MIAQC Building Commissioning Guideline

Adopted by the MIAQC Board of Directors on November 15, 2005

Building Commissioning is a systematic process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of a building and its various systems meet the design intent and the functional and operational needs of the owners and occupants.

The Maine Indoor Air Quality Council recommends Commissioning in all new and existing buildings to protect the health and safety of building occupants.  Building Commissioning:

  • Ensures that each building occupant is provided with the proper amount of good quality air delivered on a consistent basis,
  • Ensures that thermal and moisture conditions of the interior air are not conducive to biological growth,
  • Ensures that the building is maintainable.
  • Ensures that the building systems are well documented and their operation understood by the owner and occupants.

While historically commissioning has been considered an integral part of every project, today this function is an area greatly neglected, due to many factors such as initial costs, resulting in poor air quality and inefficient system operation.

This document identifies those components of various forms of commissioning processes that are necessary to achieve these health and safety goals.

A. Other driving forces behind the need to properly commission buildings:

1.      ASHRAE 62.1 (adopted by Maine as part of their building code).

2.      LEED – Energy and Environmental: Prerequisite 1 for basic certification.

3.      State of Maine:

a.       Maine Governor’s Executive Order requiring LEED for all new, expanded, or renovated State buildings, which requires a minimum level of commissioning.

b.      Potential amendment by municipality to the State-adopted International Building Code.

4.      Maine Professional Engineers Code of Ethics

5.      ASHRAE 90.1

B)     References

1.      American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

2.      US Green Building Council (USGBC)

a.       Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

3.      National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB)

4.      Associated Air Balance Council (AABC)

5.      National Conference on Building Commissioning (NCBC)

6.      Building Commissioning Association  (BCA)

7.      Portland Energy Conservation, Inc. (PECI)

C)    Definitions:

1.      Commissioning (Full or Basic) – A systematic process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of a new building, or major renovation, and its various systems meets the design intent and the functional and operational needs of the owners and occupants

2.      Re-commissioning – A systematic process of commissioning an existing building, or major renovation, which has been commissioned before using the original commissioning documents and design intent. Modifications to the design intent may have to be made to tune the facility to suite new requirements of occupancy or use.

3.      Retro-commissioning – A systematic process of commissioning an existing building that has never been commissioned before. Requires reconstruction of the design intent and accounting for new requirements of occupancy or use.

D)    MIAQC commissioning recommendations:

1.      “Full” Commissioning of New Buildings:

a.       Define a Commissioning Team (CxT), of which a commissioning agent (preferably independent) would be a member and who would report directly to the owner.

b.      Define a clear and specific design intent for the facility.

c.       The CxT should develop and implement a commissioning plan that would include design review, site inspections, communication, start-up testing, functionality testing, performance testing, air and water systems Test, Adjust, and Balance (TAB) oversight, and training.

d.      NEBB, AABC, PECI, BCA, and ASHRAE are recommended organizations that can provide detailed commissioning procedures and forms.

2.      “Basic” Commissioning of New Buildings:

a.       Implement the above plan in D.1 except without the inclusion of a commissioning agent. Most construction specifications have enough written requirements, which, if followed, will result in a building being completed properly.

b.      Require that the Architect and Engineer incorporate commissioning type testing and verification into the specifications and that the General Contractor and subcontractors adhere to the specification requirement.

c.       Tie successful completion, report/test result submittals, and approvals to payment schedules to provide an incentive and accountability structure.

d.      Use only a NEBB or AABC certified TAB contractor who is hired by and reports directly to the owner. Have in place a performance guarantee, as outlined by the certifying agency, for the project. It is critical that the TAB firm performing the work without a commissioning agent oversight be competent. This contractor should provide the owner with independent quality control. Another option would be to hire a certified supervisor to oversee a non-certified contractor.

3.      Re-Commissioning of Existing Buildings:

a.       Recommissioning of a facility should be done every 5 years. This corresponds with the ASHRAE 62 required interval for measuring outdoor air flow.

b.      Engage a commissioning agent and any subcontractors required to perform a random 10% re-inspection and testing of all commissioned systems. If 10% of the tested systems fail to meet the original results within ±10%, re-commission fully all system(s).

c.       Major pieces of equipment (rooftop units) should always be recommissioned.

d.      Review logs of building complaints and maintenance logs and inspect particularly chronic areas. Review 5-years of energy consumption data, and maintenance and operations.

4.      Retro-Commissioning of Existing Buildings:

a.       This can be a difficult task at first since the facility was not commissioned originally and many documents are non-existent or missing. The original design intent, if not available, can usually be discerned and the details of the systems derived from there.

b.      Engage a commissioning agent to organize a CxT to commission the facility using as much of the original documentation as possible. Some reengineering may have to be done to correct deficiencies from the original design and construction.

c.       Some of the needed documents may have to be recreated in the commissioning process for use when recommissioning the facility in the future.

d.      Take into account possible change of use and operation from the original, and historical energy use data so as to tune the systems to fit the current occupant.

e.       TAB of the air and water systems will have to be performed in order to establish the baseline for a properly commissioned facility.

f.       Review logs of building complaints and maintenance logs and inspect particularly chronic areas. Review 5-years of energy consumption data, and maintenance and operations.