My July column addressed the fact that some design engineers are nonresponsive or inconsistently responsive to commissioning design review comments. This can diminish the value of design-phase commissioning for the building owner. The following are some reasons design engineers do not engage.
Design engineers may not believe their contracts require them to participate in the commissioning process, whether it’s attending meetings or responding to comments. This is an issue that should be raised immediately upon introduction of the commissioning professional to the project team. It is not something a commissioning professional has control over, but the commissioning professional can help an owner understand the scope of the designers’ role in the commissioning process so that the owner can work with the A/E team to clear up any contractual concerns.
Design teams are often under intense deadline pressure during the design phase. Stopping progress for a short time in order to review and respond to commissioning design review comments may not have been anticipated when developing the design schedule. If the design team needs more time to address commissioning comments, this should be addressed immediately upon receipt of the comments when schedule adjustments are most easily incorporated into the project. Simply ignoring the comments and moving forward with the design is not in the best interest of the owner, design team, or overall project schedule. It is better to take a little longer during design than to end up with problems that extend the schedule and increase cost at the end of construction.
Some design teams are exasperated by having to respond to comments they consider to be picky, untimely, and/or outside of their usual design services scope. One engineer’s “picky” may be another’s “clarity and detail.” If designers think the commissioning professional’s comments are unnecessary or a waste of time, the designers should respectfully raise their concerns so the necessary adjustments can be made. The “untimely” complaint can be valid if the commissioning professional generates comments regarding the level of completeness when the design team’s intention failed to meet the commissioning professional’s expectations. This issue is mitigated by having the design team describe its intentions for each design review submission.
If the commissioning professional is looking for the design engineers to do something the design team does not typically do, the best remedy is a professional-to-professional discussion about the pros and cons of the recommended level of detail. The commissioning professional will often have lessons learned from previous projects, which, if heeded, could prevent future headaches.
The design engineer-of-record always has the last word. However, it is important to the owner that the designers and commissioning professionals actually exchange words and understand each other.