There is no guarantee that all building systems, even the most advanced, will function as designed and intended. But performing commissioning at the end of a project (and continually thereafter) can help ensure that a building performs in accordance with the design intent, contract documents and the owner’s operational needs, and delivers low operating costs. (Commissioning can also be used in restoring older buildings, in which case it is called retro-commissioning.)
“The need for commissioning cannot be overstated,” said Sam Khalilieh, senior VP engineering, WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio. “It helps to identify common deficiencies such as design flaws, construction defects, malfunctioning equipment and, in some instances, deferred maintenance.”
Many industry experts contend that the sophistication of building designs and the complexity of building systems constructed today make commissioning a necessary. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a study of 60 new buildings and found that 50% of the buildings had controls issues; 40% had HVAC issues; 15% had missing or incomplete equipment; and 25% had energy management systems, building-automation systems, controllers and variable-frequency drives that did not function the way they were intended.
Traditionally, commissioning was primarily associated with the process of testing and balancing (T&B) a building’s HVAC systems based on specific standards. But it has come a long way since then.
Checking off the Benefits
What’s in it for me? That’s the most common question Sam Khalilieh, senior VP engineering, WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio, hears from building owners and operators with regard to commissioning. The simple answer? A lot.
According to Khalilieh, building commissioning has many benefits, including:
Articulates and verifies design intent
Optimizes energy performance, efficiency and safety
Reduces contractors change orders and call back
Addresses design and installation issues before they morph into major and expensive problems
Better IAQ environment for the employees and customers
Documents operation criteria for use as a baseline for future adjustments and troubleshooting
Extension of equipment life, resulting in increased asset valuation.
“Today’s building commissioning has developed into a more formal and meticulous quality-assurance process of articulating and verifying that all of the building’s systems, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, controls, automation, refrigeration and environmental, perform as they were intended to and meet the operational needs of the owner,” Khalilieh explained. “It recognizes the integrated nature of building systems and impacts energy savings, environment, public health, workplace productivity and security.”
In fact, commissioning is so important to sustainability that the U.S. Green Building Council made fundamental commissioning a pre-requisite for LEED certification. (Fundamental commissioning is designed to ensure and verify that the building’s energy-related systems are installed, calibrated and perform according to the owner’s project requirements, basis of design and construction requirements.)
“The LEED-certification process offers an additional credit for enhanced commissioning, which involves a more integrated approach,” Khalilieh noted. “To comply with the enhanced requirements, an independent commissioning authority directs the development of documentation and supervises the development of the OPR [owner program requirements] and the basis of design typically prepared by the owner and design team.”
When properly planned, commissioning is initiated in the planning phase and continues through construction-document and build-out phases. It is typically performed by an independent third party, Khalilieh said.
Cost: According to the Oregon Department of Energy, the cost of building commissioning is about 1% of the total cost of the project, while operational costs range from 8% to 20% lower than for non-commissioned buildings.
“Those who balk at the perceived high cost of commissioning should consider the cost of correcting deficiencies, the costs of inefficient operations, lost revenue and unhappy employees and customers,” Khalilieh said.
The bottom line is simple, at least according to the engineering VP.
“A properly commissioned building is likely to have fewer complaints from occupants, lower energy costs, improved IAQ and improved equipment performance,” Khalilieh said.
OfficeMax Q1 profit drops 79%
Naperville, Ill. OfficeMax announced its first quarter 2009 results on Thursday, which included a steep profit decline of 79%, from $62.4 million in first quarter 2008 to $13.1 million in first quarter 2009.
Total sales decreased 17% in the first quarter to $1.9 billion, compared with first quarter 2008.
“Although our financial results declined in the first quarter vs. the prior-year period, we continued to make improvements to our business and to contain costs,” Sam Duncan, chairman and CEO of OfficeMax, said. “We improved retail segment operating expenses as a percentage of sales compared to the first quarter of 2008 as a result of reorganizing our management, more efficient execution, and tighter cost controls.”
OfficeMax’s same-store sales decreased 12.7%, and sales declined across all major product categories primarily due to weaker small-business and consumer spending.
OfficeMax ended first quarter 2009 with a total of 1,020 retail stores, consisting of 939 retail stores in the United States and 81 retail stores in Mexico. During first quarter 2009, OfficeMax opened six retail stores in the United States and closed two stores in Mexico and six in the United States.
For the full year 2009, OfficeMax said it expects to open as many as 12 retail stores, and shutter between 15 and 25 retail stores.
Big Lots tries something new in Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio Big Lots has moved in a different direction with the opening of a store in an affluent area of Columbus, Ohio.
Dow Jones reported that the store now occupying a former Linens ‘N Things offers similar merchandise to othe Big Lots stores, but is differentiated by better in-store presentations and wider aisles.
“We’re offering a higher standard of presentation here,” said Tim Johnson, VP strategic planning, in an interview with Dow Jones. “We understand that this is a different type of customer that wants to be communicated with differently.”
According to Dow Jones, Big Lots is looking to change its image as a bargain-basement, rummage-sale store, to something a little more sophisticated.