ACHRNEWS

Does Your Facility Hit its Energy Target?

September 11, 2009

The building commissioning industry must change. The industry just doesn't commission a building at the proper time, in my opinion.

Through my 25-plus years of energy management and building automation experience, the designers, architects, and consulting engineers all do a great job in selecting the proper building envelope - as well as all of the appropriate mechanical and electrical systems - to provide the desired operation and comfort in a building.

I have found that most problems begin with the commissioning of each system and the automation system that control these processes. These systems are typically tested before the building is released to the owner for occupancy. The specifications call for the TAB engineer to verify that each piece of equipment functions as designed as integrated into the building. What most contractors and engineers fail to realize is that a building is a living, breathing entity and is never occupied and functioning at the same level at any one time. The "final" commissioning of a building should not be stamped until the mechanical systems are functioning during full occupancy and through multiple seasons.

I know, no one wants to return to a project once occupied. We all want that final payment on the day the architect declares the job "done"! In reality, most contractors are required to return for warranty issues or punch list items anyway. So why not put the funds aside, up front, for a six to nine month schedule for commissioning during live occupation? During this time, many complaints will filter down to the facility manager's office, work orders will be issued and building technicians will scramble to "satisfy" the hot/cold complaints with any means available to close out the work order. Here is where the problems begin.

Once set points are changed, VAV boxes modified or controls disconnected, all of the LEED design in the world will not bring back one dekatherm or kWH back to the owner.

The building techs need to work side-by-side with the commissioning agent or TAB engineer to learn how and why a system process functions. The techs will be able to inform the agent or engineer where the problem areas appear to be. Working together the systems can be tuned to realize both comfort and LEED satisfaction.

There is much more to it than the few words on this page. If anyone is really interested in solving our dilemma, please contact me. I beg for an audience of architects, engineers and facility managers to listen to those of us who are called upon to "fix" a building when an owner or manager becomes frustrated dealing with upset tenants or employees.

John Castoro is the owner of Innovative Logical Controls. He can be reached at info@innovativelogicalcontrols.com.