By Sam Khalilieh
For a long time, commissioning was predominately associated with the process of testing and balancing (T&B) heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems based on specific standards prior to turning the building over to the owner. But commissioning has come a long way, and today it is a more formal and meticulous quality-assurance process of articulating and verifying that all of the building’s systems perform as they were intended.
In addition, commissioning recognizes the integrated nature of building systems and impacts on energy savings, environment, public health, workplace productivity and security.
There are different types of commissioning. It can range from a single piece of equipment (simple commissioning) to the commissioning of an entire building’s systems.
Some typical types of commissioning include:
1. Basic Commissioning: A process of performing functional testing of systems and equipment at the time of start-up.
2. Re-commissioning: A periodic commissioning exercise of repeating the original commissioning procedures
3. Retro-commissioning: A process for improving and optimizing a building’s O&M procedures beyond their original plan and specifications after construction and focuses on energy-using equipment.
4. Ongoing Commissioning: A process conducted continually for the purposes of maintaining, improving and optimizing the performance of building’s systems after initial commissioning or retro-commissioning.
5. Continuous Commissioning: An ongoing process to investigate, collect and address operating deficiencies, improve comfort, optimize energy use and identify solutions.
6. LEED Commissioning: A process offering an additional credit for “enhanced commissioning” (EC), which involves a more meticulous, integrated approach.
7. Total Building Commissioning: A process for achieving, validating and documenting that the performance of the total building and its systems meet the design intent and requirements of the owner.
Commissioning professionals are trained to understand and evaluate buildings’ systems to ensure their efficient operation and that building operators are properly trained in operation and maintenance procedures. That is crucial because equipment can be undermined by the human involvement and cause unintentional or improper use.
The benefits of commissioning include articulating and verifying design intent; optimizing energy performance, efficiency and safety; enhancing safety and risk management; and lower overall project cost.
Additional benefits are construction observation and warranty enforcement; reducing contractors change orders and call back; and addressing design and installation issues before they morph into major and expensive problems.
Quicker occupancy, better indoor air quality environment for the employees and customers, document operation criteria for use as a baseline for future; adjustments and troubleshooting; and extension of equipment life complete the list.
The need for commissioning cannot be overstated. It helps to identify common deficiencies, such as design flaws, construction defects, malfunctioning equipment and, in some instances, deferred maintenance. The cost varies depending on the size and complexity of the project. Showing occupant productivity gains in a well-commissioned building, versus a building that is not commissioned, is extremely difficult.
Studies have shown that the types of problems found during commissioning, left uncorrected, resulted in sub-optimal building performance, which could lead to sub-optimal employee performance. Consequently, commissioning can and will produce lower construction costs and lower operating costs.
Commissioning is the backbone of every project in that it ensures the different building’s systems perform according to the design documents. The bottom line is simple: A properly commissioned building is likely to have fewer complaints from occupants, lower energy costs, improved indoor air quality and improved equipment.
Sam Khalilieh is senior VP architecture & engineering at WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio. He will present a session on commissioning, “Building Commissioning: A Golden Opportunity for Operational Excellence and Reduced Energy Costs,” at Chain Store Age’s SPECS conference on Tuesday March 11, 2014 (specsshow.com).
Spotlight on Hazardous Waste Laws
By Josh M. McMorrow, Tim Wilkins and Matt Haynie
“I’m a retailer, not a hazardous waste producer.” If that’s what you think, you may be wrong.
The fact is that any retailer that sells such everyday items as fertilizer, bug spray, nail polish, bleach or some over-the-counter medications generates hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state governments have recently turned their enforcement eyes on retailers’ role as hazardous waste generators, hitting these companies with tens of millions of dollars in fines based on violations of state and federal hazardous waste laws.
It should come as no surprise that ordinary retailers can be liable under hazardous waste laws. The days are long gone when federal and state agencies focused their hazardous waste enforcement efforts on major industrial operators. As recent cases show, retailers of common household goods must also take the steps necessary to comply with these laws or face serious civil and/or criminal consequences.
Waste Not, Want Not
A variety of federal and state laws apply to entities that handle hazardous waste. The most widely applicable of these is RCRA. Originally enacted by Congress in 1976 (and notably expanded in 1984), RCRA establishes a federal “cradle to grave” system for the management of solid and hazardous waste.
Subtitle C of RCRA, and its enabling regulations, set out a national hazardous waste management program. A threshold for coverage under these requirements is that an activity must involve “hazardous waste.” For a substance to be hazardous waste, it must be a waste — to greatly oversimplify, something that is intended to be discarded, abandoned or recycled, both before and after it is disposed or recycled.
The pre-disposal or pre-recycling storage element of the definition can be a special problem for retailers. Why? Because once a customer brings in a return, that item may already be considered a waste when the retailer receives it if it is destined for the trash or recycling.
