Settling the commissioning frontier

The commissioning (Cx) market is very strong these days. With so much work in play, firms that provide commissioning services are scrambling to hire staff to put into the field.


The commissioning (Cx) market is very strong these days. With so much work in play, firms that provide commissioning services are scrambling to hire staff to put into the field. The most recent commissioning market study I’ve seen was published by FMI’s Research Services Group in 2005. It is estimated that Cx amounted to an $804 million industry in 2004 and would grow by 65% in three years to $1.3 billion.

That market valuation is probably conservative because retrocommissioning existing buildings was not a strong market at the time, and with energy prices skyrocketing since then, utilities in California, Oregon, and other states have started providing rebates for retrocommissioning services that save energy. Additionally, the accelerated growth of U.S. Green Building Council LEED buildings and building types continues to pump up Cx services through prerequisites and credits. And, until recently, Cx services largely pertained to HVAC systems, lighting, and controls. The services have since grown to include electrical systems (see the related article on page 30), and fire and life safety systems.

Therefore, the Cx market is big, and with electrical and fire and life-safety systems being commissioned more frequently—thus introducing many scoping and integration issues—Cx can be viewed as a frontier still being settled, even among traditional Cx tasks like HVAC.

Answering that call, ASHRAE published Guideline 0, The Commissioning Process, in 2005, and followed with ASHRAE Guideline 1.1, HVAC&R Technical Requirements for the Commissioning Process, in 2008, which describes the technical requirements for applying ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005. Also, the Building Commissioning Assn. published its “Best Practices in Commissioning Existing Buildings” in 2008 (see the related article on page 10).

Even within LEED, which, at its inception, had a prerequisite for Cx and credits for enhanced Cx services, commissioning is still being tweaked. In the first public review draft of LEED 2009, the USGBC seemed to be softening the requirement that Cx be started during the design process, and it seemed to give more power to “LEED consultants” than Cx providers were comfortable with. In the second public review draft, the stipulations for LEED consultants were dropped and the encouragement (but not requirement) to involve Cx “as early as possible” in the design phase was affirmed. The USGBC also rebuffed comments to LEED 2009 calling for certified Cx providers, and illuminated its thinking on where and when independent third-party Cx providers should be required. (For a related article, see page 44)

The achievements and challenges of the commissioning frontier are reflected in a white paper published by Portland Energy Conservation Inc. (PECI), stemming from a town-hall meeting held at the company’s 16th Annual National Conference on Building Commissioning in April 2008. The paper provides a 10-year perspective on the growth of Cx, and identifies issues such as standardization and consolidation. The white paper can be downloaded at .

Happy trails.

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