Chapter 011, Green Project Commissioning

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Unfortunately, many utility programs that promote and incentivize commissioning exclude smaller buildings. Project costs and energy savings can be cross-referenced with the forms of energy saved e. Indeed, perceived non-energy benefits are in many cases the primary reason—or the only reason—for embarking on commissioning projects. For example, the utility commissioning programs in Nebraska attribute part of their success on focusing first on improving building comfort Criscione We obtained data on observed post-project non-energy impacts for 68 existing building commissioning projects and 44 new construction commissioning projects, representing a total of identified non-energy benefits.

For existing buildings, improved thermal comfort and extended equipment life are among the most-cited non-energy benefits experienced after the projects are completed, while equipment life is the most-cited benefit for new construction, followed by improved thermal comfort. First-cost savings often offset part or all nominal commissioning project costs. Observers sometimes incorrectly assume that these facilities are routinely commissioned for energy savings.

While it is true that they receive a far higher level of quality assurance in construction and operation than traditional buildings, energy performance per se is usually not a central focus. High-tech facilities have a number of common characteristics, including around-the-clock operation, high air-change rates, and critical activities and safety requirements that rely on proper indoor environmental control building performance.

Taken together, these requirements translate into particularly high energy intensities, and correspondingly large opportunities for energy savings Mills et al. A small proportion of reports in the commissioning literature address the specific needs of these facilities. Many of those that do so focus on non-energy issues, rather than energy Ross ; Hydeman et al. However, some energy-specific resources do exist, such as the Labs21 guide to commissioning existing laboratories for energy efficiency Bell , which cites the special importance of fume hoods and specialty pressure- or volume-controlled HVAC systems used for safety purposes.

While problems identified in the commissioning of high-tech facilities can manifest in ordinary buildings, the cost—in terms of excessive energy use—when they occur in high-tech facilities is far, far higher. Some technical issues and opportunities are unique to these facilities, as are some of the barriers. Because these facilities are also highly mission critical, the non-energy benefits having to do with factors such as safety, equipment life, and reliability often associated with energy-related commissioning can be very substantial.


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While we have found that commissioning can be cost-effective in virtually any building type or size, the results are particularly impressive in high-tech facilities. Our database contains data for high-tech facilities, representing 19 million ft 2 of floor area. Percentage energy savings tended to be somewhat higher than other building types, while absolute savings were significantly higher because of initial energy intensities.

Payback times were also among the lowest of any building type we evaluated. Laboratory facilities are the most widely documented type of commissioning case studies in high-tech facilities. As an example of the scores of deficiencies discovered in the construction of a laboratory facility, Pinnix et al. The commissioning of data centers has been treated in exceedingly few publications and reports. Findings from a case study of commissioning the HVAC system of a data center at the NOAA weather-forecasting office in Jacksonville, Florida Lundstrom are indicative of the kinds of problems that can otherwise go undetected in these types of facilities.


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  8. They, perhaps more than any other facility type, suffer from a misconception that they are routinely commissioned for energy savings. However, the qualification process rarely includes energy performance. Moreover, there are intense pressures to construct cleanrooms quickly, and there is well-founded apprehension about interventions that could compromise the process. While attention to the commissioning of cleanrooms and most other types of spaces tends to focus on the mechanical systems, a recent report points out the importance of considering building envelopes.

    To our knowledge, quantification of energy-focused commissioning in cleanrooms has been offered only once in the open literature, in an important paper and associated presentations by Sellers and Irvine Symptoms began to emerge that the HVAC system was not functioning properly, which led to a series of discoveries and adjustments to the control system. The corrections also yielded significant safety-enhancing benefits, which helped avoid costly future disruptions and potentially costly contamination of the process.

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    This project did not have the benefit of a measured baseline and post-commissioning measured savings. An estimate of savings was based on a calculated baseline rooted in an observed operating condition combined with calculated savings based on what engineering principles say will happen after correcting problems identified in the commissioning process. As with any case study, these specific results will not necessarily apply to other similar facilities, but this story serves as a clear indication that commissioning in cleanrooms should be taken quite seriously and that further study is merited.

    Leading commissioning practitioners have gone as far as to say that all the costs of new construction commissioning should be recovered through cost savings in project delivery with energy savings being icing on the cake. Dorgan et al. The value of the commissioning process: Costs and benefits cite seven examples in which these non-energy benefits amount to 1. The primary source of these benefits is in right-sizing equipment during the design phase of a project.

    We identified a rare opportunity to follow a high-tech building through both its initial commissioning process during design, construction, and startup and then its subsequent commissioning as an existing building.