Hazardous wastes include products that can no longer be used for their intended purpose. A product becomes a waste when the decision to discard has been made for a particular item. For years, retailers have put off the decision to discard until an item was transported back to a return center. Historically, retailers have claimed to lack the expertise to make the waste determination at the store level. This would seemingly allow a retailer to avoid making a waste determination, giving them the ability to legally transport the product without complying with RCRA. A recent Wal-Mart case specifically deals with this practice and makes clear the government’s view that the waste determination must be made at the store level for any product that cannot be used for its intended purpose.
Many waste items can be “hazardous wastes” — not just things that require a hazmat suit to handle but any waste that either is included on specific EPA lists of hazardous wastes or exhibits certain characteristics deemed to be hazardous — ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. Materials included on the EPA lists or exhibiting those attributes cause problems for people or the environment due to their tendency, among other things, to cause fires or eat through storage containers. Common retail products falling into these categories are legion, including many beauty supplies, batteries, light bulbs, household cleaners, pesticides and paints.
Entities that violate RCRA can face serious consequences. The civil penalties, for example, can be significant. Under RCRA, administrative and civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day are available for each violation of the regulations. Those penalties can add up quickly, especially because the government can often identify multiple violations — if a retailer fails to perform a proper waste determination and a hazardous waste ends up in the store dumpster, the retailer has likely violated quite a number of requirements, including failure to properly identify, label, package, mark, store, train, plan, manifest and dispose of the waste in question. Eight or 10 violations occurring over a period of months or years can result in mind-bogglingly large potential penalties.
Importantly, for “knowing violations” of various RCRA requirements, the federal government can also commence a criminal enforcement action, with penalties reaching up to $50,000 per day of violation, as well as imprisonment for responsible corporate officers and managers and involved employees for up to five years in some circumstances. Even more seriously, where such a violation would knowingly put someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury, the penalty can reach $250,000 for an individual or $1,000,000 for an organization, in addition to imprisonment for up to 15 years.
These financial and penal consequences are in addition to issues like legal and defense costs, damage to reputation, and potential injunctive requirements and oversight. Where these issues arise, public companies can be punished by their shareholders, credit agreements and other financial instruments can be violated, and entities that do business with the federal government can face potential exclusion from those activities. Plus, RCRA violations can be in addition to violations of other federal and state statutes that lead to similar consequences, as well as private party litigation that can be brought by persons claiming to have been harmed.
Josh M. McMorrow is VP and general counsel of PSC, a leading environmental and industrial services company based in Houston. Tim Wilkins is head of the environmental practice at the international law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP and managing partner of the firm’s Austin, Texas office. Matt Haynie is an environmental associate attorney in Bracewell’s Washington, D.C., office.
ICSC’s Terrorist Awareness Training Program
The International Council of Shopping Centers created a terrorist-awareness training program shortly after 9/11. At the time, there were no training programs in place for the shopping center industry.
“We hired George Washington University to develop a program and funded the work with $2 million,” said Malachy Kavanagh, ICSC spokesperson. “We created a 10-module course that is delivered over the Internet. You can learn at your own pace. If you work right through, it will take 14 to 15 hours.”
ICSC has since moved the course from George Washington to the Stephenson National Center for Security Research and Training at Louisiana State University’s Fire and Emergency Training Institute. “They do our training on their website and update us every month on the completion rate,” Kavanagh said.
Subjects include active shooters, evacuation, sheltering in place, behavior analysis and more.
The first goal in the training program is to recognize people who are acting out of character for a shopping center. “Everyone acts pretty much the same when shopping,” Kavanagh said. “So part of the training teaches people to look for anomalous behavior — who is not acting like a shopper.
“For example, law enforcement tells us that terrorist attacks are carefully planned. Planning includes studying the target. If you can spot someone conducting surveillance, you might be able to prevent an attack.”
ICSC updates the course constantly. Every year, for instance, the Stephenson Center and ICSC host a security summit. In 2013, the summit brought in security experts from Israel to talk about bombing. Kavanagh said that ICSC used the opportunity to develop additional educational opportunities.
Annual updates are important to a terrorism training course because strategies continually change and evolve as the experience base grows. For example, law enforcement recently shifted its strategy for responding to an active shooter.
Not long ago, the strategy was to encircle the mall, try to figure out where the shooter was and where the bystanders were.
“The strategy today is that whoever arrives first should enter the mall and get after the shooter,” Kavanagh said. “The reason is that malls are large facilities and it can be difficult to find an individual. So now the thinking is: Capture ground and make it safe so that EMTs can treat the wounded. If you hear shots over there, go over there now. Disarm or eliminate the shooter as fast as you can.”
Such a significant change in law-enforcement strategy might also change the property level response before the police arrive. So it is important to maintain the lines of communication between law enforcement and the industry.