Article Date: 11/12/2012

Should Commissioning Be Required for Small Buildings?

By Steve Rizer


Should commissioning be required for all buildings that are designed and built to meet American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 189.1-201, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, regardless of size? That is what proposed Addendum P would do, expanding the requirement to small buildings.


Proposed Addendum P would remove the “Acceptance Testing” provision for small buildings from Standard 189.1 (Section Acceptance Testing). Currently, the standard implies that when a building area is less than 5,000 square feet, it has simple building systems and thus requires a reduced level of commissioning effort (acceptance testing). However, building area does not relate to complexity as many buildings of less than 5,000 square feet can be complex, according to ASHRAE.


Under the proposed addendum, building commissioning per Section would become mandatory for all buildings that are designed and built under the requirements of the standard.


“Commissioning is a robust and well supported discipline with established guidelines (ASHRAE and others), a long history of use, and … many practitioners,” according to Jeff Ross-Bain, a member of the Standard 189.1 Committee. “The commissioning process is one that adapts to the specific attributes of a given building. A ‘simple’ building would only require ‘simple’ commissioning regardless of size.”


Ross-Bain noted that acceptance testing is not a universally defined activity, nor does there appear to be specific instructions or guidelines within the industry detailing how this activity is to be completed. Also, a review of the mandatory requirements of Standard 189.1 could be interpreted as producing a relatively complex building (i.e., consumption measurement, on-site renewable energy, daylighting control, outdoor air delivery monitoring, economizers, condensate recovery, etc.), which requires a higher degree of commissioning activity.


Finally, under the current Acceptance Testing section, Standard 189.1 would not meet the minimum commissioning prerequisite of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which requires all buildings to undergo the commissioning process, according to ASHRAE.


Proposed Addendum P is open for public review until Nov. 18.



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