Commissioning

Deliver smart buildings using CSI Division 25, commissioning

The use of CSI Division 25 and commissioning are critical to the successful design and operation of a smart building

By Timothy Howe, Marcus Myers and Jeri Pickett October 22, 2021
Courtesy: Stantec

 

Learning Objectives

  • Understand Construction Specifications Institute MasterFormat Division 25 tools that assist in the design of smart buildings.
  • Learn why smart buildings fail to perform as expected.
  • Identify the benefits of commissioning of smart buildings.

Building automation systems, which are now commonplace with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, are used to reduce operator interactions, provide stability and improve the operating efficiency of these systems. The automation industry has now moved from solely controlling HVAC systems into operating a wide range of building systems.

According to a Markets and Markets Research report, the BAS market is expected to grow from $73.5 billion in 2021 to $112.1 billion in 2026.

At the same time there has also been a movement in the buildings industry toward the integration of the “internet of things” into these systems. For buildings, the IoT describes the use of the internet to process of exchanging data between a device (sensor, controller, actuator) and a remote server, which uses the data to create a change in the operation on the devices system.

As the computational power of central processing units and microelectronics has increased, the spread of IoT within a wide variety of building systems has flourished. This technological advancement has created a strong movement toward its use in creating smart buildings.

Smart buildings, which use artificial intelligence and operational technologies, allow for building systems to be automated in the process of predicting, identifying, analyzing and resolving performance issues. OT is used to monitor building systems and create changes to systems normally within the scope of a human operator. This enhancement to remote operation provides building operators with a wide variety of analytics and visualization.

Likewise, AI can improve energy efficiency, resiliency, indoor air quality and occupant comfort. A cloud-based server allows for the computational power needed to operate these solutions and is quickly being provided by many major control’s manufacturers.

For engineers designing smart buildings, the use of the Construction Specifications Institute MasterFormat Division 25: Integrated Automation is essential to the success of a project. Complementing this with the implementation of commissioning is critical and works to remove the human errors in design and construction which can cause a smart building to underperform.

Figure 1: Smart buildings performance is based upon the amalgamation of multiple building systems into a unified building controller to achieve the benefits of remote monitoring and artificial intelligence/operational technology. Courtesy: Stantec

Figure 1: Smart buildings performance is based upon the amalgamation of multiple building systems into a unified building controller to achieve the benefits of remote monitoring and artificial intelligence/operational technology. Courtesy: Stantec

The COVID-19 pandemic has had the most unprecedented effect on the global economy and the operation of the built environment. Major weather and seismic related events were once thought of as the primary drivers behind resiliency in buildings until now. Many employees were required to follow shelter-in-place orders from local governments which left the buildings unoccupied and, in some cases, uncontrolled. Regardless of the event, buildings still need to be operated to maintain stable internal thermal and moisture conditions and to avoid damage to equipment if run unattended to for long periods of time.

The pandemic-driven stress test has uncovered weaknesses in remote facilities operations and has alerted the operators of buildings and the industry as whole to the need to create more rigidly defined preparation standards and guidelines that will make these systems more resilient and ready to handle the next major event. It has caused the industry to rethink how we should construct, renovate, operate and maintain buildings. Consequently, it has offered the perfect opportunity to advance the use of cloud-based remote monitoring and operation of building systems, which can be found within smart buildings.

With every opportunity there is always the potential to fail. The same applies to smart building design and construction. It can be the tendency of owners and design teams to over commit to the level of which projects can sustain the implementation of new technologies. smart building design contains a wide range of building systems that it can be applied to.

As such, the use of CSI MasterFormat Division 25 during design process will provide the details and framework for proper coordination and specification of smart building systems and components. In the construction phase, commissioning of these systems is required to confirm operational integrity and to provide the owner and operators with the skills needed to bring a smart building through its life cycle.

In the end, smart buildings do not fail because of technological restrictions, but rather from small incremental issues that culminate in the owner downgrading the systems to operate as a traditional building-level automation system.

