Article Date: 12/06/2013

Commissioning Expert Reports Rampant Shortcomings in Building Performance, Suggests Solutions

By Steve Rizer


What can be done to remedy the apparently endemic problem of underperforming green buildings? During a recent Greenbuild conference session entitled “Green Building Post-Mortem: What Went Wrong?” panelist George Trapp, a commissioning agent with In-Posse LLC, suggested that a significant part of the problem lies in the level of involvement and communication among certain key players who have a hand in maximizing a building’s green potential.


Trapp reported that at the commissioning “kickoff” meetings he attends, “a lot of times I look at who’s around the table, and it’s always the superintendents, the owners; it’s never the foreman or field crew [attending] those meetings, so we end up preaching the design intent to the wrong audience. We need to get the right people into these commissioning kickoff meetings so that they understand the nuances of working on a high-performance building as opposed to a typically constructed building. I think it’s important we do that now.”


Trapp asserted that “99 percent” of the buildings he examines underperform. During one stretch of 10 recent projects he surveyed, he found approximately 1,000 problems that needed to be addressed. And apparently, this finding is commonplace. Session moderator Jennifer Rezelli of Revision Architecture reported that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory uncovered more than 10,000 issues in 122 buildings that it sampled.


And what are the problems being found in these buildings?


One such issue occurs when photosensors are shaded, Trapp said. “We also see sensors in which somebody walks down the hallway, and the office lights” in empty rooms turn on. “We also see things that are wired incorrectly, and they operate all the time.” He has seen “exhaust fans that are hard-wired and operate 24/7, 365.” Other problems range from hot-water valves that “cannot be shut off unless you’re going to take that handle or bend it to get it out of the way” to ducts that “aren’t even connected to anything” or still have the plastic protection on them to fans that run backwards. “These are typical things that I see all the time.”


Also included in Part II of ConstructionPro Week's (CPW) Greenbuild 2013 conference coverage (ConstructionPro Network member access):

  • More Expert Recommendations for Maximizing Building Performance
  • Transcripts of CPW's Interviews with U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Version Four Program Manager Chrissy Macken and CodeGreen Solutions Inc. Senior Project Manager Melissa Wrolstad
  • Consultant Offers Advice for Successful Re-Certification
  • Exhibitor Briefs Featuring Living Building Challenge, the National Roofing Contractors Association, SGS Global Services, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, UL Environment, and others
  • Top Takeaways from the Conference

To join ConstructionPro Network, click here.



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