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The “Hot Potato” That Is The Controls Sequence of Operation


​Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 42) – All IMHO:

As a project manager it is important to know who is responsible for developing the BMS points list and writing the controls sequences of operation for MEP systems. For me, there is only one answer, THE DESIGNER! (yes all cap’s shouting). Only the systems designer knows what level of control, space condition and energy saving routines they are trying to achieve via their design in response to the owners project requirements. 

On every project, no matter what country, the ownership of this task is passed around like an unwanted, re-gifted birthday present.

As a consequence of 35 years in property development, I see repetative patterns and behaviour. Also for some reason this is particularly bad in North American markets. On a typical project the pattern is as follows:

1. MEP designer, designs system and omits BMS point list and sequences of control or uses paste and copy generic sequences of control. Why?

      • Lack of time and money.
      • Lack of controls expertise.
      • Delegates this to the controls contractor “who will take care of it”.
      • Assumes the controls contractor will review in detail and polish the sequence via a submittal.

2. Controls contractor wins project, reviews spec and drawings and submits the same generic controls sequences back to the designer for approval. Why?

      • Controls contractor assumes the designer knows what he wants and has communicated this in the tender issue sequences.
      • Controls contractor has not included to review the design in detail and develop project & system specific sequences of control, that is the designers job.

3. MEP designer, receives the generic controls sequences submittals back from the controls contractor and approves them. Why?

      • Assumes the controls contractor has reviewed in detail and polished the sequences to be project and system specific.  
      • Assumes the controls contractor is the subject matter expert, so the submittal must be right.
      • MEP designer has no money or time left in the project to review submittals in detail.
      • In North America, the submittals are reviewed by “field inspectors” who are not the designers. 

4. Commissioning authority is appointed late i.e. during construction and requests a copy of the “approved” sequences of operation for each system so the functional performance test scripts can be developed. They are not available, why?

      • Neither the designer and controls specialist has taken full ownership of them.
      • Few project managers understand their importance.
      • Frequently the designer has left the firm.
      • Frequently the controls specialist has no manpower on the job site until the last few months.

From a Commissioning perspective the “approved” sequences of operation for each system are vital to planning, and producing functional performance test scripts and the global integration test matrix. Importantly, systems sequences of operation, detail and enable the necessary systems integration e.g. the interfaces between the fire systems and HVAC and elevators and standby power systems. 

What is the solution? IMHO; 

  1. Professional team appointment contracts must define in detail, responsibilities and ownership of deliverables.
  2. Owners and their project mangers need to manage this risk, preferably with the input of a Commissioning Authority as intended by the USGBC.
  3. Put approval of sequences of operation for each system on the project schedule critical path.
  4. Quantify and include approval of sequences of operation for each system on the project dashboard as a discrete KPI. 

Therefore from a Project & Risk Management perspective for MEP design and Building Commissioning, essential KPI’s for the project dashboard are:

  1. Errors & Omissions (number and value)
  2. RFI’s
  3. Change Orders
  4. Total submittals issued
  5. Total submittals outstanding
  6. Total  submittals closed & approved
  7. Total controls sequences of operation 
  8. Total controls sequences of operation approved

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