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What Is Commissioning?

What is Commissioning?


Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 95) – All IMHO:

I saw a huge RFP recently which read like a Commissioning Management project but following a meeting it was clarified to be a TAB project with some systems validation testing. 

How can this confusion exist on a huge project, populated with experienced building design and construction professionals? Is it; 

  • Poor specification and RFP writing?
  • Malicious, to confuse bidders?
  • Plain incompetence? 

It could be all or none of these things, I have seen them all. However what I am 100% confident of, is that is rooted in differing cultural approaches to building engineering and a total lack of clear definitions. 

There is, in my experience little agreement or understanding regarding Commissioning definitions, therefore, for clarity; 

Testing, Adjusting & Balancing (TAB): Process of adjusting to recognized standards, actual flow rates in a distribution system to achieve the design flow rates within specified tolerances. 

Note: The British call TAB “Commissioning”. CIBSE Code A and Code W are “TAB” Codes detailing “what” must be done. The BISRIA Guides generally detail “how” to do things. 

This difference between TAB (North American) and Commissioning (British) naming conventions are the source of confusion and poor RFP’s on international projects.

Commissioning (Cx): Advancement of a system from a state of static completion to full dynamic operation in accordance with specified requirements. A onetime event relating to new construction or new installation.

Commissioning Management (CxM): Planning, organization, co-ordination and control of Commissioning activities. A onetime event relating to new construction or new installation.

Retro (Existing Building) Commissioning (RCx): Retroactive optimization of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and other mechanical or electrical systems in an existing building in which no commissioning services have ever been performed.

Re-Commissioning (ReCx): Typically conducted once every 5 to 10 years, usually goes one step beyond commissioning and tunes a building’s systems to new set points based on its actual operations, which may have changed since the building’s initial design. 

Continuous Commissioning (CCx): Monitors systems plus key equipment. Provides fault detection and diagnosis within a portfolio of buildings, enabling continuous improvement; 

Energy Auditing: Energy audits are not “Re-Commissioning”, “Existing Building Commissioning”, “Retro-commissioning” or “Continuous Commissioning”. They are analysis of building energy use and a first step in building energy use benchmarking.

I like the table below, it illustrates the use of Commissioning at various stages and shows it is not just my “Christopher Walken” crazy mind making this up. 
Commissioning Services in Building Construction and Operations Phases (source: Pike Research) 

Commissioning – New Construction Context
Commissioning – Occupied Buildings Context
IMHO all TAB and Commissioning RFP’s should include clear definitions like the ones above. They should also be very clear in what they are asking the bidder to do. 

The key benefit of definitions is CLARITY i.e. what is required has to be clear. Clarity is the antidote to bulls*!t, it enhances accountantability and provides focus. Clarity is of benefit to professionals and clients but a nightmare to people and firms that lack integrity. Is clarity too much to ask? 

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#39 – Balderdash, Commissioning RFP’s & The Benefits of Clarity ( )

#67 – Whistle Blowing on Professional Services Fees ( )

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