How To Avoid Ambiguity During the Construction Process

Mission Critical Commissioning: The Commissioning Plan

Often times the process of commissioning can be an ambiguous event that can have a different meaning for the variety of players involved on the project (e.g., owner, design engineer, contractor, etc.) Developing a commissioning program and documenting it in a commissioning plan helps clear up a lot of that ambiguity in order for all contractors, the commissioning team, the design team and the owner to understand the requirements and determine the expectation level for the project. The commissioning plan ensures that everyone agrees that the project will operate in accordance with contract documents and approved scope of work. The commissioning plan will highlight important general project information (location, building type and the construction period), critical abbreviations and definitions, identifies which systems or components are being commissioned and also identifies the project team members involved (including their contact information). The commissioning plan intends to focus on the commissioning process throughout the various phases of a project: design phase, construction phase, acceptance phase and post acceptance.

Owner’s project requirements (OPR), basis of design (BOD) and commissioning specifications are some of the critical documents referenced in the commissioning plan that are accounted for during the early phases of the project. These documents will outline the owner’s overall goals, schedules and design with the expectation of outlining emergency power control/function, applicable codes and standards. The design review process will also be outlined in this section, where the commissioning provider will identify how often design reviews will be conducted (e.g., 100% Design Development, 90% Construction Documents, etc.). The commissioning specifications are identified (HVAC, Electrical, Fire Alarm, etc.) in order to detail the construction and acceptance phase procedures for installation checks, pre-functional checks and functional checks. These specifications help identify the roles and responsibilities of each team member. In establishing the team members, the flow of communication between project team members is also determined.

The construction phase portion of the commissioning plan will outline submittal review process, deficiency logs/reports, commissioning checklists (pre-functional/functional) and Operations and Maintenance manuals (O&Ms). The submittal review process should ideally occur in parallel to the design team conducting their process in order to allow the design team to review the commissioning team’s feedback or recommendations on submittal reviews. Details will provide the intent of checklists and expectation level.

The acceptance phase and post acceptance phase both serve as an opportunity for the facility staff to witness and participate in the testing process. This allows for the facility members to get intimate with the equipment and the commissioning process. Contractors may provide a training plan that can involve both a classroom session and/or demonstration of how to operate the equipment. Demonstrations can be filmed for facilities use of instructional procedures later. The commissioning provider will review training materials on the owner’s behalf to ensure quality, content and compliance with specifications.

In summary, the commissioning process involves many different parties and can often be a challenge to make sure that everyone understands the expectation level. Defining those expectations within the commissioning plan will help develop a foundation from the beginning of the project and serve as a reference point during each phase of the project. Note, that the commissioning plan does not guarantee that issues will not arise, but it serves as a basis for identifying expectation level of commissioning and establishing dialogue for the vision of the project.

Written by: Dan Chavez, Senior Engineer

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