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Articles

Reduce Costs and Increase Building Performance Through Recommissioning

by: Richard Halley
TRANE
New York – New Jersey

Commissioning (Cx) is a systematic process to ensure that new building systems perform according to design intent and operational needs. Recommissioning (Rx) is the process of reviewing existing equipment and systems to meet these same objectives. 

Recommissioning is a highly effective way to meet facility performance goals by reducing your operation and maintenance costs and cutting energy consumption. Despite these benefits, most buildings have never undergone recommissioning, because often upper management doesn’t fully understand its advantages.

Recommissioning was first created to ensure that HVAC systems are installed and operating correctly within the original design specifications, but today it often extends to other systems, such as lighting, plumbing, electrical, or the building envelope.

Facility managers can make a strong business case for recommissioning to decision makers based on a wealth of evidence that it achieves excellent financial and operational outcomes.

Studies show rapid payback for recommissioning 
A recent study of 224 recommissioned buildings, conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that recommissioning achieves a median of 15 percent energy savings, with potential payback periods in less than a year. Many buildings realize even greater cost savings.

Recommissioning also achieves other important outcomes, such as improved indoor comfort and air quality, lower operation and maintenance costs, greater occupant satisfaction, extended equipment lifetime, safety benefits, and better overall operating performance.

Make your business case for recommissioning
Even with research data to make a strong business case for a recommissioning investment, it may be a difficult topic to approach with your boss, especially if you think the project might call out inefficiencies caused by deferred or improper maintenance.

It is important to realize that even well-maintained buildings can fall out of specification, because routine maintenance only looks at individual pieces of equipment. Recommissioning focuses on keeping building total system operation at the design specification levels required to meet building performance goals.

Emphasize cost benefits. When proposing recommissioning for your facility, point out that, although the building may reduce short-term spending through deferred maintenance, this can be extremely costly in the long-run. The commissioning engineer will quantify the costs and risks of deferred maintenance and the cost benefits of system improvements.

Software can be used to model energy use and potential savings.

All buildings can benefit from recommissioning, but the more energy intensive the facility the greater savings it will achieve. The Berkeley study found that the outcomes with the highest returns on investment occurred in facilities with large energy demands, such as hospitals and laboratories.

Point out productivity gains. In addition to energy savings, recommissioning leads to financial returns in increased occupant comfort and productivity.  Ergonomics studies, such as research by Professor Alan Hedge of Cornell University , show that better indoor environment conditions, including sound, lighting, air quality, and temperature, lead to higher worker productivity. Recommissioning can lead to improvements in all of these areas, thereby improving occupant performance and financial outcomes.

Funding options. Facilities that do not have capital to invest should consider Performance Contracting, which develops solutions to package “fast-payback” improvement initiatives with building infrastructure projects that may have a longer payback period.  For example, k-12 schools, which often have limited budgets but high needs for system improvements, typically achieve excellent results through performance contracting.

The recommissioning process

Choose a project leader who understands your facility.
You will first need to find the right person to conduct the recommissioning project for your facility. If you do not have the expertise on staff, you will need to hire an independent commissioning agent or qualified HVAC services provider.

The recommissioning engineer must have not only the right technical expertise, but also must understand the objectives of your facility and make a commitment to helping you reach those goals. Communication throughout the process is critical, to ensure that recommissioning actions remain in line with management expectations.

Assess original design and current operations.
The project will begin by assembling all available information from the original building and systems design and commissioning, such as plans, specifications, drawings, equipment manuals, and so on.

Next, the commissioning engineer conducts a complete survey of the building systems’ condition and operation.

The initial assessment also involves analysis of the building’s current operational needs, and, depending on the facility’s size and complexity, may take weeks or several months.

Conduct a gap analysis. Once design intent and current conditions are assessed, the commissioning engineer conducts a gap analysis to identify problems, inefficiencies, and potential improvements. The results of the evaluation are compared to the original design intent of the building and current demands. The project might identify an array of issues, from high utility costs, energy inefficiency, and occupant complaints to system failures, and health and safety risks.

Prioritize actions. The commissioning engineer will then work with you to prioritize the issues, conduct a cost-analysis and decide in which improvements to invest. The recommendations might include small adjustments that can achieve significant savings or retrofitting projects. Investment decisions are based on the best and most cost-effective ways to reach your facility’s objectives.

Train your staff. Recommissioning often provides rapid payback, but long-term savings require staff training to uphold the benefits of systems improvements. A preventive or predictive maintenance program should be put in place to ensure that you get the best results and financial outcomes for many years to come.

Implement Continuous Commissioning. Once the systems have been recommissioned, you will want to sustain the benefits through an ongoing process of reviewing the operation of systems and equipment to assure that they continue to operate at maximum efficiency.

Ultimately, by proposing a recommissioning project, a facility manager can demonstrate interest in achieving better financial results and performance outcomes for the building.



For more information, contact: David Pospisil at TRANE New York – New Jersey at phone 973-434-2188 or email: dpospisil@trane.com.