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    During the construction phase, problems were found in the HVAC system and plant, air handling and distribution, terminal units, and lighting. Forty-eight specific deficiencies were discovered during the new construction phase of the commissioning. When commissioning was performed, an additional 14 deficiencies were discovered and corrected.

    ASHRAE BC "Existing Building Commissioning" Ronald J Wilkinson

    Considerable energy savings were garnered during the new construction phase, with a payback time of 0. A comparable level of savings was subsequently obtained when new commissioning opportunities arose after occupancy, and with an even shorter payback time of 0. The International Energy Agency has recently reviewed experience with the persistence of commissioning savings Freidman et al. These eroded savings were recovered at the time by re-commissioning the original measures.

    The persistence commissioning energy savings: 36 projects.

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    Each project is represented in the figure by a gray line for the corresponding type s of energy for which persistence data were collected. The heavy red curves show the median trends by type of energy. The first important observation is that savings in many cases increase in the second year, presumably a product of refinements in the commissioning or incomplete implementation in the first year.

    While some projects exhibit an erosion of savings over time, many do not. In fact, the tendency for the sample as a whole is for level or even slightly increasing savings over time. This perhaps counterintuitive outcome may be explained by the fact that comprehensive commissioning includes training, and, in some cases, installation of permanent metering and feedback systems.

    Many measures implemented in new construction commissioning will tend to be very durable, e. To the extent that savings increase over time, our project cost—benefit estimates miss some of the true savings. This means that effective payback times could be even shorter than we have estimated. The data underscore the importance of benchmarking performance over time and revisiting the need to commission with some frequency.

    As with most other energy efficiency measures, commissioning savings are often roughly estimated or even stipulated based on engineering estimates rather than measurements. The imperative for measurement and verification has increased as energy prices soar, concerns intensify about assigning credible reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and demand-side programs come under closer scrutiny and expectations that savings be validated. In addition, there are strong engineering arguments that better due-diligence during and after the commissioning project can identify deficiencies that would otherwise go undetected.

    Thus, a measurement-based paradigm certainly does not imply that savings will prove lower than estimates. The aforementioned issue of savings persistence has also contributed to the healthy interest in applying a more rigorous measurement-based approach to commissioning than is typically the case. Program operators, however, have articulated various barriers, which include lack of staff, monitoring data that are useful and understandable, empowering those doing the monitoring to act on the results to intervene if the data suggest that savings are being forfeit , and lack of information on the cost-effectiveness of monitoring Long and Crowe Monitoring is a tool for benchmarking and identifying savings opportunities that may otherwise go undetected.

    The commissioning field has responded to this opportunity through increased use of monitoring, e. Monitoring-based Commissioning MBCx provides three streams of additional energy savings relative to conventional commissioning of an existing facility. An evaluation of California utility-funded commissioning programs attributed higher savings to those that were monitoring-based PECI and Summit Building Engineers When viewed in terms of outcomes, the best practices we have observed result in zero or negative net cost as non-energy benefits more than offset commissioning fees.

    In terms of application, it is critical that commissioning be well integrated with the rest of the building lifecycle and associated services. These include design and design-intent documentation at the early stages of the project cycle, through benchmarking performance to identify baseline performance and savings opportunities, and a monitoring-based paradigm for identifying and quantifying opportunities on an ongoing basis.

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    Within the commissioning process are a wide number of steps and documentation and training, which should be but are rarely all exercised in practice. For new and existing buildings alike, periodic recommissioning is often called for. For new construction this dictates involving the commissioning agent at the very outset of the design and planning process and keeping them on board well through startup and into the warranty period.

    This is often not the case in practice, i. To have maximum impact, commissioning must address the whole building. Many of our case studies, however, are selective in their focus, e. Lastly, much better practices are needed in the documentation of commissioning projects and creation of case studies. The current literature is fraught with ambiguities and non-standard definitions. When quality control protocols are applied along with benchmarking analyses 14 that require very specific data—as is done in this report—much of the existing literature is not usable.

    Applying our median whole-building energy-saving value i. In some cases it enables the achievement and maximizes the impact of other more traditional measures. In other cases, it provides savings independently of other measures. Scores of studies have been conducted on the potential for energy savings. Few, if any, have rigorously included the costs and benefits of building commissioning. This would require considerable commissioning effort and generate equally considerable rewards.

    Potential US carbon savings from commissioning in context with other options. The full abatement curve indicates the potential emissions savings potential for a range of measures, ranked by the annualized net cost per ton of emissions reductions y-axis , i.

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    The horizontal width of the each step x-axis is the potential emissions reduction attributed to each measure for the particular scenario considered.