We’ve all heard the statistic: Buildings gobble up 40 percent of the world’s energy — Yikes. But buildings themselves aren’t the villains; after all, they’re our schools, our offices, our favourite coffee shops. Often, the real culprits are building systems that over time fall out of alignment with their optimal, factory-intended performance states. These culprits are hard to spot without a regimented quality assurance process.
So how do building owners and managers balance their bottom lines with other priorities like occupant comfort and safety? We’ve talked about many proven ideas in other posts, such as the value of building management systems and retrofitting. Now it’s time to talk commissioning, an emergent strategy gaining adoption across business sectors due to its serious bottom-line savings.
What is commissioning, exactly? In a nutshell, it’s a quality assurance strategy whereby a building owner conducts system reviews throughout a building’s life cycle in order to optimise efficiency, longevity, and performance. Here’s a more thorough explanation if you need one.
Commissioning may not be the flashiest eco-trend out there, but I’m a big believer in day-in, day-out dedication to operationalised efficiency. While the photo opportunities may not be there, the savings certainly are: a massive Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study found that commissioning quickly pays for itself through a variety of savings.
Here’s the business case for commissioning, in five arguments:
- Cut up to 30 percent off your energy bill – The LBNL study examined 643 US buildings and found that commissioning resulted in a median of 16 percent whole-building energy savings for existing buildings and 13 percent for new buildings. What’s more, over a quarter of the buildings surveyed in a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study realised a dramatic 30 percent energy savings from commissioning.
- Keep your tenants happy – Sometimes hotspots happen. Or maybe a duct doesn’t quite reach a certain corner office. One study found that ‘there is a two percent drop in productivity for each degree above 78°F’ and ‘a similar reduction in productivity occurs when the temperature drops below 72°’ Commissioning prevents these problems by ensuring your system continually meets its intended design — it identifies stuck variable speed drives, inaccurate sensors, and other mishaps that can cause serious problems.
- Prolong your building’s lifespan – Proper commissioning ensures your equipment systems continually operate according to factory requirements. That way, you don’t overload any systems and cause premature failures. It’s essentially the same concept as getting regular oil changes for your car.
- Minimise human error – Speaking of cars … I’m certainly guilty of ignoring my car’s “Check Engine” light once in awhile. Without a standardised maintenance regimen, we all tend to let things go a bit. Commissioning helps to overcome this human tendency with pre-established procedures that keep everyone accountable and on the same page.
- Enjoy a rapid ROI – Want to pitch commissioning to your boss? Check this out: According to that same LBNL study, the estimated payback time for commissioning is 1.1 years with existing buildings and 4.2 years with new buildings. ROIs for re-commissioning were most rapid (taking less than a year) in laboratories, healthcare, and food sales buildings, while lodging, office, and higher education buildings have shown ROIs of fewer than two years. Keep in mind these are averages; depending on factors such as your building’s size, type of use, and complexity, you might see faster or slower ROIs.
I know as a building owner or manager you’re striving to run a tight ship and reduce waste — you may have just needed the right way to convince your boss to buy in, or you needed a proven methodology to follow.
Now that you’ve got the business case, dig a little deeper into our new white paper to explore more details on how to do building commissioning the right way.