In the 2016 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency indicator survey, 72 percent of respondents have plans to increase investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. “Going Green” and “Environmentally Friendly” are no longer newsworthy, trending headlines. Now, there is a growing focus on how to achieve energy efficiency in the most cost-effective way. This is where commissioning (Cx) comes in to play. By the end of this post, you will know what Cx is, how it plays into your priorities, and commissioning's importance in various industries.
Facility owners and managers are already on board with transforming their sites into more energy-efficiency buildings. In fact, energy management is important in cutting costs in a sustainable way (Read Here). The hard decision is not to become an energy optimized building. Rather, the hard decision is finding the path of least resistance towards becoming as energy efficient as possible. Commissioning's importance lies in reducing the frustration, money, and time that come with building performance optimization.
What is Commissioning?
So where does the word "commissioning" come from? The California Commissioning Collaborative mentions that it is an old term that actually comes from shipbuilding. Before being considered a commissioned, a ship must pass through a quality assurance process and pass certain milestones in order to be considered ready for service. Similarly, commissioning a building requires the facility to pass through a quality assurance process to ensure that it is running optimally.
There are many different types of Cx. You have building commissioning, retro-commissioning, and re-commissioning–yes, those in fact are all slightly different forms of commissioning. While they all vary, each form of commissioning has the same main goal.
Cx involves a process of evaluating a building. Each building has an optimal level at which it should ideally perform; however, not all buildings operate at this level. In existing buildings, the Cx process helps identify areas in the facility to update, optimize, and make more efficient. In short, Cx identifies drift: the difference between where a building should operate ideally and where it actually operates. Once a commissioning agent (CxA) runs this thorough quality assurance process, he works with other stakeholders to help the building owner or manager increase the facility's efficiency and performance.
The economic benefits that come from this quality assurance process are the root of commissioning's importance. Various members in the commercial building and real estate industry reap the rewards of what commissioning offers–from saving money on initial technology and equipment costs to realizing higher occupancy rates in multifamily housing, for example.
Building Owners + Facility Managers
For building owners and managers alike, it is imperative that they keep their facility operating smoothly. Nevertheless, running smoothly does not equate to running optimally or efficiently. "As long as temperatures remain around where they should, everything is fine. Right?" While everything could appear to be running as it should, there could be heating and cooling waste, but no one would know.
A CxA would be able to pinpoint this inefficiency and help create a solution to reduce the waste. Commissioning's importance comes in to play in helping identify these inefficiencies and issues so that building owners and managers can invest in solutions. A commissioned building will then be able to run more efficiently with waste reduction and decreased energy usage. As the U.S. General Services Administration lists, this allows owners to:
- Decrease utility costs (energy savings)
- Improve building system function
- Improve building operation and maintenance
- Extension of equipment life cycle
- Improve building documentation
Cx is important for overall building function and helps facility managers do their jobs better and building owners cut costs.
The real estate industry relies on building attractiveness to bring in occupants and investors. While having certain features may be attractive on the exterior, occupants value comfort and investors value occupants' happiness and cost-effective building performance.
Commissioning's importance in this industry affects both the occupant and investor, in addition to the building owners and managers. For the occupants, Cx identifies areas within building performance that could be improved to maintain the specific comfort levels necessary to keep tenants and occupants content. In addition to location, convenience, etc., tenant comfort drives building occupancy.
LEED certifications boosts buildings' Costar listing, leasing traffic, and market attractiveness, according to Dan Winters of the Green Building Information Gateway. Building owners are required to commission new building's energy-related systems as they go through any LEED certification process. Commissioning is a vital step in process of gaining the LEED certification prestige.
Reaching Energy Efficiency and Optimal Operation
Respondents note in the Johnson Controls survey that cost savings exist as the main reason to invest more in green technology. Spending money upfront helps lead to saving on energy expenses down the road. Nevertheless, the upfront costs for installing a solar system, for example, can be staggering and in the hundreds of thousands. Think about the cost of the solar panels, the inverter, and labor installation.
When thinking about how to improve energy efficiency, improve building performance, and cut costs, spending thousands of dollars on new technology seems to make sense. You are paying a lot, so you must be increasing your efficiency by a lot–it only makes sense....False.
Other means, like commissioning, exist that can help put you on your path towards energy efficiency and optimal building operation without costing you nearly as much. You can dive in and spend thousands of dollars on renewable energy methods. You can also utilize Cx, which costs far less and can target specific areas in a building that can be optimized. With this process, you can solely spend and optimize the problem areas. This not only makes your building efficient, but makes your spending more efficient, too.
So, What Next?
Commissioning's importance in cutting costs, reducing energy, increasing building performance and attractiveness to occupants and investors alike. Right off the bat, on average, commissioned buildings have operating costs that "range from 8% to 20% below that of a non-commissioned building" according to the U.S. General Services Administration. A CxA can pinpoint issues and inefficiencies in a building that one would not regularly notice. Maintaining optimal building performance is a crucial part of building management and Cx has a large role to play in this day-to-day operation.