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Define: Commissioning

Posted in Blog on Monday, November 7th, 2011 at 7:03 pm No Comments
Define: Commissioning

Building commissioning is relatively new in south Florida, and every project I find myself explaining at least once just what the heck I was hired to do. My stock phrase is that commissioning is “quality control for the construction process”. True enough but it doesn’t really tell the contractors what I’m going to expect of them. Commissioning is still in that artisanal phase where each provider has his or her own take on the practice. We aren’t a commodity. We don’t “scale”.

I’m thankful therefore to see efforts in the industry to define commissioning. Today I learned of a new one: DOE’s Commercial Building Initiative. They are gathering together different providers and trying to define services such as “Energy Modeler” and “Commissioning / Retro-Commissioning Authority”. This dovetails with efforts I’ve seen from organizations such as ICC and (of course) ASHRAE.

The “Job / Task Analysis” written for commissioning is open now for public comment. It captures the commissioning services provided by The Spinnaker Group pretty well, though the document appears implicitly limited to HVAC, as if they spoke only to mechanical providers. A Cx agent is expected to know psychrometrics but not the skills necessary to commission a photovoltaic system or gas-fired hot water heater. This is a good first step but the description will probably have to grow to encompass PV and “squishier” subjects like envelope commissioning.

Check out the job description. I’m happy to see a government document give me permission to “apply assertiveness”, “read flowcharts” and “stoop kneel or crouch”. Just don’t ask me to calibrate a sensor, and “caring / compassion” is only offered Tuesdays through Fridays.

Steve Samenski, PE, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP