Sustainability: Energy Audits & Commissioning

 

Commissioning has long been an integral part of green building and the LEED green building rating system, and basic commissioning was built into LEED for New Construction as a prerequisite for certification. Commissioning is often misunderstood, especially among owners with no commissioning experience who often avoid the practice due to fears of initial high costs.  The commissioning process offers benefits to both building owners and occupants through improved building performance and heightened occupant satisfaction.

ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005 defines commissioning as a quality-focused process that focuses on verifying and documenting that the facility and its systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained to meet the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR).  And while many believe that commissioning is for new buildings only, it can be applied to existing buildings as well, as long as stabilized occupancy conditions are in place. LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance includes a credit focused on continuous commissioning, which incorporates monitoring and analysis of building performance data between the regularly performed operation and equipment reviews.

Any added cost of commissioning is justified by the energy savings that can be realized through corrective actions identified in the commissioning process. LEED specifically focuses on this aspect by having a credit specifically regarding implementation of no-cost and low-cost measures related to energy efficiency identified in the analysis. LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance also provides the option of performing an ASHRAE Level II Energy Audits as the first part of the retrocomissioning investigation component for existing buildings. Upfront commissioning and energy audits costs are recouped within only one to two years and helps building owners avoid unnecessary operating expenses, which is critical in this economic environment.

There are many comprehensive resources and guides to commissioning and retrocomissioning available online including A Retrocommissioning Guide for Building Owners, compiled by Portland Energy Conservation Incorporated and the EPA’s Energy STAR program.

Do you have experiences and specifics from commissioning or performing energy audits in your buildings? Let me know at mheisterkamp@usgbc.org.