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Commissioning is a systematic process of ensuring that all building systems perform interactively according to the contract documents, the design intent and the owner’s operational needs. This is achieved ideally by beginning in the pre-design phase with design intent development and documentation, and continuing through design, construction and the warranty period with actual verification through review, testing and documentation of performance. The commissioning process integrates and enhances the traditionally separate functions of design peer review, equipment startup, control system calibration, testing, adjusting and balancing, equipment documentation and facility staff training, and adds the activities of documented functional testing and verification.


Commissioning is occasionally confused with testing, adjusting and balancing. Testing, adjusting and balancing measures building air and water flows, but commissioning encompasses a much broader scope of work. Building commissioning typically involves four distinct “phases” in which specific tasks are performed by the various team members throughout the construction process. The four phases are pre-design, design, construction, and warranty. As part of the construction phase, commissioning involves functional testing to determine how well mechanical and electrical systems meet the operational goals established during the design process. Although commissioning can begin during the construction phase, owners receive the most cost-effective benefits when the process begins during the pre-design phase at the time the project team is assembled.A properly commissioned facility can result in fewer change orders during the construction process, fewer call-backs, long-term tenant satisfaction, lower energy bills, avoided equipment replacement costs, and an improved profit margin for building owners once the building is occupied. Commissioning also assures that the building’s operational staff is properly trained and that the operations and maintenance manuals are compiled correctly at project turn-over.
Commissioning can begin during pre-design, design, construction or building start-up. The process offers significantly greater and more cost effective benefits when it begins during pre-design or early design.
In much of projects building owners and their representatives repeatedly stressed that the lack of communication between the design team and construction team is a major problem. This lack of communication means that the original design intent of a project is unlikely to be carried through to project completion. (Documenting design intent—that is, the owner’s expectations for building performance—is a critical component of commissioning) Commissioning provides a means of linking the traditionally fragmented phases of the design and construction process, because it encourages the project team to view the process holistically. The commissioning process encourages parties to communicate and solve problems earlier in the construction process. Proper commissioning that begins during design can help identify and solve problems that later may turn into performance problems, occupant comfort complaints and decreased equipment life. Although commissioning works best when it begins during design, projects already under construction can still benefit from commissioning. Bringing a commissioning provider into a project during the construction phase can be invaluable in helping solve start-up problems that have stumped both designers and contractors. The commissioning provider can also document the start-up and functional testing results, thereby reducing future liability exposure for the designers and owners. The provider also oversees operation/maintenance staff members training, thus improving the operating procedures of the facility.