Energy Manager

Controls & Automation
FEATURE – Ongoing commissioning: Different Perspectives = Different Needs

Ongoing commissioning is a daily process involving each management level and running 24/7 inside a building operation. It monitors the mechanical systems control sequences, lighting schedules, occupancy flows, system design improvements and more. The process uses a large amount of input data to generate precise, valuable information, but it also brings up a great question: What amount of information does each organizational level need, and how should they use it?

January 9, 2013  By Olivier Allard

Different perspectives mean different needs. This article will explain the singular perspective and the unique KPIs (key performance indicators) looked at by a building owner, property/facility manager, design engineer, commissioning agent and a field technician.

To provide a basic ongoing commissioning analysis, you need to collect data from multiple sources. The data set is used to fuel the analysis procedure, allowing access to precise and actionable information. Let’s first list the standard sets of data that are inputted and the information outputted during the ongoing commissioning process.

• Available resources description (e.g. time, money, manpower, subcontractors)
• Energy bills (e.g. gas, electricity, steam, oil, coal)
• Mechanical systems drawings and control sequences (e.g. temperature resets, sizing, design specs)
• Building occupancy/scheduling (e.g. standard work schedule, people flow, exceptions)
• Targets and objectives (e.g. KPIs, certification, awards)

• Prioritized action list
• Field team training plan
• Building complete history
• Reviewed mechanical control sequences and design
• Reviewed operational procedures


The building owner is generally not involved in daily operations. At this level, useful information to look for is related to global building performance. A lot of ongoing commissioning measures are long-term payback with small daily savings. A cumulative sum can help the owner see and understand the ROI of some projects, and can help get future budgets accepted. Some useful KPIs include tenant complaints/month, global operating expenses/initial budget, building asset value.

The property/facility manager is involved in daily operations at a project level. The daily progress compared to the targeted objective is key information. A measure & verification plan (Option B) may be used to generate monitoring dashboards and reports. This information helps the manager make faster decisions with a better understanding of the building complexity. It also provides quick feedback for fine-tuning the operation process. Some useful KPIs include tenant complaints/week, ROI/project, expenses/initial project budget versus project completion.

The design engineer is usually a subcontractor working on a retrofit project identified during the ongoing commissioning process. This technical person needs to access precise data to create an efficient design. Ongoing commissioning produces a huge amount of data— gathering sensor and meter values, set points, control sequences and more. This information reduces the error risks and costs for engineering services simply because it is a continuous flow of data compared to a snapshot given by a small data sample. The design engineer may also need some pre-calculated information resulting from standard equations. Some available tools that provide these values can accelerate the design process and, again, reduce cost. Some useful KPIs include KW/system, KWh/period, degree/day, building occupancy.

The commissioning agent performs the link between all the other resources. This person is looking to meet the owner’s expectations within the facility manager’s budget for the project using design engineers’ services and the field technicians’ hard work. A fault detection system is really useful for identifying out-of-spec equipment and non-efficient control sequences, such as simultaneous heating and cooling. To prioritize actions, the commissioning agent also needs to look at the target objectives and the actual maintenance processes and performance. Access to the maintenance log helps pinpoint critical maintenance needs. Some useful KPIs include late maintenance work orders, Top 5 identified faults, KW/equipment, building occupancy.

The field technician executes the prioritized the project actions. To operate correctly, he needs to have a precise description of what needs to be done. A simple graphic to explain the problem with its root cause helps him fix the problem. The technician can be trained to use the fault-detection system and become independent to the point where he’s able to identify, confirm and prioritize necessary actions. Some useful KPIs include late maintenance work orders, Top 5 identified faults, KW/equipment, tenant complaint/equipment.

Each of the five actors in an ongoing commissioning project is looking at the same building data with different needs, each with his own set of responsibilities and decisions to make (which explains why they are not looking at the same KPIs). So, when you are thinking about implementing an ongoing commissioning process, or even a simple measure & verification (M&V) process inside a building operation, first identify the information you want to share with each management level, followed by the question: How can I share the right information with the right person at the right time?

About the author
Olivier Allard oversees business sales, marketing, product development and technology at of ADMS Technologies Inc., which specializes in building management optimization. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Montreal Polytechnique School of Engineering, and can be reached at .

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