Figure 2: Integrated automation allows for the leveling of layered and siloed building systems into a unified platform. Coordination between construction trades and manufactures occurs in the design phase to allow for a properly executed construction and operational phases for a smart building. Courtesy: Stantec

Figure 2: Integrated automation allows for the leveling of layered and siloed building systems into a unified platform. Coordination between construction trades and manufactures occurs in the design phase to allow for a properly executed construction and operational phases for a smart building. Courtesy: Stantec

Using Division 25 for smart buildings  

According to the Memoori report “The Internet of Things in Smart Commercial Buildings 2016 to 2021,” the analysis predicts a higher growth rate in the commercial real estate market of 31.5% compound annual growth rate. The report goes on to indicate this sector will grow to represent 34% of overall smart building devices, with more than 3.6 billion devices installed by 2021.

Division 25: Integrated Automation has existed for nearly 20 years and currently includes nearly 90 sections that specify everything from the systems architecture to the wiring needed to create a smart building. It also specifies the commissioning of these systems. The purpose of this division is to connect automation with multiple engineering disciplines/building trades and generate a coordinated, singular product delivery.

Following the framework of Division 25 allows engineers to connect end devices, supervisory systems, network pathways and remote operation of AI/OT solutions together. Coupling proper Division 25 specifications with commissioning can offer a long-lasting, successful smart building solution.

However, the use of Division 25 is typically limited to large organizations with multiple buildings (industrial, higher education, health care) where impacts of energy and operations and maintenance costs have a larger overall impact on the organization. It is a missed opportunity for those of smaller building footprints that can leverage local incentives for smart buildings to reduce implementation costs or for commercial real estate building developers where the O&M costs are the tenant’s responsibility.

Without the proper validation of needed control points, sequences, sensors and data management methods during early design phases there may be functional issues of remote AI/OI tools baked right into the design. Likewise, when reaching the turnover phase of a project a building commissioning professional or commissioning agent should conduct point-to-point checks to validate that all is operating as intended.

The complexity of multiple systems layered on top of each other in a smart building solution requires a higher level of owner and operator training that is best achieved though the involvement of a commissioning agent. Not only does training need to teach the specific approach to controlling the systems installed, but it also needs to include how to deal with data management and analytics to properly set up an owner’s team for success. A commissioning agent will ensure that all of this takes place.

Figure 3: Smart buildings require a higher level of coordination and operational performance to achieve the desired functional benefits of the artificial intelligence/operational technology. Including commissioning in each phase of a smart building design and construction allows for scope gaps to be identified and resolved. Courtesy: Stantec

Figure 3: Smart buildings require a higher level of coordination and operational performance to achieve the desired functional benefits of the artificial intelligence/operational technology. Including commissioning in each phase of a smart building design and construction allows for scope gaps to be identified and resolved. Courtesy: Stantec

Smart buildings and commissioning 

With the design and specification of smart buildings being facilitated by Division 25, there is still the opportunity to degrade the performance of the systems via the unpredictable aspect of human error during construction. Each device, pipe, electrical connection, controller, valve and all other building components are manufactured and installed by skilled individuals. Commissioning has been created as the last defense to ensure that these human errors will be identified, mitigated and resolved early in the life of the building. Errors are typically simple mistakes that can cause a negative compounding effect on occupant comfort and energy costs or early failure of equipment while the building is under operation for the next 40 years.

Some examples of errors include:

  • Pump motor wiring: Wiring a pump’s motor is backward, it will cause a pump to flow backward through the discharge to the suction side. Small loops may appear to be operating correctly but will not have the correct heat exchange in coils or through boilers/chillers. In larger systems with multiple floors, it may appear that the flow is not reaching the coils located on upper floors during balancing.
  • Chiller compressor arrangement: Without proper factory startup a multiple compressor circuit chiller may be incorrectly set up to have the on/off compressor as the lead compressor rather than having a digital scroll or variable speed compressor as the lead. This will cause short cycling to happen, which will degrade the operation of the chiller’s performance, increase energy costs and will cause early failure of the compressor.

Commissioning provides the quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project and casts the best and most reliable safety net for the simple or complex problems generated by human error. Commissioning is the last defense and best assurance to offer an owner that these human errors will be identified, mitigated and resolved early in the life of the building and specifically directed at reaching this goal during the construction phase.

