I will close out 2014 with this final column about how to avoid excessively long commissioning action lists (CALs).

Key Personnel Changes

Much of last month’s column dealt with the importance of early and thorough planning. Many of the benefits of that planning could be lost if key personnel (i.e., the people involved in the coordination/integration) leave before the end of the project. This can result in communication gaps which manifest themselves in missing features, inoperable equipment, and/or improper systems performance … all of which end up on the CAL at the end of construction.

Changing personnel is not really anyone’s fault; it is just the nature of business and free market employment. In order to mitigate the risk associated with new team members, the commissioning professional should document all planning, coordination, and integration decisions, roles and responsibilities, and schedule commitments in writing. If a new person subsequently joins the commissioning team, the commissioning professional should provide all of the relevant documentation to the new person in order for that him/her to catch up as quickly and painlessly as practical.

Underqualified Contractors

Every once in a while, an underqualified contractor is a member of a project team. This can occur for a variety of reasons, and the commissioning professional has no control over any of them. However, the commissioning professional is tasked with the responsibility of integrating that contractor into the commissioning team and helping the contractor understand and execute his/her role in the process.

The commissioning professional needs to manage and communicate with the commissioning team members closely enough to get a sense, as soon as possible, if there is a contractor struggling with the required tasks. This typically manifests itself first through lack of communication and missed deadlines. That can happen even with qualified contractors, but qualified contractors will eventually (maybe with “encouragement” from the owner or construction manager) produce appropriate work products. Underqualified contractors will either submit substandard deliverables or continue to not produce anything at all.

The way to manage this situation is to give the contractors enough time to comply with contract requirements but not let them delay so long that it risks impacting the final quality of the project. This is part of the art of being a commissioning professional — knowing when to elevate a situation to a higher authority.

Misconception about Quality Control

There can sometimes be a misconception on the part of contractors, especially those new to the process, that they do not need to perform their own quality control because the commissioning professional will be conducting functional performance tests. That is, the commissioning professional will find their problems for them. This is a sure way to have an interminable CAL at the end of construction.

Dealing with this situation is an educational exercise for the commissioning professional. When introducing the commissioning process, it is critical to explain that the purpose of functional performance testing is to demonstrate that the systems perform as expected — not to expand the punch list with more quality control items to fix. This concept can be re-emphasized during the commissioning scheduling process, because no contractor wants extensive retesting on the end-of-project critical path. As such, the commissioning professional can explain that retesting could be one day or could be two weeks, depending on how well the systems perform the first time around.

 Then it will be time to remind the contractors, as noted in last month’s column, that the functional performance tests are open-book tests distributed to the team ahead of time with the answers included. There is no reason for long lists of deficiencies (the CAL) as a result of conducting those tests.