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Simple, Yet Always Underwhelming

Simple, Yet Always Underwhelming

​Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 50) – All IMHO:

How is it that there is no agreement on what should be recorded and documented when a system is commissioned? I cannot think of a single project I have worked on in Canada where there is agreement on good practice for the record and evidentiary Commissioning paperwork. I think there are several issues at play:

  1. Record and evidentiary Commissioning paperwork requirements are not specified.
  2. In North America there is an equipment based approach rather than a systems based approach to Commissioning.
  3. Nobody owns it, it is everyone’s and no ones’s responsibility.

I can sense the push back already on the three points above but, in my experience;

  1. Generic record documentation is specified and assumes Commissioning reports will be in the O&M Manuals, which are normally paper based, inaccurate and not checked. 
  2. An equipment based approach results in the equipment vendor doing a start up process and test sheet which is passed off as Commissioning in North America. 
  3. Most assume the Commissioning Authority (CxA) owns the responsibility for record and evidentiary Commissioning paperwork. True, if a CxA is appointed, but this is highly dependent on scope of work, professionalism and frankly, fee level. BTW, IMHO the Systems Manual on LEED projects is not inclusive enough and does not cover electrical, lighting, security, fire, envelop and specialist systems. 

Commissioning record and evidentiary documentation matters because it provides evidence of compliance with the owners project requirements and specified performance. It is a record of completion, useful in certain legal & payment situations and is vital to the facility managers.

So, what to do? I recommend the following to clients:

  1. Record and evidentiary Commissioning documentation should be a stand alone O&M Commissioning Binder.
  2. One entity should be responsible for its production and quality (The Commissioning Manager). 
  3. It should be multi-disciplined and systems based.
  4. I define a system as: “a group of interacting, interrelated elements forming a complex whole”. It could be argued that the building is a system, and it is, particularly for global integration & black building testing. The system  boundary is important and for the purpose of buildings, I draw that boundary around the whole building sub-systems i.e. one level above equipment. These include, but are not be limited to:
      • Envelop (roof & facade)
      • Mechancial ( drainage, plumbing, rainwater collection)
      • HVAC (ventilation, HTG, CHW, VAV)
      • Electrical (stand-by power, LV, HV, Back-up, fire alarm)
      • Lighting (lighting control, emergency lighting, facade & landscaping lighting)
      • Fire (sprinkler, staircase pressurization, smoke ventilation & clearance)
      • Vertical transportation (escalators & elevators)
      • Security 
      • Telecoms & Data
      • Landscaping (irrigation, drainage)
      • Whole building systems integration & black building testing (see post #40, Nov 6, 2015)


My recommended record and evidentiary Commissioning documentation for “each individual system” is summarized in the diagram below. Please feel free to share and use it. My proposed specification section for a Commissioning Binder is in the appendix below.

If you take one thing away from reading this (and I thank you for reading my mad ramblings), it this that Commissioning is a systems based activity not an equipment based activity.

Appendix: Commissioning Binder Specification Section

1.1.1     The Commissioning Binder(s) for the Operations and Maintenance Manuals shall be complied by a specialist firm;

1.1.2     The Commissioning Binder(s) for the Operations and Maintenance Manuals shall be consistent in format to the project O&M Manuals;

1.1.3     The Hard Covers for the Commissioning Binder(s) for the Operations and Maintenance Manuals shall be consistent in format to the project O&M Manuals;

1.1.4      Commissioning Binder: Coordinate requirements of Commissioning binder with specific requirements contained in the Technical Specifications required for contract documents; include cover sheets identifying;

    • Date submitted
    • Project title, location and project number
    • Names and addresses of Contractor and all Subcontractors
    • Table of Contents of all systems

1.1.5     Preliminary Submission: Three (3) months following award of contract, Submit one (1) hard copy and one (1) digital copy of proposed binder cover content and table of contents indicating proposed data contents; Consultant and Owner will review and may adjust listing based on actual building needs;

1.1.5     Final Submission: One (1) month following Substantial Performance, Submit one (1) hard copy and one (1) digital copy to Lead Consultant for review and distribution to Owner for approval.

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