Limiting a project by not including the commissioning process from concept to operation allows for a wide variety of potential errors and omissions and leaves the facility vulnerable to early failures, repeated tuning and higher operating costs.

Commissioning of buildings has evolved significantly over the past 40 years with the initial driver coming from ASHRAE in 1984 with the formation of the commissioning guidelines committee. It wasn’t until 1989 that ASHRAE first released Guideline 1: Commissioning of HVAC Systems. ASHRAE then created a more complete commissioning document titled Guideline 0 in 2005. ASHRAE Standard 202: Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems was updated in 2018 and facilitated its maturity into a code-level document.

U.S. cities, municipalities and states have begun adopting the 2018 International Building Code, which includes the International Energy Conservation Code containing commissioning scope under section C408 – Maintenance Information and Systems Commissioning. The IECC contains limited scope of systems to be commissioned (HVAC, lighting controls and service water heating) and, as such, it should be augmented with additional scope to allow for a sufficient level of validation for smart building purposes.

Smart building control systems can and do vary in complexity depending on the desired function/type and the objectives determined by the building owner and design team. Installing a new BAS with smart building technologies or updating an existing system can be a major capital investment and, like most business decisions, must yield an acceptable return on investment.

A smart building can provide many benefits such as lower energy costs, lower operating and maintenance costs, better indoor air quality, improved occupant comfort, increased productivity, increased security and data collection. There will be less reliance on human interaction to operate a smart building as remote monitoring abilities continue to take over routine activities.

Commissioning a BAS will help to deliver consistent quality in performance, reliability and programmability of smart buildings. With each new technology, there are risks to implementing them and smart buildings are not immune to a variety of issues.

Creating a data connection between a building and a remote server allows for potential infiltration by cyberattacks. A study of 40,000 smart buildings in 2019 by Kaspersky found that 37.8% of computers used to operate the buildings had been compromised by variants of spyware, worms, phishing or ransomware attacks. In addition, design phase mistakes made by owners or design teams by integrating in too many smart building AI/OI applications will result in data not being used, degradation of the system performance and in some cases sidestepping the application and moving back to a more traditional BAS approach.

This will cause unneeded expenditure of first costs of designing and constructing smart building systems that will not be used. While the technology exists to integrate nearly every building system into the IoT, a targeted approach to limit first costs and create real savings for the owner is the responsibility of the design team.

Why do we need smart buildings? 

Smart building providers have created a set of enterprise applications that have been advanced over the past decade to seek out more energy savings and operational efficiencies. The applications typically consist of analytics, visualization, data collection and management and AI/OI to predict and reduce energy consumption.

Recently, the construction industry has been driven by consumer trends that place more focus on climate change and the desire to reduce the carbon footprint. With the typical construction budgets and schedule constraints in the design of a building, it is required that the practitioners be trained in the application of smart building design and understand the benefits and limitations. This effort requires the industry to be proactive and not rely on standard design and construction practices.

Figure 4: Smart buildings allow for the ongoing and increased energy conservation to occur via artificial intelligence/operational technology. Traditional buildings will experience an energy usage increase drift due to unseen deficiencies in calibrations or improper operational conditions. Courtesy: Stantec

Figure 4: Smart buildings allow for the ongoing and increased energy conservation to occur via artificial intelligence/operational technology. Traditional buildings will experience an energy usage increase drift due to unseen deficiencies in calibrations or improper operational conditions. Courtesy: Stantec

Another limitation to the delivery of a smart building rest within the education of owners and operators. When a project is complete, they are the responsible party to be caretakers of a building for the next 40+ years. While they are willing to invest in new technologies, there is an inherent risk taken by them to make the leap forward and as such hesitation is expected. It is incumbent upon the design team to not reach smart building solutions that the owner cannot handle.

Similar to direct digital control integration into building systems, the approach to smart buildings needs to be a gradual process of providing more integration of the enterprise solutions into more building system systems as the industry grows into the next phase of automation. The industry has been provided with a framework via Division 25 and now it is up to engineers to meet the expectations set forth for smart buildings. But then why do smart buildings fail more often than work optimally?

