Building Management

How Does Commissioning Help You Earn an Energy-Efficient Building Certification?

We’ve already learned the financial case for commissioning (Cx), but that’s only part of what Cx can do for your bottom line. As you probably know, demand for energy-efficient building certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, NABERS and EU.BAC grew steadily in the last decade. In the US, LEED-certified square footage tripled between 2007 and 2014, while NABERS certification reached 77 per cent of Australian office buildings in 2015.

 How Does Commissioning Help You Earn an Energy-Efficient Building Certification? Schneider Electric

A Maastricht University study explains what’s behind the growth: People want to live and work in green buildings. Certified green buildings achieved a 21 per cent premium on transaction prices, and an 18 per cent premium on rent prices. So not only do you earn direct savings from energy-efficient systems, you also boost your bottom line through higher rents and sale prices.

How commissioning fits in

We actually see a parallel growth in commissioning industry adoption: In a 2013 survey, 70 per cent of attendees at the US National Conference on Building Commissioning reported increasing demand for Cx over a single year.

These two trends are no coincidence; in fact, they’re causally related. A 2016 Navigant report found that nearly 70 per cent of respondents identified green building certifications as a driver of Cx demand. In short, Cx and green building certifications go hand-in-hand. Some certifications require Cx, others award points for it and all recommend it.

Let’s explore how the major international green building certifications incorporate Cx into their guidelines.

BREEAM

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) is the world’s oldest and most widely used method of assessing, rating, and certifying building sustainability. Over 250,000 buildings are BREEAM-certified and over a million are registered for certification in more than 50 countries worldwide.

BREEAM guidelines focus on the importance of taking care of sustainability across key stages of design, procurement, and initial occupation from the initial project brief stage to appropriate aftercare. BREEAM emphasises the importance of commissioning for sustainable management practices.

Bottom Line:
Cx represents the minimum required standards under BREEAM, earning you four credits toward certification via the management section, which you can read more about here.

EU.BAC

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The European Building Automation and Control Association (EU.BAC) represents European energy service companies as well as home and building automation technology manufacturers.

EU.BAC provides a proven methodology that enables building owners to maximize energy savings throughout their buildings’ life cycles. It sets guidelines for designing, commissioning, and operating energy-efficient building automation and control systems.

Bottom Line:
EU.BAC awards buildings with a certificate or rating commensurate with the quality of the building’s management and energy efficiency profiles. You can earn points by employing Cx.

ASHRAE

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recognised the importance of Cx awhile back. In Standard 202-2013, it recommends a detailed process for Cx and provides a standardised methodology for any building. If you ever wanted to follow one of the gold standards of Cx, ASHRAE’s guide is a great place to look.

Bottom Line:
ASHRAE doesn’t provide a green building certification. It trains Cx certification professionals and creates guidelines that building owners follow to optimise their Cx process.

LEED

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) recognises best-in-class building strategies and offers tiered levels of green building certifications in the US.

LEED divides Cx in two parts: Fundamental Cx and Enhanced Cx. The difference is in the scope of systems, the mandate for the Cx agent, the degree of documentation, and so on. Both parts count toward LEED certification.

Bottom Line:
Fundamental Cx is mandatory for LEED certification. Enhanced commissioning is not, though it brings in two additional credits.

ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR is a voluntary U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that focuses on energy strategies for buildings and industrial plants. You can check out the program’s guidelines for Cx here, and learn more about their Cx standards here.

Bottom Line:
According to the ENERGY STAR site, fundamental Cx will ‘increase the likelihood that the building meets its energy performance goal — and earns the ENERGY STAR’. So while Cx is not mandated, it is still a critical part of earning the rating.

NABERS

The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a government initiative to measure and compare the environmental performance of Australian buildings.

NABERS offers two rating types. The first is a self-rating according to an established process. It’s less expensive, but it cannot be used in external publications, so you’d miss out on the opportunity to attract tenants and increase your building’s value. The other rating is an accreditation process where a certified professional rates your building’s performance, which can then be published and used to increase your building’s value.

Bottom Line:
The NABERS Energy star rating relies on Cx as part of its commitment agreement, which is the higher rating type that allows you to publish your NABERS rating.

Green Mark

The Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Scheme in Singapore is focused on driving Singapore’s construction industry toward more environmentally friendly buildings. You can find the overview of the Green Mark rating here.

Bottom Line:
In order to earn points for proper documentation, you would need to include Cx in your process, but it is not required.

The big takeaway

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While commissioning may not be mandated for every green building certification out there, it almost always earns you credits and it’s always recommended.

If you’d rather go through with a certification for your building without focusing on Cx, remember: The best way to ensure your big investment in green tech performs the way you want it to is to regularly check and fine-tune your systems — which, in essence, is what we in the industry call ‘commissioning.’

Have any specific questions about how Cx relates to these certifications? Let me know in the comments. And check out our new white paper on Cx, ‘3 Ways Commissioning Increases Building Management Efficiency’.


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