The state of commissioning in 2013
Cx and LEED
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system remains a key driver of commissioning work due to its “fundamental commissioning” requirement, a prerequisite to obtaining a LEED-certified building designation, as well as the optional credit it offers for “enhanced commissioning.” The industry is currently awaiting LEED version 4, which is slated to be released in fall 2013 and is expected to include important changes to the commissioning requirements.
LEED-driven jobs rose again this year, with 70% of respondents indicating that most (65% to 100%) of their firm’s recent Cx jobs involved LEED projects, a 12% increase over last year’s 58%.
Another 12% increase was seen in the amount of LEED projects pursuing the enhanced commissioning credit, with 52% of responding firms citing 65% or more of their LEED projects pursuing the credit and 23% citing that 85% to 100% of their firm’s LEED projects were doing so. Considering that those numbers were 28% and 15%, respectively, in 2011, it is safe to say that the enhanced commissioning credit continues to plays a major role in LEED-related Cx work.
Challenges and trends
Regarding the top commissioning-related challenges firms face, five themes have clearly emerged over the past three years. Although the five categories might switch places year to year, they remain the most common struggles in the industry:
5. Finding qualified personnel. Finding, hiring, training, or retaining qualified personnel remains an issue, though not as prevalent as last year, and one much less emphasized than the other four.
4. Obtaining work. While obtaining work made the top five again, it decreased slightly from last year. Economic factors contributing to this difficulty remain the same among commissioning providers: an economy still in recovery and slow to generate new construction, and a decline in federal and other public projects.
3. Understanding of Cx value, late engagement. These issues are grouped together here as they seem to have a cause-and-effect relationship. As noted above in the article, even though commissioning providers continue to extol the benefits of early involvement in a project, and despite mandates in building rating systems that require it, predesign participation remains infrequent. Could this be the result of another top challenge cited by survey respondents, that many building owners still don’t understand the value of comprehensive commissioning? The two seem inexorably connected.
2. Competition, pricing, and condensed Cx scopes. These interrelated issues—often noted as such by respondents—continue to present challenges to Cx providers, though they fell from the No. 1 spot held last year. Of particular concern to respondents was the abundance of firms offering “commissioning lite,” which in turn creates a downward pressure on fees. Providers are still too often faced with the choice of doing a limited scope on a given project or not getting the job at all.
1. Scheduling. Coming in strong as the No. 1 challenge this year was what was described in 2011 as the problem of “herding cats.” In other words, getting the various players on the commissioning team on the same page, so that project schedules remain on track, continues to be a hitch. Respondents cited several examples of issues impacting the project schedule, including getting documentation on time and correctly filled out and the old agitator, being told systems are ready for testing when they’re not.
Finally, respondents were again asked to share their thoughts about possible upcoming trends in commissioning. The majority indicated that they anticipated the same three trends that topped the 2012s ACG survey: an increase in retro- or existing building Cx projects, more demand for building envelope Cx, and a decline in projects focused on LEED certification.