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Building Commissioning and Retro-Commissioning

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Building commissioning (Cx) and retro-commissioning (RCx) are quickly gaining popularity among owners, especially higher education institutions. Both processes offer numerous benefits that include …

Building commissioning (Cx) and retro-commissioning (RCx) are quickly gaining popularity among owners, especially higher education institutions. Both processes offer numerous benefits that include energy reduction and cost savings. The University of Chicago's Cx and RCx efforts are highlighted within.

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  • 1. R e t a i n e d   E x e c u t i v e   S e a r c h  Construction Facilities Management Real Estate Engineering  Pi8sburgh www.helblingsearch.com 724.935.7500 Commissioning & Retro-Commissioning: Gaining Popularity Among Owners  by Sami L. BarryBuilding commissioning (Cx) is a Retro-Commissioning (RCx) is theproactive, systematic and quality- On average, the application of the commissioningassurance oriented process that process to existing buildings. It is a operating costs of aensures that building systems are method of researching, analyzing anddesigned, installed and tested commissioned building optimizing the performance ofthoroughly so that they operate and range from 8 - 20% existing building systems. RCxperform as intended and to the identifies low-cost operational andowner’s expectations and below that of a non- maintenance improvements so thatrequirements. It is a multi-disciplined commissioned building. owners can achieve the building’seffort that spans from pre-design original design and performanceplanning to post-construction intentions.operations and it involves owners, designers,construction managers and commissioning providers. But not every existing building is an ideal candidate for RCx. General characteristics of a building that canThis project management practice is being embraced by benefit from RCx are:both public and private organizations because of its ‣ Energy management systemimprovements to project delivery such as: ‣ No major renovations planned ‣ Reduced change orders ‣ History of efficiency investments ‣ Reduced warranty issues ‣ Available / updated building documentation ‣ Reduced contractor callbacks ‣ Operational and environmental comfort issues ‣ Formal review and integration of all project ‣ Mechanical equipment is less than 12 years old expectations during planning, design, and is in good condition construction and occupancy phases by inspection and performance testing. ‣ Energy intensive or higher than expected energy useBeyond project delivery, Cx offers numerous otherbenefits: ‣ Higher energy efficiency ‣ Enhancement of building quality ‣ Extended life of existing equipment ‣ Reduced operating and maintenance (O&M) costs ‣ Delivery of preventive and predictive maintenance plans ‣ Documented confirmation that building systems are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained in compliance with the owner’s project requirements.
  • 2. The benefits of RCx can be just as numerous as those Ray explains that RCx poses a different set of issuesfor Cx and among them are: than Cx. First, it is important to understand the baseline operating performance of your current systems. Most of ‣ Increased asset value the University’s facilities have building automation ‣ Reduced operational costs systems and the RCx team analyzes the information to ‣ Advanced building performance determine what changes can be made to optimize ‣ Average energy savings of 16% / year performance. Once that information is gathered, there ‣ Comprehensive building documentation are challenges that come from the end-users side. Understandably, end-users are accustomed to systems ‣ Improved indoor environmental quality (IEQ) operating in a certain way. When the systems are going ‣ Expanded O&M staff capabilities and expertise to be changed or updated, end-users need to be ‣ Enhanced systems operations beyond preventive informed why it is being done and the advantages of maintenance doing so which will assist in ensuring them that they will ‣ Improved equipment performance and extended not be adversely affected. The goal is to optimize the life of such equipment energy use while maintaining user comfort. ‣ Identification and solutions to building systems To accomplish its own RCx objectives, the University operations, control and maintenance problems performed a benchmark study on all campus buildings to identify which facilities are high-energy intensive fromCx and RCx initiatives will continue gaining popularity an end-user standpoint. They then ranked the facilitiesamong owners in the years to come as more from high to low and applied the 80/20 rule,organizations begin to realize the value that each offers determining that changing or updating 20% of atheir asset portfolios as well as their bottom lines. building will result in 80% of the savings. Now, from a  RCx standpoint, they brainstorm on how they can Case Study: optimize each building’s systems to reduce its energy University of Chicago use and to make it a high-performance asset. The team then sits down with the end-users and they discussThe University of Chicago recently launched a their ideas and gather feedback. Ray explains, “If weCommissioning (Cx) and Retro-Commissioning (RCx) start with 10 ideas, we may end up with 5 or 6 that weprogram and Mr. Sumit Ray (PE, CEM, LEED), Director of agree to try and implement those plans accordingly”. InEngineering and Utilities, is playing an instrumental role this effort, the University is teamed up with ComEdin these efforts. The initiatives are part of the (local utility company) and its Demand SideUniversity’s overall energy reduction plan entitled Management (DSM) program.15 x 15, which has the ultimate goal of reducingcampus-wide energy usage 15% by 2015. To mitigate challenges with initiating Cx and RCx programs, Ray recommends that universities educateIn speaking with Mr. Ray, one of the common challenges appropriate team members on the benefits of Cx andof Cx is involving a Cx manager during the early stages RCx because not all professionals are aware of theof capital projects. Because commissioning is best advantages of such plans, which is understandable. Heperformed and most effective when it begins during a explains, “We cannot expect everyone to be well-versedproject’s planning phase, the University has plans to in commissioning and to understand its benefits. Peoplesecure an individual for an internal Cx position who will have different types of knowledge and expertise andfocus exclusively on the University’s Cx and RCx they see things differently. But it makes a hugeinitiatives and reduce the University’s dependence upon difference when they are educated on the topics andoutside Cx firms. Having input during these initial they can see a building that has had commissioningplanning stages, the capital project team will improve its done and the impact it has made. By educating them onability to establish equipment requirements and system the Cx and RCx process, you help them to understand it,performance standards as well as to ensure that which encourages their participation and engagement inconstruction documents represent design intent and the process”.building systems are integrated properly. It will also To subscribe to Helbling’s quarterly e‐Newsle7er and Assignment Alerts, eliminate the gap that sometimes develops from the visit our home page at www.helblingsearch.com.time equipment and systems are installed and when Social Media:they are handed over to the O&M staff at the Blog:  blog.helblingsearch.comconclusion of the project. Twi7er:  @helblingsearch

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