When people talk to me about commissioning, it is not unusual that I will hear the question, "How do you sell building system commissioning services?" My response is simple: "I don't ... I can't." How do you tell a client who has just selected the optimum design team and the optimum construction management firm for their project that now they need to hire a commissioning firm to make sure the building systems functions effectively and efficiently? The comment often made by building owners is, "Didn't I buy that when I hired this design and construction management team?" Tough questions, so how do I answer?

You Had Them At Hello

Building owners who only build one building or very few buildings over many years will truly struggle to understand the need for commissioning services. The usual results will be that they don't buy commissioning, no matter how many facts you quote them on the benefits of commissioning.

At the other end of the spectrum is the building owner who builds and/or renovates facilities on an annual basis. These individuals recognize that there is a need to fill a void that exists in the building process and that building commissioning is probably the answer. As a result, these building-savvy individuals request the commissioning quality control process. No sales pitch needed here!

The LEED® Advantage

Another driver for commissioning services has been the quest to have LEED®-certified buildings (new construction and major renovations). Commissioning is a prerequisite, mandated by the USGBC because they recognized its importance in ensuring the building design would achieve its energy-efficient goals.

Unfortunately, not all these owners understand the benefits of commissioning, and they struggle with the additional project cost to bring this third-party consultant onto the team. Still, building owners are required to purchase commissioning services if they want their project to be LEED certified. As a result, request for proposals are sent out to a select few commissioning firms, or the owner contracts for these services with a pre-selected commissioning firm based on past engineering experience or maybe another's recommendation. Still, no sales pitch needed here!

Not Living Up To Expectations?

Next, post-construction has become a booming business where commissioning services are purchased from building owners who have sought out these services because their completed building program had not achieved owner expectations.

At some point in time, relative to their project, the owner or owner representative seeks out independent design-construction inspection services followed up by building commissioning as the corrective action measure.

While this is a sad statement for the design-construction industry, it does occur and far too often. In this situation, troubleshooting experience is a prerequisite that will eventually lead to corrective action, commissioning.

As a result, a recommended commissioning firm is brought in to help or a request for proposals is sent out to solicit commissioning services. This service will have a problemsolving experience prerequisite that will most likely include TAB expertise and access to the BAS computer. Still, no sales pitch needed here!

They Sell Themselves

So going back to the question, "How do you sell commissioning services?" Experience has shown me that you don't go about selling commissioning based on price, because price is irrelevant when it comes to quality control. You also don't go about selling commissioning when the competition doesn't match up.

All things are not equal, and commissioning services are no different. There are good-better-best commissioning services, so my assessment of how commissioning services are bought (not sold) will be based on 1) reputation to achieve positive results; 2) commissioning experience combined with solving problems in an analytical manner; 3) the commissioning process and how the client can review, understand, and accept it as a comprehensive approach to quality control; or 4) word-of-mouth recommendation from someone else.

I think all these attributes contribute to being selected for commissioning services based on best value, but it sure is tough to go out and sell these qualities in the design and building environment. So, how do you sell commissioning services? You don't. ES