Are you Cx certifiable? Who isn’t?

03/01/2009


View the full story , including all images and figures, in our monthly digital edition

ASHRAE will be unveiling its certification program for commissioning (Cx) in June. In doing so, it will become the sixth organization offering a Cx certification credential. Certifications are currently offered by Associated Air Balance Council (AABC), Assoc. of Energy Engineers (AEE), Building Commissioning Assoc . (BCA), National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), and University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM).

Adding to the pile, some of these organizations have more than one certification credential. UWM, for example, has three (Cx authority, process manager, and technical support) and NEBB has two (commissioning and retrocommissioning).

Having been the executive director of the BCA during a sabbatical from publishing, I understand the rationale for having a program for certifying Cx providers. An organization raises its prestige by establishing qualifications for professionals and accrediting practitioners. Revenues are created for testing and training, plus a modest increase in sales of materials that would help candidates prepare for the training and exam. And let’s not forget fees for periodic recertification. These revenues aren’t huge, but they if they merely pay for the program costs, then they’re worth it for the prestige factor and turf protection.

And the intent of certification is honorable—to establish baseline criteria for quality services and thus, in an emerging industry, keep the wannabes and shysters out.

But with six certifying organizations offering credentials with a wide disparity in eligibility requirements and scope of Cx involvement, the movement toward certification has let the wannabes and shysters in. Few owners will do the homework needed to decipher the differences between the higher quality certifications and the lower quality certifications.

Thus, certification has fractured the public understanding of what commissioning is, who does it, and what constitutes quality Cx services. Consider the disparity in qualifications among the certification programs: Required experience ranges from none to three years of leading Cx projects. Some require references; most do not. The only thing all programs have in common is the passing of an exam, and exams are a poor way to assess a person’s ability to perform on projects in the field.

Additionally, certifications can commoditize Cx. Take a veteran, highly successful Cx provider who refuses to become certified but can commission everything from a biosafety lab to an office building. Such a veteran would cost more than a much less experienced, but certified, practitioner. An owner looking for a Cx provider might think the certification “guarantees” a qualified provider and take the less expensive route. Where Cx certification is required, commoditization will surely happen.

If certification truly is needed and helpful to the industry, AABC, AEE, ASHRAE, BCA, NEBB, and UWM need to hash out a single certification program.

Send your questions and comments to: Michael.Ivanovich@reedbusiness.com





No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.