My May, 2006 column introduced the concept of decommissioning as a process for thoughtfully and systematically preparing for partial renovation of an existing building - something that happens more frequently than the construction of new buildings.
As with last month, I'd like to introduce a new commissioning term, which isn't exactly mainstream in the commercial and institutional building industry. This time, the word of the month is decommissioning. Although a rigorous process of decommissioning has been standard operating procedure for a number of years at the Pentagon Renovation Program, I have otherwise only heard of it with respect to nuclear power plants, naval vessels, and some industrial installations.
The commissioning lexicon currently includes terms such as recommissioning, retro-commissioning, and continuous commissioning. This month, I'd like to explore a concept that may not be new, but which I believe is an integral part of commissioning a building renovation project. By giving it a name, I'm hoping it may be more likely to become common practice. I'd like to dub it pre-commissioning.
What is the definition of a great building? One of the keys to success for a great building project is achieving the intended performance (design intent) of the building systems at the end of the project. However, owners don't usually undertake the effort and expense of a capital project in order to simply say that the project was great. Owners want buildings that stay great and meet the needs of the people and programs for which the buildings were designed and constructed.
Leaning on experience and data from various K-12 cities and projects, the author pursues some less conventional design approaches. They may revolve around radiant heating and/or cooling, but depending on school size and other factors, the smart use of heat recovery, DOAS, and improved central plants could also put a project on the HVAC honor roll.