The commissioning process is designed to verify that a renewable energy project meets specified agency design, performance, and operational requirements. To ensure that the level and focus of commissioning efforts are appropriate to the scope and complexity of the project, the commissioning planning process should begin at the same time as the design phase of the project.
- Integrating Commissioning Into the Design Process
- Developing a Detailed Commissioning Plan
- Testing Systems and Providing Commissioning Reports
- Performing Enhanced Commissioning
- Delivering Final Documentation
Integrating Commissioning Into the Design Process
The commissioning agent should attend design team meetings, review the project design at various stage of development, and make recommendations to help facilitate commissioning. The commissioning agent will note potential system performance problems, operations and maintenance (O&M) concerns, and other potential issues, depending on the scope of commissioning and the specific renewable energy technologies included in the design.
In the design phase, it is the project energy lead's responsibility to evaluate and discuss all of the commissioning agent's findings on the energy systems with the design team.
Developing a Detailed Commissioning Plan
During the pre-construction phase, the commissioning agent also develops a detailed commissioning plan that outlines the structure and schedule for the commissioning process and allows all participants to anticipate and prepare for milestones throughout the project.
The commissioning plan includes pre-functional checklists and an overview of the functional performance testing procedures performed during the construction phase. In addition to startup and standard operational testing, functional performance testing procedures for renewable energy projects must include seasonal testing to ensure systems perform as specified in all weather conditions and all seasons. The commissioning plan should include follow-up testing for renewable energy systems at a range of seasonal variations.
In some cases, the commissioning agent may be tasked with developing the testing procedures for the project. In others, the commissioning agent may review and accept testing procedures developed by renewable energy contractors or architectural and engineering (A&E) professionals. Especially in the latter case, the commissioning agent needs to verify that these are best practices for that type of system and accurate.
The commissioning plan also typically outlines the O&M training schedule for personnel and lists the warranties and manufacturer literature that will be collected from the contractor in the O&M manual for the project.
The agency may need to facilitate certain activities and procedures described in the commissioning plan, such as planned outages or special access to systems and facilities. The project energy lead should carefully review the plan to confirm that the plan is designed to verify the intended energy performance requirements for the overall building.
Testing Systems and Providing Commissioning Reports
During the construction phase, the commissioning agent should oversee and verify pre-functional and functional performance testing and document all testing procedures performed by project contractors. For renewable energy systems, testing should occur on equipment, measurement and verification systems, and related controls. As testing occurs, the commissioning agent will note deficiencies, work with installing contractors to correct them, and retest the systems. The commissioning agent should provide the agency with weekly commissioning reports that include schedule changes and updates, a list of new and outstanding deficiencies, and a list of deficiencies that have been resolved.
The commissioning agent and installing contractors typically make lower-level decisions about deficiencies and corrections, although the design team or the agency may be consulted. Particularly for decisions on energy-related systems, the project energy lead should be involved. The commissioning agent makes final recommendations to the agency regarding acceptance of each test, and the agency gives final approval to confirm that each test has been successfully completed.
The commissioning agent will also need to review and accept the O&M manuals and training proposed by the construction contractor. Encouraging O&M staff to participate in the various testing and operational phases of commissioning can help staff learn and troubleshoot systems prior to training.
The commissioning agent verifies that the training plan covers all required subject matter and develops criteria for determining successful completion of O&M training. The general contractor and installing contractors typically present the training material with the commissioning agent in attendance.
Performing Enhanced Commissioning
Enhanced commissioning verifies that, once operational, a renewable energy system continues to perform as specified by the design specifications. Enhanced commissioning is required for certain LEED certifications.
For up to a year after system installation, the commissioning agent will perform testing procedures and use measurement and verification (M&V) data to substantiate system performance across seasonal variations. It is important to note that renewable energy system installers should be contracted for the duration of enhanced commissioning to conduct required testing and make any necessary adjustments.
Delivering Final Documentation
The commissioning agent creates a final commissioning report compiling all key commissioning data for the project, including design documents, an updated commissioning plan, signed pre-functional checklists, signed performance test results, and reports on deficiencies, and corrective actions taken.
Ideally, the commissioning agent also develops a re-commissioning manual that outlines procedures and strategies for conducting periodic commissioning-type reviews of the building systems. This keeps the system performing at optimal levels. Components in the manual can include as-built sequences of operation for all equipment, seasonal start-up and shutdown procedures, recalibration recommendations, and a list of diagnostic tools. The O&M team can use this manual as a guide in performing periodic reviews and ensuring that systems are operating as specified.
Agencies need to stipulate upfront in the contract if they want this information provided specifically by the commissioning agent.