Ongoing commissioning: A four-step implementation process

by FM Media
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The four steps to follow when implementing ongoing commissioning are shared by PHILIP DESROCHERS from ADMS Technologies.

Although large capital investments in greener equipment for a building can bring savings to monthly energy bills, this equipment requires multiple resources and does not always achieve the intended long-term results. Why? Because, adding technology to the building system will not automatically result in efficient operations.
In order to achieve objectives and identify smart solutions, facilities managers must impact building operations globally with better technologies joined with a new management culture built on best practices. Ongoing commissioning is an innovative approach to managing buildings. It improves energy consumption and shifts operations to today’s performance standards.
Ongoing commissioning is a four-step implementation process followed by a step-by-step continuous improvement cycle. Implementing this system within an operations team is the most important step in creating intelligence on a building. Let’s not forget that a smart building is more than technology; it comprises a culture of excellence in its operation. To achieve this level of excellence, all processes, including the building automation system (BAS), must be analysed, improved and monitored.

The first step in implementing a full ongoing commissioning process is to benchmark the building actual performance. This can be done in multiple ways. More affordable solutions consist in utility bill analysis or a detailed building inspection using standard questionnaires. These tools will guide the team in finding what to measure and why. Hardware and software solutions like energy management systems (EMSs) are also available to monitor energy. If a team needs more data and support, measurement and verification analysis companies can be contracted to install measuring devices, collect data and share expertise during the analysis. Although this alternative is more expensive, the team has access to training and the sub-contractor can substantially facilitate the project.

Once a baseline is set, the building owner or management team must establish a first set of objectives to define the vision of the team and the project scope. Then, the team determines the key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor their progression in achieving these objectives.

With the project scope and targets defined, the team is able to take action on the building management process and its mechanical systems in order to improve overall building performance. The most complete solution is to undertake a complete re-commissioning of the building, which impacts all the building systems at once in order to reset the building capabilities and start optimisation with ongoing commissioning. This solution is more expensive, but will unlock savings’ full potential. As an alternative, the team can also select opportunities from the benchmarking data and take local action on specific equipment to start generating savings.
In order to get more information from a building, fault detection and diagnosis software are powerful tools that can analyse a building 24/7 and provide all the required information on where, what and how to improve mechanical system performance in relation with its environment. Accessing this level of information is a critical step to start ongoing commissioning. More and more building managers use energy monitoring applications, which give detailed information about daily energy consumption. Although this software is a real good start, it does not provide all the information required to quickly identify the problems in a mechanical system. It often forces a team to use quick fixes instead of truly finding and correcting the root cause of a problem, for example lowering a temperature setpoint rather than looking for the leaky valve. Fault detection solutions facilitate access to the information managers need to assign work orders efficiently and quickly correct system issues.
Now that building performance is more visible, investments can be made to buy new sustainable products and equipment to bring a building to today’s standards. These asset changes will help ensure buildings operate as designed and even better.

To achieve the full benefits of ongoing commissioning, a daily continuous improvement culture is needed. Reviewing previously established KPIs and taking action at every gap to identify the proper corrective action will unlock the full potential for reaching operational excellence. Computerised maintenance management software (CMMS) is a useful tool that can help a team manage internal activities. Some CMMS includes more advanced business features such as accounting, inventory, project management and budget simplifying overall management activities.
Continuous improvement of maintenance activities is a crucial step in reducing the energy consumption of a building. Implementing a robust preventive maintenance process with efficient activities scheduling will ensure proper monitoring and will prevent breakdowns or malfunctions due to excessive wear of equipment. Using CMMS and fault detection tools on a regular basis will feed processes with actions and improvements to implement within the building systems. Each problem raised is an opportunity to learn from and gain experience – and useful data – to build building history.

Ongoing commissioning is a mix of technology and management culture intended to improve a building’s energy consumption throughout its entire lifecycle. Today’s economy forces companies to do better with fewer resources. Commissioning, retro-commissioning and re-commissioning are successful strategies, and ongoing commissioning is key to keep investment benefits for the long term and maximise overall results. It simply allows a building to adapt to its environment, which is essential to stay competitive in today’s evolving industry.

Philip Desrochers is a building operations specialist at ADMS Technologies.

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