Tips and tricks for commissioning, balancing buildings


CSE: Please describe a recent commissioning project—share challenges you encountered, how you solved them, and aspects you’re especially proud of. 

At the Carolinas Medical Center Pineville near Charlotte, N.C., RDK Engineers’ commissioning work included an energy plant, providing critical utility systems to the hospital. Courtesy: RDK EngineersMichael P. Feyler: On a recent data center project, the client was to incorporate hot aisle containment. In order to validate the hot aisle/cold aisle design, mock-ups of each pod were built. A testing procedure was developed to validate the capacity of the fan-wall design to maintain the designed cooling load, verify the control and heat distribution, and validate the fan wall sequence of operations. Temperature sensors were placed at points within each hot and cold isle, with humidity sensors spaced within the data hall to monitor the temperature and humidity distribution during the testing. RDK developed the load bank placement and sensor scheme, and calculated the total anticipated load for each rack. Information was logged to the building automation system (BAS). RDK worked closely with the controls contractor to develop commissioning pages on the building management system (BMS) that not only captured the information from data hall, but also enabled the team to review mechanical and electrical data from key equipment such as the switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), chillers, and pumps. 

Robert J. Linder: We still encounter instances of contractor nonperformance. The lack of care taken by contractors to truly pretest their work leads to incomplete systems and the inability of the CxA to perform functional testing. We can write it up as such and walk away until it is complete, but this does little to assist the project team in meeting its schedule. Instead, we like to actively coordinate retesting and often document the deficiencies on a punchlist. We cover ourselves for the increased scope of work by developing a thorough commissioning specification that outlines how we will be compensated, by the responsible contractor, for additional services upon its lack of performance. 

Bauers: We recently completed the commissioning of a BSL-3 laboratory for a northeastern U.S. university. The university built a new BSL-3 lab to support the efforts of a key academic research team. With grants an important element of university funding, this lab was key to the university’s effort to develop its biological research capability. While the technical challenges of the laboratory were significant, we were able to identify the need to develop standard operating procedures for the university’s engineered environmental systems as well as its laboratory procedures. Leveraging our experience in commissioning these facilities, we were able to assist the university to both bring its facility on line and develop the procedures necessary to achieve U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approval for operating the laboratory. 

Szel: Working with a Silicon Valley client, we were commissioning the complete removal and replacement of a UPS system with live critical load. We worked with the vendors and the owner to create a detailed schedule that included load testing the temporary generators that were brought in to power the load during the demo and installation process. Risk reviews were performed to ensure risks were mitigated during critical load transfers. Because of the spirit of collaboration and cooperation (and an excellent electrical contractor), we completed the project and had the new UPS carrying the critical load ahead of schedule. 

York: RMF was recently responsible for providing third-party U.S. Green Building Council LEED commissioning services for a large detention center facility. The project installed a complex smoke control system, which must be able to control smoke within any one of the 27 smoke “zones.” With building occupants that cannot easily be evacuated in the event of a fire, proper smoke control is essential. The system functioned by maintaining a pressure differential across adjacent zones. The variation in construction type—some areas were leaky while others were tightly constructed—made it very difficult to establish proper pressurization. Our team worked closely with the construction manager and designer, often at night, to determine the necessary airflows that allow the system to operate properly. The end result was the system passed the local fire inspector’s inspection successfully the first time and the facility managed to open three months early. 

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