Notes from the Field

Commissioning Services: Quality Assurance in a Design-Build Project
Posted 2014-12-21 by Harry Koons in Client Focus

What is Building Commissioning?

Commissioning is a quality-control measure involving the testing, inspection, and documentation of building systems and equipment to ensure each component and system is functioning according to design intent and client requirements. Commissioning coordinates the traditionally separate functions of equipment startup, system calibration, balancing, and employee training for efficiency, consistency, and safety.

What is a Design-Build Project?

Design-build describes a project delivery method where the design and construction functions are contracted to a single company. The method minimizes a client’s costs and risks through a reduced schedule where design and construction phases are overlapped. The design-build firm may be an engineering firm hiring contractors and acting as the general contractor, or a construction firm with in-house engineering design capabilities. Design-build offers a single point of responsibility throughout design and construction, avoiding communication and coordination issues and potential problems.

How Can Commissioning Help the Design-Build Process?

Many clients shy away from design-build projects because they feel the checks and balances of a design-bid-build process are removed. Commissioning helps avoid the issue by providing an objective, third-party means of ensuring design intent is met and construction shortcuts are avoided.

How Should Commissioning Be Provided in a Design-Build Project?

A fully independent commissioning firm should be engaged to ensure commissioning is accomplished in a rigorous, open manner. Having a commissioning agent who is both a separate entity and an integrated team member has been proven the most effective and successful method of quality commissioning on a design-build project. If the commissioning agent is not tied to either the design or construction aspects of a project, the building owner’s best interests – and the best project results – are prioritized and guaranteed. 

When Should Commissioning Begin in a Design-Build Project?

Getting a third-party commissioning agent on board early is the best way to ensure the commissioning process will enhance a design-build project. The earlier an agent is engaged, the sooner problems or inconsistencies can be identified before they impact a project’s schedule or budget.

What Should Be Expected From an Independent Commissioning Agent?

An independent commissioning agent can participate in design reviews, construction reviews, and provide input throughout a value-engineering process. The commissioning agent can help a client understand technical issues, changes, and open items during design and construction from an unbiased perspective. The client should expect a commissioning agent to work with a design-build firm efficiently and cooperatively to identify and solve problems.