Commissioning Best Practices During the Turnover Phase

A person signing documents

Recently I wrote a blog discussing commissioning best practices during the construction phase: Article.

That post discussed secrets to a successful commissioning kickoff meeting, self-performing commissioning documentation, effective issue resolution and developing customized Functional Performance Testing (FPT) documentation. A commissioning authority’s work is not complete until successful building turnover is achieved. This post will discuss some of the practices and deliverables I’ve learned to use to ensure the turnover process meets the owners’ expectations.

The Turnover Phase

The turnover phase of construction is the systematic transition of building operation from the project commissioning team to the operation and maintenance (O&M) team. The transition is physical – completion of commissioning activities – and includes a transfer of knowledge in the form of documentation. A successful transition is one where commissioning documentation is complete, well-organized and, most importantly, buildings systems operate per design and O&M personnel are trained to operate the systems.

Updated As-Built Documentation

Construction projects are guided by design documents that explain and detail the thousands of working parts that need to come together for a successful turnover. During construction, design documents undergo revisions due to site conditions or unforeseen issues. Drawings are “red lined” in the field by contractors installing equipment, detailing specific equipment installation, physical locations as well as other updates. The commissioning authority needs to be aware of changes as they affect commissioned equipment and receive – or more commonly request – updated documentation from the project team. While the commissioning authority is not responsible for updating design documents, he or she is responsible for making sure red lined updates are reflected in as-built drawings provided to the owner – specifically, mechanical and controls as-builts. As-builts will provide the O&M personnel with exacting information with which they can locate equipment, troubleshoot system issues, trend equipment performance and transfer knowledge to new personnel as needed.

Well Organized Commissioning Documentation

Like design documents, commissioning documentation should reflect real-world conditions of the commissioned systems. At minimum, the commissioning final report should include a letter of acceptance, the Commissioning Plan and Performance Verification Criteria, the Commissioning Issues Log, Pre-Functional (PFC) and FPT notes and as well as supporting documentation such as site visit reports, Testing Adjusting and Balancing report, etc. The PFC and FPT documents are important resources that can assist current and future building operators in developing a systems manual – if not provided during the turnover phase – and for re-commissioning efforts 3 – 5 years after turnover.

Provide a Systems Manual

The systems manual is not always required as part of the turnover package – unless the project is pursuing LEED Enhanced. However, it’s another invaluable resource that can ensure a successful turnover. As-builts and commissioning documentation have overlapping information and resources, but the systems manual is a comprehensive guide that should describe commissioned systems, control sequences and best practices for maintaining equipment. Further, a systems manual should include control drawings, riser diagrams and control sequence highlights. A systems manual is a tool that can be used by O&M personnel to operate, troubleshoot, maintain and track building performance.

Develop a Plan for Re-Commissioning

A plan for maintaining operational performance tends to get overlooked – unless the project is pursuing LEED Enhanced Commissioning – as a deliverable during the turnover phase. Like the aforementioned documents, a detailed plan is necessary to maintain top operational performance and implement re-commissioning every 3-5 years. The plan should allow O&M personnel to quickly understand the goals, re-commissioning process and expected outcomes of re-commissioning. As such, the re-commissioning plan should describe the following:

  • Ongoing commissioning process overview
  • Roles and responsibilities of the commissioning team
  • Re-commissioning schedule
  • List of systems
  • Detailed instructions to replicate FPTs executed by the commissioning authority during the acceptance phase.
  • Re-commissioning documentation to track results
  • Recommendations and instructions to establish and monitor facility performance benchmarks

Taking re-commissioning a step further, O&M personnel can use the Building Automation System (BAS) to their advantage by developing a customized building performance tracking program to better inform the owner – and CFO – of building costs. The BAS can be used to monitor and trend the following metrics:

  • Energy use, which can be further benchmarked as Energy Use Intensity using free tools such as Energy Star Portfolio Manager*
  • Indoor air quality parameters
  • Key system parameters such as temperature, humidity or static pressure set points
  • Automated fault detection

Lessons Learned Session

The final capstone to every successful project is a lessons learned meeting with the building owner, O&M personnel and select project team members. Lessons learned can be used to help inform the owners understanding of the value of commissioning as well as what worked and what didn’t work. You can’t grow as a professional without reviewing past performance.

The best practices mentioned here can help ensure the owner and O&M personnel are well informed of building systems, have the necessary documentation to operate and maintain the building, as well as an understanding of the lessons learned during the commissioning process.