I am a strong proponent of planning ahead for successful functional performance testing. This is why commissioning starts in the design phase, continues through construction, and culminates (doesn’t start) with functional performance testing when the systems are installed, started up, balanced, integrated, and fully operational.

When the entire project team is engaged in a sincere and meaningful way in the commissioning planning, coordination, and integration process, we have seen testing go very smoothly and result in very few issues that need to be resolved at the end of construction. On the other hand, if the project team, or even just one or two key members of the team, do not take the commissioning planning process seriously and/or choose not to participate, the number of issues discovered during testing increases substantially.

Most commissioning professionals use some type of tabular list to document and track resolution of deficiencies with, questions about, and/or differing opinions regarding system operation. For the purposes of this column, we will call this the commissioning action list (CAL). I believe the primary goal of the design and construction phase commissioning planning and preparation is to minimize the number of items that end up on the CAL as a result of functional performance testing. An extremely long CAL is not a badge of honor or justification for the commissioning professional’s existence; it is often a symptom of the commissioning process not being as effective as it could be.

“Extremely long” is relative to the size and complexity of an individual project. However, if, on average, there are more than one to two issues per system (including all terminal units) that need to be corrected or otherwise resolved at the time of functional performance testing, that would represent a CAL that is too long.

Why are long commissioning action lists a problem?

  • It takes more time than necessary for the commissioning professional to populate the CAL.
  • Multiple project team members need to spend more time than necessary reading through and addressing the action items.
  • The commissioning professional needs to spend more time than necessary managing the CAL by tracking down responses from project team members, revising the list, and issuing updates.
  • All project team members invariably end up in multiple meetings where the CAL items are reviewed and re-reviewed until they are brought to closure.
  • The commissioning professional and responsible contractors need to retest or otherwise confirm closure of each item.

All of the above can result in the functional performance testing and system acceptance process being strung out way beyond the original project completion schedule.

In other words, an excessively long CAL will cost everyone on the project team time and money, and the building owner is often the ultimate loser. Some owners just don’t have the time, expertise, budget, or intestinal fortitude to push through an unwieldy list of issues. These owners may eventually accept the systems “as is,” because they need to close out the project and move on with their normal business activities.

Next month, this column will explore multiple reasons why the CAL might get out of hand, who might be responsible, and what the commissioning professional might do about it.