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Phases of the Commissioning Process

Ryan Wagner •

A Roadmap to Getting the Most from Your Investment

If you’re like most owners, when you invest in a system or process, you expect significant results and real improvements in the performance of your critical infrastructure. One way to ensure you get what you want is to make commissioning (Cx) a part of your project plans.

Essentially an owner’s quality assurance program, Cx is a method of documenting and verifying that a process, system, or addition meets the owner’s needs. While a Commissioning Authority (CxA) can get involved in your project at any time, many industry experts, including Vertiv, prefer a more comprehensive approach in which this authority is engaged in the pre-design phase of the project and has continued involvement throughout the construction phase and up to one year post occupancy.

This type of phased approach to Cx ultimately delivers the greatest value because it begins with clearly defining the owner’s needs, and then keeps those needs front and center throughout the entire course of the project. Here’s a closer look at what a comprehensive Cx process includes, and how it can help you achieve the results you expect.

Pre-Design/Design Phase: Establishing Needs

Achieving Cx objectives means clearly defining the owner’s needs, and the earlier the better. Engaging a CxA in the pre-design or design is best for determining and documenting the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). The OPR then becomes the keystone of the project, and the CxA ensures all activities align with meeting these requirements.

Depending on the specific requirements, the CxA may also have the following duties:

  • Develop the written Cx plan
  • Identify systems to be commissioned
  • Specify testing for the construction phase of the project
  • Define the scope and schedule for Cx activities, including drafting a project’s general Cx requirements to be inserted into the project specifications.
  • Complete design reviews and map the design plans back to the OPR
  • Begin establishing training guidelines for operations and maintenance (O&M) staff


Clearly, the pre-design/design phase of Cx is all about setting the stage for a successful project.

Construction Phase: Installation, Startup and Testing

The construction phase of a system or assembly is the crux of a project and where much of the hands-on Cx activities occur. If the organization serving as your CxA completed your OPR and Cx plan prior to this point, it will be well prepared to implement activities and testing. The key objective during this phase is to ensure all components of the critical infrastructure, as well as the system as a whole, operate as intended and in accordance with the OPR.

The CxA and team will be busy during construction with many key activities such as the following:

  • Review submittals of commissioned equipment and controls
  • Participate in factory witness testing for major components of the system
  • Ensure proper equipment installation prior to startup
  • Witness vendor startup of critical equipment
  • Develop and conduct all functional and systems tests and complete acceptance testing
  • Document problems or weaknesses identified during testing and make sure issues are addressed
  • Prepare systems operating documentation
  • Oversee training for O&M staff based on pre-established training guidelines

Occupancy Phase: Fine-tuning and Adjusting

When the system or assembly is complete, there is still Cx work to be done. Many project owners keep their CxA on board up to a year post occupancy. During the occupancy phase, the CxA can do the following:

  • Perform deferred or seasonal testing
  • Adjust systems and equipment as needed to ensure optimal performance
  • Conduct a warranty review
  • Assist with requirements for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification, if applicable
  • Participate in a lessons-learned workshop

It’s Never Too Early—or Too Late—to Get Your CxA Involved

No matter where you are in your Cx project, involving a CxA can add real value. While the earlier the better, on-boarding a CxA at anytime can help ensure your project objectives are achieved and your investment protected.



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