Commissioning on the rise

Specialized commissioning, retrocommissioning, and testing, adjusting, and balancing firms are increasing, with emphasis on specialized work.

By Karen D. Groppe, PCM, National Environmental Balancing Bureau, Gaithersburg, Md. October 18, 2010

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The National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB) collects data on its 965 certified professionals, many of whom work at firms that perform testing, adjusting, and balancing (TAB) of HVAC systems, commission and retrocommission building systems, execute sound and vibration tests, and test and certify laboratory fume hoods and electronic and biological cleanrooms.

According to data collected over the past two years (2009 and 2010), NEBB Certified Firms are becoming more specialized in the services provided to building owners and contractors. There has been a 10% decrease in firms performing general HVAC mechanical services, but a 12% increase in those performing specialized services. These specialized services include building commissioning, retrocommissioning, cleanroom performance testing, and fume hood testing.

For example, Sebesta Blomberg, which ranks 19 on the 2010 MEP Giants list, moved up in the rankings from No. 25 in 2009. Like other firms shown in Table 1, many commissioning firms added specialized services to their menu of engineering services, thus increasing their overall revenue and MEP Giants ranking.

Table 1: Top 10 commissioning firms based on Cx revenue

Firm name

Total MEP design revenue ($ million)

Cx percentage

Total Cx ($ million)

MEP rank

Sebesta Blomberg





E M C Engineers Inc.





M.E. GROUP/design+green





Optimation Technology Inc.





Heapy Engineering





Genesis Engineers Inc.





Salas O’Brien Engineers Inc. DBA Salas O’Brien





O’Dea, Lynch, Abbattista Consulting Engineers





Brinjac Engineering





Bala Consulting Engineers Inc.





TAB is critical to the building engineering industry and to the services needed to deliver high-performance buildings. Because TAB services are the foundation of commissioning work, NEBB has seen an increase of 8% of firms performing TAB services as their primary function.

There is a strong increase in building commissioning services. NEBB data show a dramatic increase in commissioning certification over the past two years. When NEBB Certified Firms were surveyed in 2009, 11% of the firms indicated their primary business was building commissioning. In 2010, that percentage increased to 18%.

Types of projects

These firms perform services and provide solutions directly to the building owner. Data collected over two years indicate that 35% of the work is performed directly for building owners, which is an increase of 6% over 2009. This indicates that building owners are becoming more in-tune with services and solutions needed to provide a high-performance building.

The average size of a commissioning job has increased from $250,000 to more than $500,000 per project over a 10-year period. A typical TAB project ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 sq ft, at $1 per square foot. Ten years ago, the average cost of TAB services was $0.40 to $0.50 per sq footage (see Figures 2 and 3).

Looking forward

NEBB has seen an increase in the commitment to employee education at its member firms. According to this survey, more than 60% of firms provide 10 or more hours of classroom training to their employees; this is an increase of 20% over 2009. As building owners demand more from their service providers, Certified Firms are educating their employees to meet the expectation.

Based on survey data, the industry outlook is good. As the construction industry has taken a downward turn, NEBB has experienced an upward swing in certification. There has been a 6% increase in the number of firms becoming NEBB certified. NEBB attributes this increase to the fact that building owners and engineers are demanding their work be performed by certified professionals.  

With regard to industry specifics, commissioning services and costs per project have increased 50% over the past 10 years. Building owners are constantly seeking solutions to deliver high-performance buildings, and commissioning is a key solution.

The future remains bright for the industry. Members of the industry must adapt and provide extra value—for example, certification and expansion of building solutions—to provide services and solutions to building owners and to the industry.

– Groppe is the director of marketing and communications for NEBB and has been with NEBB since 2009. Prior to joining NEBB, she was the marketing leader for Boland Trane in Washington, D.C.

For more information on MEP Giants 2010 go to

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