The Value of the Building Envelope Commissioning Design Review Process

As with most things in the construction industry, it is always easier (and less expensive) to fix something on paper than to wait and have to remediate issues in the field. This is even more evident when dealing with Building Envelope systems, due to the nature of how the systems are untimely procured, developed and installed by the contractors involved. 

The name of the game when it comes to the development and realization of envelope components from the designer’s perspective is “defensible design”.  This is defined as - all details shown on the Contract Documents can be built to meet the design aesthetic set forth, but may be resolved in a variety of ways by the subcontractor performing the work. Given that the majority of systems being designed in an envelope are based on a performance specification, the ultimate final responsibility of the work is on the contractor performing the work.

A qualified Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx) agent will work hand in hand with the design and construction teams from early in the design process through post occupancy to review the pertinent contract documents associated with the envelope. Early in the design phase, the BECx agent will focus on the constructability as well as ensuring that what is being put on paper is defensible. This is done through workshops, marking up drawings and constant communication with the design team when working out difficult details. In addition, the BECx agent should work together with the designers to ensure that the project specifications are being developed and adequately customized to the systems being developed for each project. The BECx agent should highlight the critical performance requirements, testing requirements, as well as, any special information regarding the materials used on the project are properly covered. This ensures that the construction team adequately prices the project early, as well as, mitigates risk to the owner to ensure that systems which are being developed and procured can be built as originally intended. The ultimate goal of the Design Review process should be to avoid potential changes late in the project to long lead time components that will impact the project’s budget and schedule.

When selecting a BECx agent for your project, ensure that they are familiar with the design process, have experience with complex envelope systems and are familiar with the variety of systems which are planned for the project. Just as much time, if not more, should be dedicated to the Design Phase of the project to ensure that all goals are met, as well as, ensuring that you will obtain the high performing, quality building we strive for.


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