Commissioning: An essential step in the successful construction and operation of our buildings

June 5, 2018 by Robert Debski

In 1982, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan fame released the first track off his solo masterpiece Nightfly that included the lyrics, “a just machine to make big decisions, programmed by fellows with compassion and vision.” Around the same time, microprocessor-based controllers had started showing up in buildings. The big control corporations promised that this latest technology would deliver new levels of energy efficiency, comfort, and productivity. But have we made much progress since then? As expressed exquisitely in that Fagen song, the tension continues between human achievement and our always imperfect reality.

Almost on a daily basis, we talk to owners and operators about buildings, even the most automated and advanced buildings, that aren’t functioning as intended and as promised. Even recently constructed buildings, laden with integrated HVAC, lighting, and shading systems, often fail to deliver the levels of energy efficiency, comfort, and productivity for which they were designed.

Commissioning, retro-commissioning, and continuous commissioning for building systems that succeed

Commissioning has sometimes been perceived as just an added expense to the initial cost of a building. Studies have shown the cost can vary between $0.37 and $1.62 per square foot and that retro-commissioning or re-tuning existing buildings is one of the best things owners and operators can do to improve the comfort of and reduce the energy used by their buildings. Today the cost of commissioning or retro-commissioning can be significantly lowered by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based data analytics with building automation systems.

When properly applied, commissioned, and operated, building systems can deliver on their promises today and throughout the life of the building. As an added benefit, continuous commissioning allows facilities teams to shift time from reactive to proactive activities, increases equipment uptime, and improves the comfort, health, and safety of the building. Sometimes it really can be “a glorious time to be free,” as Fagan sang.

If you’d like to find out how the Graboyes Smart Buildings team can assist in making your building the very best it can be (and if you want to discuss great music), please email me at [email protected].

Bob Debski is president of Philadephia-based Graboyes Smart Smart Buildings.

Robert Debski building performance firm Philadelphia

Robert Debski

President, Graboyes Smart Buildings