Over the past few years, we have seen many of our data center clients shift to more modular one-size-fits-all designs that can be rapidly and repeatedly deployed across all sites in their portfolios.
There, of course, are small tweaks that need to be made to this standardized design based on the climate zone, code requirements, or other special conditions in the location where it is to be constructed, but 90% of the design is templatized and ready to apply at the onset of the project. Using these types of standardized designs can also help to level bids from the design and construction teams and to yield an efficient construction process from both a schedule and cost standpoint. These modular buildouts, and even ones that are not as modular, can similarly benefit from standardization of the commissioning (Cx) process and documentation.
As a commissioning authority (CxA), we often hear the same questions from our clients: “CxA B did it like this; is the way we should do it here too?” or “What did we do on the X project that we did two years ago?” or “Why didn’t you include that activity in your scope?” and so on. Without clear and consistent direction, it is impossible for the CxA, especially one that is new to a client, to fully pick up all the nuances of a program if the expectations and requirements of that program aren’t written down.
In fact, the first step of process standardization is writing it all down. This can seem daunting but keep in mind that even a little bit of standardization to begin with and build on is better than no standardization at all. Perfection is not expected in the first draft but by sitting down with solutions gained in lessons learned from previous projects and drawing on experience from subject-matter experts, a solid framework can be developed that will address a major portion of the typical project Cx pinch points.
As a Cx subject matter expert, ESD can help identify where to begin with tackling these standards documents as a best fit for the owner. Dependent on the client, different documents may be more beneficial than others. A good place to start with almost any client are the Cx specifications, but it can be helpful to standardize installation checklists, test plan outlines, and functional performance test scripts to ensure the same Cx process is being followed in the field by the CxA on each site.
Potential Cx process standard forms (but certainly not limited to):
- Cx Specifications;
- Cx Plan/Cx Report Structures;
- Installation Verification Checklists;
- Functional Performance Testing Outlines/Test Script Framework;
- Load Bank and Test Meter Connection Plans;
- Test Sequencing and Duration Schedules; and
- System Manual Structures.
Arguably the most important part of standardization of any process is maintenance. Standards are living documents and no doubt the first time they are put into practice, something that sounds nice and complete on paper, will not work as well in the field or will be found to have a gap in interpretation that will need to be clarified and updated in a future version.
Our ESD CxAs can also assist with maintaining standards by providing active Cx oversight for the client — managing lessons learned and confirming the project CxA is adhering to the standards throughout the commissioning process. As improvements are made to the process, ESD will help the client ensure they are incorporated properly into each of the standardized documents.
Developing a standard Cx process and enforcing it is key to ensuring that the client’s requirements are being fully addressed and can save much of the upfront cost of Cx document development that occurs each time a new build undergoes the Cx process. Now more than ever, especially as our client management teams have been unable to physically be on-site at all times, a standardized Cx process can provide peace of mind that expectations are being met and that the project is being delivered at the high level of quality required for such projects.