To close out my recent series of columns addressing easily neglected yet critical aspects of commissioning, I want to unequivocally state that just because a project is small doesn't mean it shouldn't be commissioned. Facility operators know this intuitively, but capital project planners may need to be convinced.
Many building owners want a simple formula for determining whether or not a project will be commissioned. The obvious and easy approach is to assign a dollar limit, i.e., every project over a certain construction cost will be commissioned. Everyone has a project budget, so no extra analysis is required. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily in the facility owner's best interest.
It may be more critical to commission a "small" project than some very large projects. In fact, mechanical and electrical infrastructure projects often fall into most owners' definition of "small." This is because many owners have difficulty funding multi-million dollar infrastructure projects that don't result in something tangible like new finishes and/or larger spaces. As such, building infrastructure projects tend to be implemented piecemeal in relatively small (compared to major building additions and renovations) projects.
Examples of such infrastructure projects include but are not limited to adding standby or emergency power; replacing central plant boilers, chillers, and compressors; converting air-handling systems from constant volume to variable volume; replacing aging electrical gear; and integrating existing building systems. These projects are some of the most important to commission for a variety of reasons, but they are, surprisingly, often overlooked from a commissioning perspective.