Single-Source Solutions: Using Prefunctional Checklists (February 2001)
Two other terms for startup sheet that are being bantered about are "prefunctional" checklist and "system readiness" checklist. All three mean the same thing: a methodology to systematically prepare the mechanical equipment for operation. The detailed process, when applied, is proven to save valuable time for the contractor and, in turn, is helping this contractor to turn over the system in a timely manner. This is truly a culture change for most contractors, as well as a culture change for the building industry.
Surprisingly, most design engineers don't refer to the need for these documents in their standard contract specifications. Like the testing, adjusting, and balancing "boiler-plate" specification, startup procedures are often left to others to initiate. For the design-build (D-B) firm, prefunctional/system readiness sheets should be clearly established in the company's tricks-of-the-trade process. Vagueness is not a luxury that the single-source firm can afford. Getting it right the first time is paramount to a D-B firm's success. These checklists contribute to a successful project closeout.
Questions, AnswersHaving said this, the question needs to be asked "where do you find such useful sheets?" Once source is the SMACNA Commissioning Manual. Here, the designer can get an educational jump-start on the process leading up to a piece of equipment being brought on-line. Once a comprehensive check of all components, connections, etc. has been completed, then the equipment (e.g., central air-handling unit) is ready to be tested, adjusted, and balanced (TAB). When the TAB is completed, the equipment is ready to be commissioned along with other equipment that makes up the specific system.
The next question is "Who develops the pre-functional/system readiness sheets?" Recently, I was told that the design engineer or the commissioning agent should develop these checklists. In the conversation I disagreed with that approach and recommended the contractor be responsible for this task. I guess you could debate the merits of who is the more appropriate person, but I believe the installing contractor will be the most knowledgeable to provide this service.
In developing these startup sheets, the contractor becomes the most familiar with the actual installation and is more current with the details associated with the installation. Although the design engineer and the commissioning agent are both knowledgeable of the system, they lack that one important detail, the coordination of installation that separates the two from the contractor. I believe it is more cost-effective to have the installing contractor take responsibility and ownership for this role. In addition, the contractor can be completing this documentation in a timely manner that fits within his/her project schedule. Also, if there is anything missing on these checklists, it is the contractor's responsibility to correct it, thus avoiding unnecessary finger pointing and delays in getting the documentation completed 100%.
Pre-functional checklists and system readiness sheets, startup sheets spelled differently, are key terms that will be heard of more and more in the coming months and years. They are one more positive step for providing single-source solutions in the building industry.ES