Nearly every building has some sort of performance problems. Design flaws, construction defects, malfunctioning equipment and a host of other problems can lead to serious issues such as equipment failure, poor air quality and wasted energy.
But an emerging form of quality assurance called building commissioning can help you detect and remedy most deficiencies, producing savings of up to 30% of total building energy costs.
Perhaps you’ve heard the term “commissioning” associated with new buildings such as data centers. When the building is complete and all systems are up and running, the building gets commissioned and is ready for use. But one of the courses in Schneider Electric’s free online education program Energy University makes it clear that’s only one instance.
The course, “Commissioning for Energy Efficiency,” explains that in addition to new construction commissioning, the process can also be used periodically, such as after a renovation or retrofit, to ensure a building is operating as intended. Some companies use a process called “continuous commissioning” to ensure optimal energy use, comfort levels and to resolve operating problems. In short, you can conduct the building commissioning process anytime
And there’s good reason to. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of 163 existing buildings that went through the commissioning process showed they achieved an average energy savings of 16%, while more than a quarter of the buildings saved 30% or more. Using energy savings alone, the median payback time for the cost of a commissioning project was 1.1 years.
In some cases, companies see savings of 50% when they factor in additional areas, such as extended equipment life and increased employee productivity.
As the course makes clear, commissioning is essentially a form of quality assurance and risk management applied to construction and building maintenance. In most buildings, there’s little or no effort to coordinate between designers and installers of different systems, and few quality controls exist to ensure a building’s design fits its intended use. Once a building is occupied, maintenance teams should be checking that the building meets its specified conditions and that those conditions are meeting the needs of the building’s occupants. Commissioning provides a process to ensure that happens.
Examples of problems that commissioning will typically address include:
- Unnecessary lengths of duct or piping
- Inaccurate or failed sensors, or sensors obscured by other equipment
- Economizers or variable speed drives either stuck or on override, potentially with other equipment working overtime as a result
- Heating and cooling running at the same time
To succeed with a commissioning project requires strong leadership, a well-defined process, involvement of various stakeholders – including those who install and maintain equipment – as well as strong documentation and ongoing monitoring.
To learn more about each of these areas and what the building commissioning process can do for your data centers and other buildings, check out the course “Commissioning for Energy Efficiency.” You’ll find it in the Energy Efficiency college of Energy University, one of dozens of courses that can help you run a more efficient, optimized data center.