Building commissioning challenges, solutions: Sustainability, energy efficiency

Commissioning, recommissioning, or retro-commissioning, can be a challenge—and the more complex a facility is, the more boxes an engineer has to check to get the job done right. Renewable energy systems, photovoltaics, and other sustainable systems must now be commissioned.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer August 31, 2014


  • Ray Dodd, PE, CxA, LEED AP
, President, Total Building Commissioning Inc., Phoenix
  • Kyle G. Hendricks, LEED AP, Energy and sustainability consultant, Environmental Systems Design Inc., Chicago
  • Donald H. Horkey, PE, LEED AP, Principal, mechanical engineer, DLR Group, Minneapolis
  • David J. LeBlanc, PE, FSFPE, Senior vice president, Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc., Framingham, Mass.

CSE: What cutting-edge energy efficiency systems have you recently commissioned? What design aspects or products were included?

Dodd: We recently commissioned a large chilled beam system. One challenge is that the installation is more labor-intensive than for its conventional counterpart. This made inspecting the work more labor-intensive for us. Another challenge was that the architect communicating the needs of the owner was not well coordinated with the work of the energy modeller, resulting in initial comfort problems. We helped the team work through those issues, but it reminded us why coordination between modelling, architectural elements, and mechanical design is so critical.

Horkey: Recently, DLR Group commissioned a new high school in Iowa that used a large ground source water-to-water heat pump to generate hot and chilled water and distribute it to centralized dedicated outdoor air handling units. The dedicated outdoor air systems served induction displacement diffusers in classrooms and active chilled beams in smaller spaces and offices. Upon completion of the commissioning process and measurement and verification, the district received more than $450,000 in utility incentives.

CSE: Have you had experiences with photovoltaic (PV), wind turbine, or other renewable energy?

Horkey: DLR Group has partnered with NRG Energy to design a series of on-site solar power systems on football stadiums for six NFL teams. We have designed solar systems for NRG Energy at FedExField in Landover, Md.; Patriot’s Place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. This fall, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., will open as the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, and work is just underway on a solar design at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. This work shows that dynamic on-site renewable systems can be incorporated into the architecture of both existing building and new construction. This can be the next step toward a future of clean, sustainable energy. This integrated design program shows that the application and activation of renewables on existing structures can provide multiple benefits for energy companies, customers, and the public.

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