Building Commissioning (Cx) is a quality assurance process that helps ensure that buildings function as they were intended and at optimum efficiency and thermal comfort to meet owner expectations. The benefits of commissioning new and renovated buildings include extended equipment life, lower utility costs, improved indoor air quality and thermal comfort as well as reduced first costs and fewer change orders. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab conducted a study that included 74 new buildings that were commissioned and found that commissioning costs for many of these buildings were paid back in savings even before construction was completed.
California's Executive Order S-20-04 mandates that all new State buildings or major renovations greater than 10,000 square feet be designed, built and certified to the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. This requirement extends also to buildings less than 10,000 square feet, although actual certification is not required. Fundamental building commissioning is a prerequisite of the LEED Green Building Rating System. Additionally, a LEED credit is available for enhanced commissioning that provides further project benefits. Smaller buildings typically utilize fewer and less sophisticated building systems and are usually easier to commission. The State of California builds many smaller buildings in less populated or accessible parts of the State, and smaller project budgets often do not allow the hiring of a separate Cx provider.
The Department of General Services (DGS) is releasing for internal use a toolkit developed through a collaborative effort by representatives from DGS's Real Estate Services Division, and Green Team, and Architectural Energy Corp., a Cx Consultant funded by the California Energy Commission's (CEC) Public Interest in Energy Research (PIER) program. The toolkit includes instructions, tools, templates, and specifications enabling project design and construction teams to provide Cx services for the State's smaller, less complex building projects. Through the use of in-house project teams and design consultants, the hiring cost of separate Cx providers is avoided, and the knowledge and experiences gained through the Cx process is retained in-house by DGS project team members to the benefit of future projects. The toolkit will be posted on-line at the www.green.ca.gov website, and as a living document will be updated with additional resources as they become available.
The integration of Cx into the scope of services provided by the DGS will lead to better designed, constructed and operated State facilities that will be more energy efficient, last longer and have healthier more productive environments. This process will increase the knowledge, skills and abilities of DGS Real Estate Services Division professional staff and set the stage for continual monitoring and operational improvements during the life of the facility.