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8 Reasons to Commission Critical Systems and Processes

Ryan Wagner •

These days, operating systems and processes, as well as distribution systems (electrical, mechanical, controls, and structural) are increasingly complex, and they’re being used to support business-critical applications. But like Rome, such sophisticated systems aren’t built in a day. Rather, they require considerable investment of time and money to design and deploy.

So it’s no wonder that critical facility owners expect a payoff—ideally in the form of a system or process that performs exactly as designed.

That’s where commissioning (Cx) or retro-commissioning (RCx) can help. These processes include defining project requirements; field testing and verification of components and systems during construction; warranty reviews; post-occupancy adjustments; and facility life cycle maintenance planning. Cx or RCx ensures that “the facility and all of its systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the needs of the owner,” per the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) definition.

In other words, performing some type of Cx is the key to getting exactly what you need and expect from your new and existing critical systems or processes. If that’s not reason enough to invest, then consider all the benefits you can expect from Cx:

1. Cx ensures that systems and assemblies meet specific, well-documented project requirements. The Cx process starts with clearly defining the owner’s needs and requirements, and it keeps those needs front and center throughout all phases of a Cx or RCx process. The result? A system that does what you need it to do, when you need to do it.

2. Cx safeguards against unplanned downtime. Increasingly complex systems and assemblies mean more opportunities for problems that could ultimately translate into outages for your facility. Cx helps identify and correct the major culprits behind failures—such as design, installation, and startup deficiencies—before such issues lead to costly problems. To further maximize availability, the Cx process includes verification that all critical systems—power, cooling, and IT infrastructure—function together as a fully integrated system.

3. Cx reduces the life cycle costs of equipment. The Cx process improves system performance while providing benchmarking data that can be used to maintain optimal performance. When systems are optimized, they’re not only more reliable; they are more efficient, too. Cx activities can verify that specific efficiency features that are part of the system design function as intended. Commissioned systems result in lower operation and maintenance costs overall and less energy consumption throughout the life cycle of a critical facility.

4. Cx improves safety and compliance. Commissioners can verify compliance with current code standards (ASHRAE, National Electrical Code, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, National Fire Protection Association, InterNational Electrical Testing Association, International Building Code) and help ensure staff has the education needed to safely operate and maintain electrical and mechanical equipment. The Cx process also helps uncover and correct safety-related issues before they cause accidents or injuries.

5. Cx paves the way for effective training. The Cx process results in a robust knowledge base that can be leveraged for training. The Commissioning Authority (CxA) can help oversee training and Systems Manual preparation to ensure that operations and maintenance (O&M) staff has the knowledge and resources needed to safely and effectively use the new system.

6. Cx is a requirement for LEED certification. For projects attempting Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification, fundamental and enhanced Cx is a must. The CxA on your project can be an invaluable source of support for helping you achieve this important project designation.

7. Cx keeps projects on time and on budget. With a CxA heading up the Cx process, projects tend to stay on track. System-related issues are identified early in the project when they are more economical to fix. In general, commissioned projects experience fewer change orders, delays, and rework, avoiding considerable costs.

8. Cx pays for itself. Performed by Vertiv, cost/benefit analyses of key issues discovered and corrected during the Cx process consistently revealed value for the owner beyond the cost of Cx. These analyses take into account only material and labor costs and do not factor in the staggering cost of downtime that likely would occur if the identified issues had not been resolved.

Clearly, there are many good reasons to consider Cx your critical facility’s system or process. But as the owner, it ultimately comes down to your satisfaction—both with the process of designing and deploying a system, and the ultimate results you achieve. Cx can help minimize project hassles and costs while delivering a facility that is available, safe and efficient.

What do you think is the biggest benefit of commissioning?

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