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Building Optimization Processes

The following chart and glossary from the Office of Energy Efficiency demonstrates the various phases and activities of commissioning and recommissioning for buildings. Fundamentally, these processes share similarities, but where commissioning deals with a new building, recommissioning deals with existing buildings.  Also note that while individual organizations may approach each step differently or use different terms such as retrocommissioning or system optimization, the basic considerations remain the same.

Phases and Activities

Commissioning

Recommissioning

Planning Phase

  • Assemble your Team
  • Define your objectives
  • Develop your initial plan
  • Assemble your Team
  • Define your objectives
  • Develop your initial plan

Design Phase

  • Review designs
  • Determine the systems manual structure and construction checklist requirements
  • Define training requirements
  • Update your initial plan to include construction and activation phases

N/A

Investigation Phase

N/A

  • Review available building documentation and obtain historical utility data
  • Perform diagnostic monitoring and testing
  • Develop master list of findings
  • Prioritize and select operational improvements

Implementation Phase

  • Develop test procedures
  • Verify systems manual and construction checklist completion
  • Update the project requirements and commissioning plan
  • Verify results
  • Develop your implementation plan
  • Implement selected operational improvements
  • Verify results
  • Develop an implementation report
  • Develop the systems manual

Hand-Off Phase

  • Develop the final report
  • Develop a recommissioning plan and recommend persistence strategies
  • Conduct staff training
  • Hold a close-out meeting
  • Develop the final report and hand-off with systems manual
  • Develop next recommissioning plan and recommend persistence strategies
  • Conduct staff training
  • Hold a close-out meeting

Ongoing Process

  • Implement persistence strategies
  • Recommission every 3-5 years, depending on ongoing recommissioning rigor and changes in building use.
  • Implement persistence strategies
  • Recommission every 3-5 years, depending on ongoing recommissioning rigor and changes in building use.

Commissioning your new building serves to identify and resolve problems that can occur during the building project.  This process ideally starts during the conception and design process, and then carries through to construction, equipment installation, testing and start-up. To facilitate turnover of the building to the owner or tenants, the commissioning authority should ensure building operations staff are trained on equipment and systems.

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Recommissioning an existing building is a re-optimization process that is comparable to having a tune-up of your car.  The systems of a building tend to become inefficient over time, and in some cases a major change in building purpose, activity or occupancy can effect system integration and interaction.   Recommissioning is also useful in identifying low to no-cost operational improvements, as well as future retrofit opportunities. Some individuals use the term retrocommissioning which is a process that applies to existing buildings that were not commissioned originally.

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The initial plan is critical to the success of any commissioning or recommissioning project as it sets the objectives and lays the foundation for the efforts of the project team.  During a commissioning project, an initial plan ensures that the integration of commissioning into the overall construction schedule is efficient and does not cause delays. During a recommissioning project, an initial plan determines which buildings are good candidates and provides guidance for defining an appropriate scope for a project. A recommissioning authority can be hired to assist with building selection and formation of project objectives, or can be selected after the project is defined internally.

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The systems manual includes the final report, as well as most of the critical operation and maintenance (O&M) documentation of the building or, at minimum, describes how O&M documents are catalogued and where they are located. Also, the systems manual may include new materials emphasizing how systems and equipment interface. An owner may specify the systems manual in the commissioning or recommissioning scope of work or request that it be developed collaboratively between the owner and the commissioning authority. The most effective scope of the systems manual is typically determined on a project-by-project basis. A systems manual often includes:

  • Master list of building documentation and locations
  • Operating requirements of the owner
  • Commissioning/recommissioning plan
  • Final report
  • O&M plan (including record-keeping procedures)
  • Sequences of operation for all control systems
  • System diagrams
  • List of monitoring and control points
  • List of control system alarms
  • Trending capabilities

 

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The recommissioning authority summarizes the results of the investigation analysis in a findings log, sometimes called a master list of findings. This list includes information on how building systems are currently operated and maintained, identifies issues and opportunities for improvement, and selects the most cost-effective measures for implementation. This information is gathered during the investigation phase when the recommissioning authority performs a thorough review of building documents and conducts a methodical analysis of building operations by trending and testing the building systems. Once the list is completed, the recommissioning authority presents the results to the owner and helps select measures for implementation.

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Optimum building performance can be maintained over time following commissioning or recommissioning through persistence strategies such as ongoing recommissioning. In ongoing recommissioning, monitoring equipment and trending software is left in place to allow for continuous tracking, and the scheduled maintenance activities are enhanced to include operational procedures. For ongoing recommissioning to be highly effective, the building owner must retain high quality staff or service contractors that are trained.  The owner must also have the time and budget to gather and analyse data, as well as to implement the solutions that come out of the analysis. Recommissioning is normally done every three to five years depending on ongoing recommissioning rigor, or whenever the building experiences a significant change in use.

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