BUILDING SYSTEMS COMMISSIONING makes buildings efficient

Building Systems Commissioning can provide Building Managers very beneficial rewards;  especially when they include building systems services to critical facilities, such as data centers or other 24 hour services.

Following are highlights of an effective commissioning plan to assist maintenance management in making the demonstration as effective as possible:

Interruption of electrical service  is the most common source of operating crises for most businesses; thus, the most reliable demonstration of the building system status is a “Whole Building Shut-Down”; which establishes the performance of all equipment and systems under emergency power AND, AS IMPORTANT, how the systems respond to the return of utility power.

NOTE : while this test demonstrates operation of the generator or UPS units, that is NOT the purpose of the testing.  All equipment and individual systems should be properly tested and accepted by the building designers and maintenance services personnel, prior to this test.  This test is to confirm that all the systems are actually connected and interfaced as required for stable operation.

It is important to review the manufacturer’s equipment data, as well as the project contract plans and specifications, so that “built-in start and stop” sequences are identified; i.e. timed delay for restart, mandated manual start function, etc.  Remember to review operating criteria for special equipment such as elevators, standby status for processing equipment such as medical devices, central computer gear, etc.

Be sure that the sequences for fan and damper operations are sequenced to avoid damage to duct work from over pressurization or create unacceptable negative conditions in the building.

A matrix of test procedures and anticipated functions for each piece of equipment  should be prepared by the building designer or commissioning manager  well in advance of the test date.  A simple matrix header is used by the Summit Building Engineering team of  Vancouver, Washington.

Power is to be designated as Normal, Generator or UPS,  then an appropriate  function scheduled in each of the RESPONSE columns – “Response on Loss of Power” and “Response at Restoration of Power”.

Recommended Key Notes for the Responses are:

  • A  -  Auto local restart ( simple disconnect)
  • B  -  Auto Controller or BAS  restart
  • C  -  Continuous Operation
  • D  -  Manual BAS restart
  • E  -  Emergency Generator Power
  • F  -  Remains  OFF
  • M -  Manual Restart
  • N  – Normal Utility Power
  • R  – Ride thru from E to N power


The following subjects need to be addressed, with detailed evaluation of complete operating sequences at shutdown and restart:

What is connected to generator power ?

What is connected to UPS ?

What is the equipment to do on shutdown ? (damper setting, fan speeds, other set points).

What is to happen on restoration of power ? ( manual or automatic start, delayed or sequenced starts)

Any objectionable conditions noted in ventilation, temperature or any operations.


Assemble a team of observers and provide instructions regarding the test procedures and the matrix checklists.  There should be a sufficient number of individuals to be stationed at each critical equipment location,such as:

Control Room

EACH Room containing AHU, Pumps, etc.

Chiller Room and Cooler Towers

Boiler Room

Data / Telecom

Freezers / Coolers

Lab or Special Hoods

Security Services

Roof Equipment / Exhaust Fans

Water Supply System (if served by the building systems)

Special Process Equipment

Each Observer should have a functional radio so that the status of the test and  special conditions can be shared immediately.

Following is a sample schedule for the commissioning testing.

10:30 – 11:00        Review all equipment                    Confirm Normal operating conditions

11:00 – 11:30        Team Meeting                                    Review staff assignments and test forms

11:30 -  12:30        Open Normal Supply                      Confirm ALL Check Lists

12:30 – 12:45         Team Meeting                                    Review test status. Prepare to return Normal

12:45 – 2:00           Restore Normal Power                   Confirm all equipment for proper restoration

2:00  – 2:30           Team Meeting                                     Identify items that need adjustment or repair, and required time.

2:30 – 3:30            Make necessary repairs

3:30 – 4:00            Open Normal Power                         Confirm status of previously failed conditions

4:00 -  4:15             Team Meeting                                     Review status, prepare to return to Normal

4:15 – 4:45              Restore Normal Power                    Confirm proper equipment status.

4:45 – 5:15              Team Meeting                                    Review status;  identify and schedule additional corrections and retest, if necessary.

NOTE  that time for “repairs” is minimal, anticipating proper completion of Pre-Commissioning testing.