Continuous Commissioning: A Walk-through Guide for Energy Engineers

Continuous Commissioning: A Walk-through Guide for Energy Engineers

According to the Energy Systems Laboratory of Texas A&M University, Continuous Commissioning, or CC, is a highly effective way to optimize energy efficiency in existing buildings. It involves monitoring all energy appliances in a building and evaluating their performance to determine improvement opportunities and implement them. The upgrades extend over the life of the project, which is at least three years as per the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (Resource: www.aceee.com).

The term “Continuous Commissioning” is also commonly associated with ongoing commissioning, persistent commissioning, continuous retro-commissioning, and monitoring-based commissioning. This guide intends to assist you with everything you need to know about this service.

Goals of Continuous Commissioning

According to the US Department of Energy, CC, like other types of commissioning, does not adhere to the original design intent of a building. Its primary objective is rather to keep a building running at peak efficiency.

To boot, here are the top ten goals and objectives that motivate engineers to conduct Continuous Commissioning:

  • Identify and implement cost-effective ECMs that optimize building performance
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
  • Cut energy consumption and save costs in the long run
  • Improve the indoor environment to maximize occupancy comfort
  • Reduce O&M expenses and lower energy bills
  • Facilitate buildings to perform as expected and intended
  • Reduce the time it takes to practice commissioning
  • Improve security to mitigate risks
  • Achieve a high Energy Star rating at minimum cost
  • Produce a rapid payback to the owner

8 Action-Packed Steps to Practice Continuous Commissioning

Performing Continuous Commissioning requires comprehensive knowledge and expertise in all facets of building design and construction. The process consists of 8 action-packed steps, which are broadly categorized into two key phases. The first phase covers the project development process and comprises the following four steps:

Develop a Project Scope and Formulate a Team

The development process begins with outlining the scope of the project. The depth and detail of the scope may vary based on the needs and budget of the owner and the condition of existing equipment.

Once done, the next step is to develop a team that will practice commissioning. CC team consists of a number of experienced personnel led by a Commissioning Agent (CxA) who performs the service as a third-party consultant. The CxA works on-site and is responsible for various tasks, including interpreting business plans, testing and verifying equipment, reviewing submittals, and evaluating construction change proposals.

Other team members include:

  • Building Owner
  • Building Architect
  • Engineers
  • Operating Personnel
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors

Perform Site Visits

In this phase, the CxA performs periodic site assessments to gain an in-depth understanding of how existing building systems operate and why they’ve been installed. Site visits include everything from analyzing utility bills and meter readings to maintaining logs for changes and Requests for Informations.

Develop Process Performance Baselines

Performance baselines are designed to evaluate a project at various levels of detail. Based on the analysis done in the previous phase, the Commissioning Agent documents comfort complaints in all thermal zones and inspects the Building Management System (BMS) to determine its existing condition and identify faults that might be causing the discomfort.

Identify and Quantify Improvement Opportunities

At this time, the CxA analyzes details collated in earlier stages to uncover savings opportunities. Before implementation, the identified opportunities are subdivided into smaller units. Each unit is then quantified based on a variety of parameters such as project area, benefits, cost, and payback period. Quantification helps building owners analyze the unique risks associated with each opportunity and validate them prior to implementation.

Once the CxA has a clear grasp of the actions to be performed, the implementation phase begins. The steps below define this phase for any existing infrastructure:

Implement Identified Improvements

At this point, the building owner is required to approve the proposed commissioning plan. An integrated approach is then carried out to implement the accepted actions. The execution is usually accomplished by in-house O&M members, although it may occasionally necessitate the hiring of extra personnel.

Document Energy Savings and Comfort Improvements

It is highly recommended to function-test the upgrades to determine achieved energy savings and comfort improvements. The results can be used to benchmark performance and track whether the upgraded systems are performing appropriately or not.

Train O&M Staff to Ensure the Building Runs Efficiently

If you wish to maximize savings and ensure satisfaction, O&M staff training is highly essential. CxAs should train building staff through a well-thought-out screening process because inadequate training can lead to unexpected failures, shutdowns, reduced energy savings, and sub-par operational efficiency.

Continue Commissioning

Regular analysis helps eliminate deferred maintenance backlogs and additional operating expenses in real-time. Therefore, building owners should continually check on the operating status of all equipment and make improvements as necessary.

How Artificial Intelligence Helps Continuous Commissioning 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes Continuous Commissioning easier for busy commissioning agents who need to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously to keep a building functioning. While manual energy assessments are time-consuming and prone to mistakes, AI-assisted building commissioning software utilizes deep learning models to help owners achieve maximum savings with minimum hassle. Some of its key features include:

  • Analyzing your building’s (current and historical) energy performance in real-time
  • Predicting future energy usage and possible savings
  • Estimating the “root cause” of faults and suggesting corrective actions that require no manual intervention
  • Identifying changes over time and precisely adapting to them
  • Highlighting retrofit opportunities
  • Implementing optimization strategies

How Does a Continuous Commissioning Software Work

Configuring a Continuous Commissioning software doesn’t require much red tape. In general, the following five steps are followed to accomplish Continuous Commissioning in any given facility:

Quantify Building Systems

This step seeks to categorize the appliances that can be upgraded to enhance the energy efficiency of your building. As you launch the software, it scans your Building Management System and prioritizes components based on how amenable they are to energy-efficient modifications.

