ASHRAE and BCA: You get what you measure!

By Nick Baker, E.I.T. CCP, GPCP, LEED AP BD+C

This article is part of Wood Harbinger’s newsletter series.

In the world of mechanical/HVAC engineering, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the go-to source for technical information and industry standards. Say, for example, you are looking for ventilation rates for an office building or medical facility, you would first turn to the governing code and, chances are, it will quote or refer you to an ASHRAE standard.

ASHRAE Standard 202-2013

ASHRAE also includes standards for commissioning of mechanical and HVAC systems. By ASHRAE’s definition, “The commissioning process is a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project.” Until recently, commissioning was covered under Guidelines 0 and 1.1. In 2013, ASHRAE published Standard 202-2013, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems. As with other ASHRAE standards, Standard 202 will likely be adopted by code officials as the minimum requirements for commissioning programs, both nationally and internationally.

Building Commissioning Association Best Practice

The Building Commissioning Association (BCA) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of commissioning services. They develop commissioning best practices guides and provide education for commissioning professionals. They offer one of the more rigorous commissioning certifications, the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP), and also the Certified Commissioning Firm (CCF). Currently, the BCA has published best practice documentation for both new construction and existing building commissioning. Per the BCA, “The basic purpose of commissioning is to provide documented confirmation that building systems function in compliance with criteria set forth in the Project Documents to satisfy the Owner’s operational needs.”

ASHRAE and the BCA agree on what the commissioning process is in general and, from the pre-design phase through the end of the design phase, they are in almost exact agreement on the services and deliverables that should be rendered by the commissioning provider.

So what is the difference?

The ASHRAE and BCA documentation differs most in the construction and occupancy phases of the commissioning process. It is here that the gap in service between “minimum requirements” and “best practice” is made apparent. ASHRAE Standard 202 outlines the minimum commissioning requirements, and does not claim to cover more. In contrast, the BCA aims to be the industry’s best practice, and by our account here at Wood Harbinger, it is.

The table below illustrates the differences in service between the minimum requirements and the ideal parameters of the construction phase commissioning process:

Construction Phase Cx Service Provided

ASHRAE 202-2013

BCA Best Practice

Integrate Cx Schedule with Construction Schedule

X

Review Submittals

X

X

Controls Integration Meeting

X

Commissioning Kick-off Meeting

X

X

Ongoing Commissioning Meetings

X

Review Start-up Reports

X

Installation Verification Site Visits

X

Installation Checklists

X

X

Function Test Verification

X

X

Performance Trending

X

Issue Resolution

X

X

Review As-Built Documents and O&M Manuals

X

Owner and O&M Staff Training

X

X

Systems Manual

X

X

Commissioning Report

X

X

 

ASHRAE and BCA are also in agreement that commissioning does not end at construction but provides value during the occupancy phase as well. Again, however, they differ in terms of what it means to successfully complete a commissioning process:

 

Occupancy Phase Cx Service Provided

ASHRAE 202-2013

BCA Best Practice

Maintain Issue Log and Resolution

X

X

Ongoing O&M Staff Training

X

X

Occupant Training

X

Conduct Lessons Learned Workshop

X

Optimize System

X

Seasonal/Deferred Testing

X

X

Update Systems Manual

X

X

Ongoing Commissioning Plan

X

X

Operational and Staff 10-month Survey

X

Perform Building Operational 10-month Review

X

Benchmark Building Energy Performance

X

Evaluate Building Energy Performance

X

Update OPR

X

X

Submit Final Cx Report and Cx Plan

X

X

 

Better Together

The true difference between the ASHRAE Standard 202-2013 and the BCA Best Practice is the value added to a project and delivered to an owner. Building systems have become more complex and integrated over the years, with a strong focus on energy efficiency and conservation in pursuit of sustainable life cycle operations and cost savings over time. Successful commissioning takes specialized skills and a deep understanding of each project’s unique needs. It takes a holistic, quality–based approach to assure life cycle cost savings, rather than just meeting minimum requirements. ASHRAE Standard 202 provides the foundation and BCA Best Practices builds upon it, providing a constructive companion to the minimums outlined while increasing the quality and value of the commissioning program.

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