The smart IoT technologies that are implemented in BAS, energy management systems and energy information systems, gather a large amount of data from energy using and nonenergy using devices and systems. This effort takes a significant amount of capital to design, construct and operate. When things fail early in the process of operating a building, the tendency is to fall back to standard operating procedures and pull the intelligence out of the building.

That can be avoided with proper commissioning and, most importantly, owner dedication to training and understanding of what to do when things go wrong without backsliding to the traditional BAS. Building systems are interactive in practice and a variety of system types will impact the operation of others.

For example, building envelope insulation and window properties will impact the heating and cooling operation of terminal units and the operation of central plant equipment. The lighting system will impact how the heating and cooling systems will operate. The occupants may impact the operation of the systems with the way they use the spaces within the building. What is created in a smart building is a living system that must react and optimize performance based upon the actual construction operation of the building, which may be significantly different from what was conceptualized during the early phases of design.

Figure 5: Smart buildings allow for continuous learning of the building’s true operation, which can only be assumed during the design of a project. This process of testing, verifying and improving the operation of a building will allow for a greater level of energy conservation. Courtesy: Stantec

Figure 5: Smart buildings allow for continuous learning of the building’s true operation, which can only be assumed during the design of a project. This process of testing, verifying and improving the operation of a building will allow for a greater level of energy conservation. Courtesy: Stantec

The primary reason behind early failure is the scope gaps between the BAS, building systems and data platforms. Scope gaps can be as simple as failure to coordinate communication protocols or as complex as cascading sequencing problems causing equipment to work against each other. The layers of system typologies that interconnect within each other begin to expose scope gaps during the process of operating the building or even during construction.

Beyond physical equipment scope gaps, the data being collected in an improper way can cause a failure in the AI/OI applications to analyze and correct a simple problem within the systems. This does not always mean the methodology or engineering was flawed. In most cases, it means that the critical paths were not tested or commissioned to make sure the data was collected in a clear and relevant way that allow the algorithms and protocols to perform as the design intended.

The macro view of this issue shows how all of this is intended to work together as with a simple switch or sensor that is tied into a pump or air unit that controls it functions. A temperatures or pressures sensor is typically an analog device, which requires a link to a digital component and produces a digitized signal. This is also referred to as a direct digital control.

Once the potential thousands of points begin to get installed, many failure points issues can occur. All these points must be put through a vigorous process of testing and verification that is referred to as a point-to-point check. If commissioned properly, this will be the main connection to a unified and integrated system. After the point-to-point is concluded, the final issue is tying this all back to the system that collects all this information and serves as an overlay to the systems. This is where the majority of the “learning” scope gaps occur.

It is important to understand the focus with these smart systems and determine what to look at it in part and on the whole. The parts need to work together to achieve the goal of a smart building. Once in operation, without a committed ownership team and a wiliness to conduct the learning phase, systemic problems may start to arise and overshadow potential capabilities that the system should be able to perform as promised or intended.

The industry has reached a stage in which smart buildings can be an obtainable goal. With proper planning from the early stages of design, using Division 25 and including commissioning of these systems, a successful smart building delivery is possible. Smart buildings are obtainable with a collaborative team of design professionals, trade workers, commissioning agents and owners/operators who are committed to the overall goal.


Timothy Howe, Marcus Myers and Jeri Pickett
Author Bio: Timothy Howe, PE, CEM, Stantec, Rochester, New York; is a project manager and mechanical engineer with Stantec. He has spent the last 15 years designing and commissioning project for higher education, industrial and science and technology facilities. Marcus Myers, CxA, CEM, LEED AP, Assoc. AIA, LFA, Stantec, Chandler, Arizona; is a project manager and director of commissioning and energy services, U.S. West with Stantec. He has spent the last 20 years commissioning projects for higher education, industrial, biopharma and science and technology facilities. Jeri Pickett, PE, Stantec, Rochester, New York; is a project manager, electrical engineer and principal with Stantec. He has spent the last 30 years designing and commissioning projects for higher education, industrial and science and technology-based facilities.