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If Navy Seals Ran Cx

If Navy Seals Ran Cx

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 196).       

What would it be like if Navy Seals ran building commissioning? Short answer, awesome! 

It should be noted, the origin of building commissioning is derived from the Navy. Naval ships are commissioned, and go trough extensive sea trials i.e. Functional Performance Testing. 

Commissioning is about “evidence” not “process”, but that is the subject of another post. Commissioning is ensuring via verification and evidence that the building and its systems operate as intended i.e. have all systems been;

1. Designed in accordance with the owners requirements?

2. Installed as specified?

3. Set to work and operating as specified?

Commissioning is an outcome based phenomenon, that outcome is something actually working properly. 

If military special forces ran building commissioning there would be some immediate benefits, such as:

  • Detailed planning.
  • Attraction of high performers to and cutting of poor performers from the Cx team i.e accountability
  • Use of cutting edge test equipment and software 

The main benefit, IMHO, from a military special forces approach would be in systems Functional Performance Testing (FPT) AKA building “sea trials”. Consider large projects such as airport terminals or 500 bed hospitals. These projects present Cx logistical challenges in their size and complexity. They require large, multi-discipline Cx teams with highly competent team management. 

IMHO, a military special forces approach for say, a large airport building, would look something like this:

Planning Phase

1. Each building system would be reviewed and any missing data or potential issues would be identified and resolved prior to power on.

2. Controls sequences of operation and BMS head end graphics would be documented, reviewed and approved prior to power on. 

3. Each building system would have a detailed testing plan including a Cx logic sequence network, schematic diagram, FPT test script and all correct design data required to verify and test the system.

Testing (FPT) Phase

This would be run from an operations room, led by the CxM project team leader working along side the BMS vendor team leader communications with the Cx and field team on site as the following Org Chart. 

The CxM project team leader would system by system, verify from the field back to the BMS head end, system performance in all modes of operation. In real time he or she would communicate with and direct the field Cx team through the FPT scripts and the CxM field team would verify and document test results. 

IMHO, the following tools and tactics are required:


1. Project wide mesh network with high speed internet or 4G wireless network.

2. Smart phones with WhatsApp and hi def video cameras for all participants.

3. WhatsApp desktop app for the operations room PC.

4. WhatsApp groups for each building system.

5. Skype or Zoom video conferencing for operations room PC and all smart phones .

Prerequisites prior to FPT

1. Operations room dedicated to the Cx team.

2. Systems installation, start-up, TAB and controls commissioning complete.

3. BMS head end graphics installed and operational to all field devices.

4. Complete systems FPT test scripts.

5. CxM project team leader PC with access to all project files.


1. 15 min “Cx all hands” start of the day briefing meeting to agree daily work plan and “gear up” i.e. ensure all necessary test equipment is present and ready.

2. Only team members that add value and deliver are included in FPT, no “hangers on” allowed. CxM project team leader is the judge of who is and is not worthy. 

3. All site teams follow directions of CxM project team leader and FPT scripts.

4. Problems found are recorded and diagnosed in real time via WhatsApp and/or video conferencing.

5. If a problem can be resolved in 30 mins it is, if not, it is recorded and handed off for others to resolve.

6. End of day de-brief and write up of Cx issues log and test results (if not done in real time). It is not allowed to carry this over to the next day. 

In my experience, to really execute well on large Cx projects the 3 “Killer Apps” are:

1. Planning

2. Leadership (technical and managerial)

3. Communications (strategy & tools)

Items 1 though 3 are all things military special forces do well due to high consequences and most building design and construction teams suck at due to low consequences. 

Sometimes I fantasize about putting together an international, go anywhere, 4 man commissioning management team to work on “mission impossible” projects for an appropriately high fee. Maybe we would call our virtual organization the “4 Horseman of Project Cx”? Anyone interested? 

“4 Horseman of Project Cx”, ASSEMBLE!

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#61 – Too Big to Succeed? 

#34 – Commissioning Management A Project Management Derivative? 

#62 – 5 Rules of Commissioning Management 

Commissioning Management Talent Stack 

Edifice Complex Podcast


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