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Structural & Architectural Cx?

Structural & Architectural Cx?

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 211).     

A client asked me if Structural and Architectural work falls into the building commissioning scope of work. Short answer: 

  • Structural = No
  • Architectural = Occasionally
  • Envelop = Frequently but not always 

Long Answer

The confusion regarding what commissioning actually is, never ceases to amaze me. IMHO, ASHRAE and CIBSE do a poor job moving commissioning forwards as a discipline. 

To think clearly about building commissioning requires “systems” thinking and a focus on outcomes. Commissioning is about “evidence” not “process”. Just because you follow a process does not mean you achieve an outcome. 

Commissioning is, to quote Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify”. Trust professionals to do their design and construction roles but verify the systems work as designed i.e. verify performance at the systems level. Commissioning is about physical, systems testing verification, not only “desk top” reviews. 

This means having a focus on “systems” not equipment performance. Also, it requires thinking of the final building as a single system. Therefore commissioning is a progression of testing and verifying building sub-systems all the way up to the building as a whole system. 

Structural Building Systems

Structural systems are embedded building sub-systems. The building structure is a “static” building system i.e. it has no motive or powered parts. It is foundational and exists in a yes/no realm of working or not working due to the catastrophic nature of any structural failure. 

The property industry manages risk and verification via PI insurance, peer reviews, industry reputation plus using and staying within well understood, safety factored engineering principals. IMHO, this does not fall under the building commissioning remit. 

As a property development manager I would ensure a clear documented design brief is issued and if the building is unusual in any way I would have the structural design peer reviewed at the end of Design Development. A peer review is NOT commissioning but has two real benefits: 

1. Verifies design 

2. Identifies potential savings in steel or concrete quantities

Architectural Building Systems

Architectural building systems should be commissioned if they are “active” i.e. if they contribute to building performance and/or occupant comfort. Systems that fall into this category include:

  • Window blinds
  • Active Facades
  • Rain water harvesting
  • Facade external shading systems

The emerging practice of building enclosure/envelop commissioning overlaps here a little bit but, IMHO, is separate. 

Building Enclosure/Envelop Commissioning

The building facade and its infiltration / exfiltration rates have a disproportionate effect on building energy performance. All the mechanical systems do, is compensate and react to facade and local climate performance. 

This is really a quality control process where the real value is added during design and construction phases. If problems are found during dynamic commissioning at the end of the project, there are no easy fixes and in the real world, nothing gets done. Projects avoid this form of commissioning due to the high consequences, costs and time overruns if problems are found late in the project. Also if done correctly, this is not a low cost activity. Generally building enclosure/envelop commissioning consists of:

  • Design phase – peer reviews and clarifications of construction details
  • Construction phase – Factory mock-up testing plus on site inspections 
  • Dynamic commissioning phase – enclosure/building pressurization testing on site, thermography and building performance analysis 

It is important to remember, commissioning only exists because the market has low confidence in design and construction teams abilities to deliver working buildings that perform. 

Just following a process and producing lots of paperwork is a waste of time but I guess it looks good. Commissioning is not a desk top activity, it is a risk management tool and verification process. 

IMHO, commissioning only delvers real value on risk management and verification if the owner employs and empowers the commissioning team. 

BlueRithm Brand Ambassador 

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#169 – Code Compliance is NOT Commissioning https://bldwhisperer.com/code-compliance-is-not-commissioning/ 

#187 – Commissioning Industry Chaos https://bldwhisperer.com/commissioning-industry-chaos/ 

#96 – Commissioning Plans Vs Method Statements https://bldwhisperer.com/commissioning-plans-vs-method-statements/ 

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