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Commissioning: What a Building Owner Needs to Know

June 1st, 2022 | 3 min. read

Commissioning: What a Building Owner Needs to Know

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Building projects are full of uncertainty. With many moving parts and technical elements, it’s important to implement a quality assurance process and make sure everything is operating correctly.   

Commissioning agents are third-party specialists who inspect documents and construction work. They make sure everything is designed and assembled correctly and operating as intended before you occupy the space. Although commissioning is an additional cost, it is essential to a successful building project. 

This article will give you a better understanding of commissioning by breaking down: 

  1. The types of commissioning you may encounter on a building project 
  2. The process of procuring commissioning services 
  3. The process of addressing problems found by a commissioning agent

After reading, you will better understand the purpose of commissioning and how it will benefit your project. 

Types of Commissioning 

Every project has different commissioning requirements. Building codes may require some types of commissioning, while the project’s complexity may necessitate others.   

Mechanical and Electrical Commissioning 

Mechanical and electrical commissioning is the most common commissioning type. You may need to hire a mechanical and electrical commissioning agent depending on the building code, your project type, and your state’s laws. Some building verification systems also require it. 

Often, the agent will inspect submittals and construction work to make sure all electrical and mechanical systems are working. For example, they may check HVAC fans, thermostats, lighting controls, and any other electrical systems in the building. 

These systems can be complex, especially on larger projects. An extra set of eyes reduces the likelihood of inconvenient repairs after move-in. 

Envelope Commissioning 

Along with mechanical and electrical commissioning, some projects include envelope commissioning. These commissioning agents check windows, doors, curtain walls, rain screens, and roofing details. 

Envelope commissioning can reduce the likelihood of error when dealing with complicated systems. For example, historical renovation projects with façade details benefit from an additional inspection. 

Procuring Commissioning Services 

Although most projects require some form of commissioning, the cost is outside the scope of construction. Building owners are responsible for hiring the commissioning agent and covering the cost. 

This process keeps everything neutral and ensures a reliable inspection. The commissioning agent works for you—not the contractor or architect. 

If you are new to the process, your architect can help procure commissioning services by providing recommendations and getting bids from agents. However, the final decision is up to you. 

We recommend bringing on a commissioning agent earlier in the architectural process. Joining the process early allows them to collaborate with your architect and catch any potential problems before construction begins. This reduces the likelihood of change orders, delays, and errors and omissions in the contract documents. 

Addressing Problems Found by a Commissioning Agent 

Building projects present plenty of opportunities for error. While your architect and contractor should work to reduce error, some situations are beyond anyone’s control. 

A commissioning agent provides a detailed inspection and identifies any changes or repairs. If they identify an issue, they will write and report and submit it to the contractor. The contractor is then responsible for correcting the problem and coordinating the work with subcontractors. 

In some cases, repairs and corrections may involve the assistance of a product manufacturer. Regardless, the construction team should work to resolve these issues before your move-in date. 

Learn More About Construction 

Commissioning is a vital part of any building project. As a neutral third party, a commissioning agent makes sure the building is operating as intended, saving you time and money. While you should expect to invest in mechanical and electrical commissioning, your project may require additional commissioning services. 

Talk to your architect early about commissioning and your project’s requirements. Bringing on a commissioning agent earlier in the process helps mitigate risk. If you are taking on your first building project, be sure to ask your architect for recommendations. 

In addition to your commissioning agent, your architect should observe the contractor’s work and make sure everything is assembled correctly. Learn more by reading about an architect’s role in construction.