documentation is the bottom line. During the project, commissioners keep up to date records of the progress, which helps the contractor focus on issues that need attention. In the end we have a compendium that explains how the project progressed, how decisions were made, and how systems performed. This information can be used by occupants and personnel to operate the building. The records will also be used to determine the success of the project.
Go with the Flow.
Plant Engineering developed a Construction Project Commissioning Flow Chart, which is attached to this document. This was done with the intent to provide clarity and alignment to team members in the commissioning process. Now someone can join the commissioning team at any stage and quickly integrate into the team’s activities.
Plant Engineering developed a Contractor’s Check Sheet. This was done with the intent to provide clarity to contractors as to what their job is as part of the commissioning team and exactly what they need to do. This one sheet alone has greatly improved the commissioning process.
During the construction process, Plant Engineers do the following:
We win some.
Success usually goes unnoticed. We do our job and review the design and make sure our comments are implemented to the completion of the project. It can take numerous phone calls, meetings and emails to get our point across. Most people have no idea what the impact of commissioning is until they realize how seamless the project was and how seldom there were warranty issues or call backs that needed to be addressed after the project is complete. Typically, projects can drag on for years and never get complete. Commissioning tends to speed the construction process along which also effects meeting the project budget.
We lose some.
Our intent is not to be able to tell someone they are wrong after an element of the project fails. Our intent is to evolve as a team and learn from the collective mistakes of each project.
We never give up.
Practice makes perfect (Maybe). We keep learning on every project and the process is getting clearer and more seamless as time goes on. We write our commissioning reports to record our lessons learned so we don’t make the same mistake twice.
Content modified: August 15, 2010