Raising the Bar for Commissioning Specifications

This article is part of Wood Harbinger’s Newsletter Series

By Jeff Yirak, P.E., LEED AP BD+C, O+M

ASHRAE recently published Standard 202-2013, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems. This standard will likely be adopted by code officials as a de facto level of rigor for commissioning programs, both nationally and internationally. However, this standard covers only the minimum requirements for the commissioning process; while it does require the inclusion of commissioning specifications in contract documents, the actual content of those specifications is not defined. To ensure a robust and effective commissioning process, there are multiple elements a commissioning specification should contain.

The Building Commissioning Association (BCA) published the New Construction Building Commissioning Best Practice in December 2011. While not a standard, this document is a powerful resource, as it goes deeper into and better defines the content and purpose of commissioning specifications. The Best Practice suggests commissioning specifications should include the following salient aspects:

  • Describe all contractor-related commissioning responsibilities, and clearly delineate between the contractor’s responsibilities and those of the rest of the commissioning team. A clear-cut understanding of roles and responsibilities supports efficiency and accountability among all project personnel.
  • Describe the commissioning program and management. This includes commissioning meetings, test instrumentation, equipment installation and startup, the functional testing process, any seasonal or deferred testing, training and documentation, and commissioning issue management. This comprehensive summary will ensure that the project team is coordinated in their efforts related to commissioning.
  • Include a detailed description of functional testing, including prerequisites, test procedure, and acceptance criteria. Example functional tests could be included as an attachment to the project manual.
  • Similar to functional testing, sample installation checklists should be included. These checklists document the installation and are completed by the contractor, so they should be illustrated in the project manual to allow the contractor to accurately bid the work.
  • Describe commissioning milestones and how completion of commissioning activities relates to occupancy permits or project closeout. An early look ahead will help maintain the project schedule.
  • Coordinate and cross-reference with other specification sections. This ensures that the project manual as a whole presents an integrated approach.

ASHRAE Standard 202-2013 recognizes that commissioning specifications are necessary for a successful commissioning program, but it’s important to keep in mind that it identifies only the minimum acceptable process. It does not provide the execution guidelines to ensure efficacy, and it omits prescribing the role and duties of the contractor in the commissioning process.

Standard 202 provides Informative Appendix G, of which the introductory paragraph states, “It is acceptable but not required by this standard for the CxA to provide drafts of these Cx specifications for the design/construction team to consider for including in their construction or contract documents.”  Not only is the content of the commissioning specifications not part of the standard, but the appendix even suggests they need not always a part of the contract documents.

The commissioning specifications execute the objectives described in the commissioning plan, which ultimately relate to the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). As the Owner’s advocate, the Commissioning Authority’s primary goal is to ensure the OPR is achieved; well-written, tight commissioning specifications are a vital component in this endeavor, and required for the contractor to fairly bid the work and for the Owner to receive a commissioned building. Resources like the BCA’s Best Practices are a constructive companion to the minimums outlined in ASHRAE Standard 202-2013.

This entry was posted in All Engagements, E-Newsletter and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>