Just like people, buildings age and evolve from the minute they exist. Whatever a building’s original purpose and configuration, changes occur to accommodate business reorganizations and new tenants. Entire sections may transition from office space to warehouse space, for example – prompting alterations to a building’s HVAC system, security, power distribution and more, all of which can affect building performance.
Meanwhile, technology moves forward – and what was once a state-of-the-art building infrastructure must adjust to current standards. Factor in aging equipment, and the result can be poor indoor air quality and higher energy costs. But building owners have options for avoiding a debilitating decline in efficiency.
Rejuvenating a building’s operations
“Commissioning” is a process that ensures a new building operates as the owner intended and that building staff know how to operate and maintain its systems. “Recommissioning” occurs when a building undergoes another commissioning process, sparked by a change in ownership or maintenance problems. Recommissioning can fine-tune infrastructure and operations and can yield a high performing building, with savings of 5 to 15% in energy costs.
For building occupants, the most apparent and immediate benefit of recommissioning is a more comfortable indoor environment. Drawing upon the resultant energy savings, owners can better maintain an indoor climate between 72° and 78°F, placing their occupants in the “comfort zone.” Studies have linked air quality and temperature to productivity, which can drop by 2% for each degree above or below that range. Since salaries are often the highest operating expense in a building, a change in productivity affects the bottom line.
Recommissioning delivers multiple benefits
While the most direct benefit of recommissioning is reduced energy cost, building owners can gain other financial benefits from the process, which include:
- Identification of system operation, control, and maintenance problems
- Assistance in long-term planning and major maintenance budgeting
- Reduced energy waste and validation of energy-consuming equipment efficiency
- Reduced maintenance costs and premature equipment failure
- Improved documentation, which expedites troubleshooting and reduces maintenance cost
- Reduced operational risk of the building
- Improved training, which increases staff skill levels and ability to better serve customers or tenants
5-step recommissioning process
Before launching an initiative, owners need to determine whether recommissioning is necessary. Any building that has undergone infrastructure changes – construction, repartitioning, or altered systems – is a candidate. Buildings that have operated for months or years without a thorough examination would also qualify.
New buildings also need scrutiny, as tighter tolerances in their mechanical design under current energy and ventilation codes may edge them toward higher energy use if they lack proper monitoring and maintenance.
The best candidates, however, may be buildings that have a computerized building management system (BMS), since the investment in system technology already exists, but may be underutilized.
In-house staff or a BMS provider should follow these recommissioning process steps:
- Site assessment: Review energy use and evaluate how the building systems are functioning compared to the design intent; analyze equipment conditions, trouble spots and maintenance practices.
- Testing and definition of scope: Identify needed diagnostics along with simple repairs and costs; evaluate longer term deficiencies and repair costs.
- Prioritization of improvements: Weigh the cost of any suggested improvements against the owner’s circumstances and goals.
- Implementation of agreed improvements: Determine whether in-house staff, a BMS provider or other third-party specialist should complete any changes.
- Verification of results: Balance the cost of measuring results with the benefit of the information; options for measurement range from simple calculation to monitoring an entire facility.
Through a modest recommissioning project, building owners can upgrade facility performance and reduce energy costs – as much as 15% – and improve indoor comfort, which can contribute to increasing productivity and improving the bottom line.