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Why Do I Need a Commissioning Agent?

November 27, 2018

As your trusted advisor, preventing issues is their primary goal.

As building owners increase their focus on quality and energy efficiency while striving to reduce operation and maintenance costs of their buildings, Building Commissioning is growing as a professional specialist service. Building Commissioning enhances the delivery of facilities’ projects by focusing on quality in every phase of work from pre-design to the final product.

When every entity involved in a project – project management team, contractors, architects, etc. - are focused on delivering the best product they can for their clients, building owners may wonder what role a Building Commissioning agent plays in the process and if they are truly necessary for a successful project.

 

Benefits of Commissioning Agent

The Commissioning Process offers an additional layer of protection for the building owner and ensures the delivery of a high-quality end product by verifying that the planning, design, construction and operational processes are achieving their goals. Often, the contractors and project management team are primarily focused on their portion of the project and are only testing the work for which they are directly responsible.

A Commissioning agent focused on the project as a whole giving them the ability to ability to recognize potential problems and ensure each piece of the project is performed to the highest standards and integrates with the rest of the project and the existing structure. This provides long-term benefits like the following:

• Extend building’s lifespan – Proper commissioning ensures your facilities roofing, wall, and pavement systems continually operate according to specifications. Extending the lifespan not only guards the conditions of your facilities, but also minimizes risk to the people, products, and equipment inside.

• Minimize human error – Without a standardized maintenance regimen, the upkeep and preservation of your buildings are largely left to chance. Commissioning helps to overcome this with pre-established procedures that keep everyone accountable and on the same page.

• Rapid Return on Investment (ROI) – According to a recent LBNL study, the estimated payback time for commissioning is 1.1 years with existing buildings and 4.2 years with new buildings. Payback time for re-commissioning in laboratories, healthcare, and food production buildings were most rapid averaging less than a year, while lodging, office, and higher education buildings have shown a payback period of less than two years. Depending on the size, type of use, and complexity of your buildings, you might see variants in the payback time.

 

Common Questions When Considering Building Commissioning on Projects

Why can the task of commissioning not be undertaken by one of the other contractors or my operations team, as that may reduce up-front expenses?

The primary reason commissioning tasks should not be undertaken by a contractor or team member already engaged on the project is simply Human Error. Contractors may have a bias towards certain products or methods. This can often prevent research into alternate solutions or better practices for your specific building. A Commissioning Agent is better able to find alternate procedure or deficiencies in design and methodology. They do not need to disguise any flaws, because as your trusted advisor, preventing issues is their primary goal.

If we have already started the design process, is it too late to bring in a Commissioning Agent?

Absolutely not! While the greatest return on investment is found when a Commissioning Agent is involved in the project starting with the early design phases, an agent entering the project during or post-design will review the approved design and help identify any weaknesses or areas for improvement increasing project quality and reducing the risk of future problems.

The earlier a Commissioning Agent is brought on, the greater the potential construction related savings. When deficiencies are identified during the design phase of a project, they are much less costly to resolve. Early design review also helps identify common specification issues, helping to avoid change orders, claims, and project delays during construction.

The contractor has a commissioning agent on staff. Do we need to hire a separate Commissioning Agent?

This can be a conflict of interest. The agent working for your contractor is likely to have the same bias towards products or methods. Being engaged so closely with the contractor, they may unknowingly overlook alternative solutions or potential risks.

Isn’t Building Commissioning only for New Construction?

No! There are 2 primary types of commissioning: new construction and existing building.  While Building Commissioning is most common in New Building Construction, existing buildings benefit from Recommissioning and Retrocommissioning. These services are invaluable when undergoing remediation work on your roofing, walls, or pavement systems.

Recommissioning looks at your buildings performance after experiencing through natural wear and tear. You can bring your building’s assets back to optimal performance through Recommissioning and remediation ideally every three to five years. This process helps facility managers prioritize projects based on the greatest areas of risk.

