Last month, I touched on the impact of changing key personnel on a commissioning team. This month, I thought I would explore exactly who the key personnel are. As with any team, a commissioning team’s effectiveness depends on the performance of individual team members. Even with a strong commissioning team leader and a well-defined commissioning process, the team’s success will still be proportional to the level of engagement of each member of the team. The most influential team members (outside of the commissioning professional leading the team) are as follows.
It all starts and ends with the design engineer. She needs to invest time in working with the commissioning professional to ensure the best possible set of construction drawings and specifications. This reduces the time the design engineer needs to spend on the project during the construction phase. However, even the “best possible” designs are often imperfect in practice, and the design engineer needs to be responsive to issues identified by other team members during coordination, startup, and testing.
The controls — whether they are for HVAC, lighting, life safety, or emergency power — are what make the commissioned systems sing. The controls contractor needs to be a strong force within the commissioning team by proactively asking questions about equipment, sequences, and integration. The controls contractor knows best what pieces need to come together to achieve fully functional systems at the end of construction. Regardless of his position in the hierarchy of the project, the controls contractor needs to be a leader.
Major Equipment Vendors
Because major equipment often comes with its own controls, the visible and very active role of the equipment vendors is almost as important as the controls contractor but far more surprising. This is relatively new in the construction industry, and many equipment vendors are not used to engaging in project execution instead of just selling product. The equipment vendors need to be forthcoming about how their equipment operates as well as how it will communicate and integrate with the rest of the system to which it belongs. Because there are typically numerous options available with each major piece of equipment, this process is best accomplished through in-person meetings with the rest of the commissioning team.
General Contractor’s Commissioning Coordinator
The general contractor’s commissioning coordinator sets the tone for the rest of the installing contractors’ participation on the commissioning team. The general contractor needs to make it very clear that the mechanical, electrical, life safety, controls, and balancing contractors are expected to attend meetings, meet deliverable deadlines, coordinate amongst themselves, and prepare for testing.
I do not know exactly how the best general contractors motivate their subcontractors, but if any readers would like educate me, please send me emails with your stories. There is a huge difference in the team’s success when the commissioning professional only needs to ask once or twice for something to happen, compared to the commissioning professional having to micromanage each subcontractor in order to keep the commissioning process on track.
If the general contractor sets the tone for the installing contractors, the owner’s attitude towards commissioning sets the tone for the entire commissioning team. The owner’s role is so important that I dedicated an entire column to the topic in September 2001. It is safe to say that if the owner is not committed to the success of commissioning, the commissioning project will not be a success.