2016 Commissioning Giants
Respondents were asked to define what the commissioning industry could do better to make their technical performance more productive. Rather than rating or weighting a predefined list of topics, the BCxA asked for open responses in order to understand what CxPs care most about and believe would improve their career. Respondents answered that they would like to see the following self-identified improvements, ranked in descending order by category count (number of mentions per category). The list below shows the top five improvement wish list items along with examples of respondents’ recommended actions:
- Ensure early communication with general contractor/construction manager
- Create opportunity for more input on project specifications due to deep experience with diverse systems and integration
- Clearly establish and standardize functions/roles of commissioning and CxPs
- Sort out and agree upon lines of responsibility throughout project
- Improve document coordination with non-Cx entities
- Coordinate all project teams early.
Standards and guidelines:
- Develop testing standards
- Establish a five-step process guideline to support enhanced commissioning on new construction 1 to 2 years post-occupancy
- Improve the definition of standards for commissioning results
- Create consistent methods for owners to compare providers
- Create a commissioning-community database for industry-standard templates and other documents
- Use common nomenclature.
- Define and hold up higher standards for levels of care
- Regulate and audit commissioning outcomes to ensure a minimum standard of acceptance.
- Consolidate to make a single, standardized, accredited certification mandatory as a professional qualification so that fraudulent commissioning firms can be audited and exposed
- Market awareness: emphasize the value of accredited certification.
Training and education:
- Respondents identified training and education among the top five improvements the industry could take on to improve commissioning. Figure 2 illustrates results regarding the need for further training and education within various parts of the overall commissioning industry.
The table indicates that CxPs are looking to the industry for significant changes and improvements to sustain their professional standing as the market launches new strategies for efficiency and broader, deeper systems integration and ongoing value over the building lifecycle. There was a strong desire among CxPs calling for the establishment of consolidation and uniformity in many areas of commissioning practice. While it’s true that most are calling for standardization in tools and practices, respondents simultaneously want more independence and a higher level of contribution within the building industry. CxPs are broadening services beyond a construction-focused quality assurance process and are—or want to be—increasingly involved in occupancy-phase building performance.
Beyond the top five areas of improvement cited by respondents, specific actions are recommended for deliverables, commissioning tools, codes, scope-of-work expansion, procurement, and marketing/advocacy. The BCxA is reviewing action items for their potential integration into member services.
Contradictory opinions abound among commissioning providers, which is normal for most professional services. There is also disparity between (1) desired areas of improvement for productivity and (2) priorities for additional training and education. For example, respondents prioritize project team relationships and role clarification at the top of the productivity improvement wish list, but consider building systems and assemblies the highest priority for training.
Based on overall responses from the BCxA’s focus groups and surveys, together representing more than 500 respondents, the following business and technical concerns are considered high priorities over the next 5 or more years.
- Arresting the commoditization of commissioning
- Creating value propositions for various types of owners
- Identifying commissioning business growth opportunities
- Ensuring best practices are applied consistently by all in the profession
- Building the long-term business model for the practice of Cx
- Keeping pace with shifts in the overall design and construction industry.
The commissioning profession is becoming more complex. The commissioning business model is encountering the burden of losing experienced problem solvers, some of whom are not adapting to market pressures. At the same time, companies are vigorously seeking smart recruits with personal and technical skills, most of whom have not earned the experience or insight to troubleshoot and verify building systems and performance. Succession and continuity planning are of the essence.
CxPs are looking for more teamwork and integrated coordination among project personnel that allow for complementary, rather than competing, roles in successful project delivery. CxPs have synthesized knowledge and experience across numerous projects and systems and are a valuable resource for owners, design teams, and construction managers. With the increasing focus on efficiency over the building lifecycle, CxPs want deeper involvement in post-occupancy performance and the profitability that goes with it.
The commissioning value promise is and always will be quality assurance. Opportunities to expand the CxP’s role abound as the building industry and its drivers—codes, regulatory requirements, technologies, performance expectations—become more exacting, durable, and lasting. The future is on the way, and everyone has a stake in it. Make it valuable.
Diana Bjornskov is the senior program manager at the Building Commissioning Association. She has spent more than 30 years in the building industry with extensive experience leading research and analysis of building industry issues, energy policy and legislation, market-potential assessment, and program planning.