Retrocommissioning is useful when a building was not Commissioned during the initial construction or when a building has changed hands. Building owners can get a clearer picture of problems that occurred during design or construction or issues that have developed throughout the building's lifecycle.

How will working with a Commissioning Agent make my job easier and faster while increasing quality?

Having a Commissioning Agent working with your project team, you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want to be without sacrificing the project’s quality. The purpose of commissioning is to catch any inefficiencies or areas of potential risk BEFORE they are costly, extensive remediation efforts. This proactive approach removes the opportunity for common construction delays, streamlining your project schedule.

Can we afford Building Commissioning?

Can you afford NOT to? The cost of not commissioning is equal to the costs of correcting deficiencies plus the costs of inefficient operations. Imagine, for example, the cost of redoing an inefficiently designed project. Whether it is 1, 5, or 10 years down the line, incorrect design costs can be measures not only in additional project costs, but also by the cost of downtime, loss of equipment and/or products, and risk to employees. and lack of appropriate facility use.

The cost of commissioning accounts for a very small part of the overall construction budget and typically includes Commissioning Agent’s fee, costs for other team members who participate in the commissioning process, and the anticipated cost of correcting problems identified during the process.

Is Building Commissioning the safe / right choice for my project?

One of the greatest benefits that Building Commissioning offers is both short term (design process and construction) and long term (identifying deficiencies in design that could fail in the future) risk mitigation.

StructureTec recently worked with a major Health System on the development of a new children’s hospital. After dismissing the architect designing the new hospital, the health system turned to Building Commissioning to help avoid the detail inefficiencies, areas of specification non-compliance, and poor workmanship that have affected their other facilities.

StructureTec was asked to commission the project based on our past remediation work with other hospitals in their portfolio. StructureTec Engineers review the design and worked to minimize risk and reduce maintenance costs. With the reduction in facility maintenance spend due to the award-winning project engineering, the hospital is able to spend its resources on cutting edge testing and treatments, growing the number of their caring team members, and enhancing the rehabilitation and comfortability of their patients. The hospital continues to win prestigious awards for the facility and the care delivered by their team.

 

Choosing Your Building Commissioning Team

When evaluating who to hire as the Commissioning Agent for your project, consider:

• Previous experience as a Commissioning Agent on similar projects.

• Advocacy

• Ability to understand the owner’ goals independent of the desires and opinions of the design or construction team

• Communication and Diplomacy

• Needs to be able to point out inconsistencies and make suggestions for improvement without confrontation

• Must be able to communicate effectively to work cohesively with the project team to help build trust and create an environment where creative ideas and problem solving are welcomed and encouraged.

• Experience / Services

• Remediation

• if all the provider does is new construction commissioning, they aren’t qualified.

• Company History

• Client Testimonials

• Accessibility / Responsiveness

• Professional Liability Insurance

• Innovative Technologies

 

Why StructureTec?

For the last 30 years, StructureTec has been the leader in building envelope systems technology. Surprisingly, close to 40% of StructureTec’s remedial work is taking place on buildings less than 5 years old. This figure highlights the need for process improvement. Our industry experience coupled with our aptitude for understanding and deciphering the complexities between system configurations, field conditions, and resulting specifications enables StructureTec to provide comprehensive solutions for clients. StructureTec’s commissioning service provides essential perspective into the design, installation, integration, and testing of the building envelope system as it aligns with the owner’s requirements and best interest.

StructureTec’s commissioning process has been carefully designed to confirm and document that a facility meets the functionality and performance requirements of the building owner, occupants, and operations. Our team validates adherence to those requirements through every step of design, bidding, construction, initial period of operation, and continues to safeguard the future of the investment with our Warranty Audit Program.

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StructureTec is a building  envelope, pavement, and roof consultant specializing in the waterproofing and restoration of existing building envelopes, roofs, pavement and concrete structures.

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