Commissioning surges ahead

Building commissioning continues to grow, and engineering firms can benefit from adding the service for clients.


When discussing with uneducated building owners and tenants the topic of designing and specifying engineered systems into a building, commissioning sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. They don’t always understand why a system must be commissioned, re-commissioned, or retro-commissioned. If it was engineered correctly in the first place, doesn’t it work correctly?

In an exclusive report released by the AABC Commissioning Group (ACG), survey respondents reveal a positive outlook on the industry. According to a similar report released in August 2013 by the Building Commissioning Association, “Demand for the services of commissioning professionals is rising and will continue to rise into the near future.”

What’s pushing this trend toward more commissioning? Several things. First, owners of existing buildings are working to “find” money in a tough economy. By ensuring systems are working correctly and efficiently, owners and facilities staff can lengthen the life of existing equipment and ensure system performance is at expected levels. By balancing a system—such as the HVAC system, which may need to be rebalanced due to new tenants—or reviewing building occupancy, which can affect lighting use, owners can retool the building’s systems to increase occupant comfort or reduce electrical consumption. Owners may also be working toward voluntary programs, like the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star program, in order to quantify their facility’s performance.

Second, codes and standards are driving commissioning from several angles. ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010, for example, now requires HVAC commissioning for control systems on most projects greater than 50,000 sq ft. This complexity of building lighting systems has made commissioning of lighting controls an essential part of more and more projects. Commissioning for the most part is voluntary; however, if an owner is contemplating U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification or if ASHRAE 90.1-2010 compliance is required, commissioning is mandatory.

Several guidelines and websites explain and illustrate the commissioning process, such as ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005: The Commissioning Process and the ACG Commissioning Guideline. In 2011, the Illuminating Engineering Society published IES DG-29-11, The Commissioning Process Applied to Lighting and Control Systems, a design guide for the commissioning of lighting and lighting control systems. IES DG-29-11 is intended to be a supplement to ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005. When NFPA released the 2012 edition of NFPA 3: Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, a comprehensive commissioning document for the fire protection industry was made available (see "Top 10 things to know about commissioning fire protection systems" by David LeBlanc).

Other factors pushing commissioning: corporate “green” or “energy efficiency” goals, utility incentives and rebates, established relationships between engineering firms and building owners, and a slight uptick in new building construction.

For more on the 2013 Commissioning Giants, see the article "The state of commissioning in 2013," and for more on this topic, visit

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