Identify and Determine Automation Techniques

The software then equips you with specific “no/low-cost Energy Conservation Measures” that can be implemented instantly. Many software types also provide cost estimations and help you foresee potential opportunities and roadblocks, allowing you to make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition.

Select Strategies to Implement Automation Techniques

This step entails selecting appropriate automation technology. According to a research paper on methodologies and advancements in the calibration of building energy models, Bayesian inference, meta-modeling, and simulation-driven optimization methods are used to implement automation.

Execute Commissioning

The software implements the technology deemed best under the given scenario to solve all issues affecting the building’s energy performance while requiring minimum human interference.

Continue Commissioning

In order to uphold peak efficiency, the commissioning process is kept ongoing. As there are millions of data points obtained and centralized each day, the software continues to analyze energy systems and improve their performance for increased energy efficiency.

10 Powerful Benefits of Using An Automated Continuous Commissioning Software

Engineers who switch to automated solutions enjoy a significant edge, especially over their competitors relying on conventional ways of commissioning. This makes your approach more precise in terms of scrutinizing fault-prone appliances and implementing necessary fixes for them in real-time.

Here are a handful of lucrative benefits you enjoy with automated Continuous Commissioning:

Stabilized Equipment Performance

Deploying an ongoing building commissioning system in a building is equivalent to hiring a full-time facilities engineer. The functionality of all operational systems is enhanced to reduce energy consumption, increase equipment longevity, and eliminate unexpected breakdowns with the assurance that BMS settings are configured appropriately.

Greater Energy Savings

Optimal building performance objectives are achieved by verifying that the design intent is fully satisfied. Ongoing commissioning enables you to meet the energy consumption levels documented in your customers’ building design documentation and reap more savings in less time.

Improved Energy Star Scores

Energy Star score signifies the energy status of a building compared to its peer facilities.  A score of 75 or above means the building is a top performer and eligible for certification. Hands down, an automated continuous commissioning software decreases energy consumption and toxic emissions; this makes buildings more ecologically friendly and improves their Energy Star ratings.

Enhanced Occupancy Comfort

With all building systems performing efficiently and utilizing appropriate amounts of energy, occupants enjoy significantly improved comfort. In traditional building commissioning processes, identifying and resolving faults is a time-consuming process. However, the software makes it easy for you by generating real-time alerts whenever a fault arises. Once an error has been detected, it can be resolved instantly without having to compromise the inhabitants’ comfort.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Buildings contribute nearly 40% of total global GHG emissions. Automated continuous commissioning allows you to reduce this footprint by making your appliances more energy-efficient. Features like predictive risk analysis and fault mitigation let your BMS run at maximum efficiency while lowering carbon pollution.

Sustainable Engineering Solutions

Generally, sustainable engineering solutions do not address operational and comfort-related issues in buildings. Partly, this is because certain facility operators lack the knowledge and engineering skills necessary to solve such problems. A CC software conducts thorough inspections to develop and implement solutions based on fundamental engineering principles. As a result, not only are operations and comfort enhanced but maintenance expenses are reduced as well.

Increased Asset Value

A continuous commissioning software implements smart preventative measures like 24/7 equipment monitoring to mitigates the risk of liabilities and damages incurred due to power failure, water/wind erosion, fire, etc. Reduced risk also improves equipment uptime, ultimately increasing the asset value of your client’s building.

Less Commissioning Time

Unlike traditional time-consuming procedures, automated commissioning software leverages modern technologies to monitor and control building systems continuously. The software also suggests upgrades that can be deployed dynamically to save money and energy.

Automated Functional Performance Testing

A Functional Performance Test (FPT) is the final test conducted to ensure that a building performs in accordance with its design intent. It also serves as a benchmark for the next commissioning phase.

In typical project timelines, errors found during the FPT are often difficult to resolve and likely to delay the project. Automation helps eliminate these roadblocks by enabling early design validation. 

An automated commissioning software follows a proactive approach to give you greater control over a building. You can continually test the upgraded systems to ensure faults don’t exist and thereby cut more time out of the project, assuring maximum energy savings and thermal comfort.

Increased Staff Expertise

Automated Continuous Commissioning software follows a strategic maintenance approach to minimize the risk of faults and failures. Operational efficiency allows maintenance staff to spend less time identifying problems and concentrate more on other important tasks that matter.

Ongoing commissioning enables building owners to achieve long-term sustainability by implementing cost-effective ECMs that maximize tenant comfort in minimum time. ActiveBAS offers an energy-efficient automated continuous commissioning solution that utilizes advanced technologies to enhance the function of your building in real-time. Our product requires very little time commitment to install, and you don’t need to expend any excess time, energy, or money to implement it. Visit our website or schedule a demo to see how we can help you start saving instantly.

References

  • ACEEE (2021) Where’s the Beef in Continuous Commissioning? Results from 140 Buildings in Commercial Property and Higher Education. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from: https://www.aceee.org/files/proceedings/2012/data/papers/0193-000090.pdf
  • Architecture 2030. Why The Building Sector?. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from: https://architecture2030.org/buildings_problem_why/