Commissioning is a term from shipbuilding defined as a time when equipment is installed and tested, problems are identified and corrected, and the prospective crew is extensively trained. This level of quality assurance for ships was of utmost importance because the lives of the crew were on the line. For building commissioning, the cost comes in the form of direct financial impact on the project and ongoing operations once completed. One study of six new construction projects found that commissioning reduced change orders by 87 percent and contractor callbacks by 90 percent, thus reducing the total construction cost by an estimated 4 to 9 percent.
For building owner/operators, commissioning is the crucial step in launching a building. Improperly commissioned, a building may never recover, as it will have no “truth” in the basis of operations. It can never be truly recommissioned as there is no target to measure against. In the words of one facilities manager for a university in Sydney, “Our building was never commissioned right in the first place. That’s why we’re spending so much time and effort making it efficient.”
Commissioning issues were recently quantified by the Building Commissioning Association’s Building Commissioning Survey: Portfolio Owner Practices and Perceptions. In this survey, portfolio owners were asked about the greatest challenges they face in commissioning across their portfolio. A top challenge identified for new projects was that the typical commissioning program verifies performance to design, but does not do a good job of optimizing performance to the occupied state.
From the standpoint of builders and contractors, the prime goal and focus are to design, construct, commission and handover the building to the landlord. However, from a landlord’s perspective, the focus is more about running the building as optimally as possible at the most relevant cost. Here is where cloud services can fill the gap and create a common link from construction, commissioning and operations.
It is perceived that commissioning is time consuming and becomes a pain point when buildings are not delivered on time. However, when buildings are handed over and not well tuned, occupants move in and there are more complaints, more change orders and never ending punch lists. Cloud services can ease the commissioning burden by providing an understanding of behavioral aspects of buildings and how to optimize them in addition to inserting intelligence into the DNA of new buildings from day one.
As a cloud services company, BuildingIQ has collected data from over 1,110 buildings that fuel its artificial intelligence engine. This knowledge base can be brought to the Greenfield space and applied to new construction projects.
For example, a portfolio owner in the BCA study mentioned above notes that, “Due to such a wide variety of HVAC systems, we are hard pressed to find commissioning specifications for each different type of system.” When a new office building of a certain class and type is designed, past experience cloud optimizing this style of building has created a model for how the building’s HVAC system behaves. While no two buildings are exactly alike in every way, aspects of these models and understanding can be directly applied to Greenfield projects. Despite new technologies and unique functional specifications, HVAC systems are still fundamentally moving air and water. Thermal modeling, physics, conditions of the building and how to optimally run that type of space can be brought forward from past experience to fine tune new buildings during the commissioning process.
With cloud services applied from inception, new buildings benefit from a vast knowledge base of optimized systems in addition to a more automated commissioning process.
In the past, a functional BMS and HVAC system were delivered by a BMS contractor and a mechanical contractor. Now, the power of data analytics is seeing a third entity joining the team to optimize these systems from pre-commissioning to commissioning to operations. This new build paradigm is creating buildings that have embedded artificial intelligence capabilities, making them smarter and more economical to operate, while at the same time enabling portfolio owners to control operations costs and promote future growth.
Just like shipbuilding, BuildingIQ recognizes that commissioning is only the beginning of a journey. The 5i Platform is an adaptive technology framework for building optimization as operations evolve. For as George William Curtis famously said, “It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.”
Roy Arindam is VP of Sales & Managing Director-Construction Services for the Asia-Pacific region at BuildingIQ. He’s responsible for direct and channel activities for BuildingIQ’s 5i Services within the broader region of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to the above, he is also responsible to expand the recently formed Construction Services arm across the Asia Pacific Region. Roy has got extensive experience with energy optimization technologies, building automation systems, integrated extra low voltage systems (IELVS- OBSI), energy metering and reporting solutions, fire detection and fighting solutions, and security solutions within the new Construction and the Existing buildings environment.