6. Training

Training is an important component of the commissioning process. A well designed training plan supported by the operations and maintenance manuals, a systems manual, and videotapes of the training sessions will help ensure that the building is operated efficiently and according to the design intent. Training and documentation also help ensure that the benefits associated with the commissioning process persist for the life of the building and its systems.

6.1 When to Start

Traditionally, the commissioning process includes formal training for the operating staff after functional testing. At this point in time, most of the items required to complete a thorough, formal training process will be in place:

·       The systems will be fully operational and available to demonstrate operation.

·       The operating staff will be hired.

·       Much of the as-built information will be available.

·       Operations and maintenance manuals will be available.

·       A draft of the systems manual including the system narratives and design intent will be available.

While not required, initiating training earlier in the commissioning process is desirable. Including the operating staff in the construction observation, start-up and functional testing processes can provide invaluable training that is difficult to duplicate in a formal training setting. Early involvement allows the operating staff to observe the fabrication of the systems and building and observe many things that will be concealed when the building is complete. Participating during start-up and testing provides first-hand insight into the operating fundamentals of the systems and equipment, as well as the design intent. This involvement will also expose operators to the nuances of the system operation and the resolution of any difficulties produced by these issues. When operating the building, these experiences will help operators respond more efficiently to unusual situations that occur. In addition, exposure to the functional testing process will give them hands-on training in some of the test sequences that they will use as part of a continuous commissioning program or to troubleshoot operational issues that arise over the life of the building.

In an effort to ensure that a new heat recovery system would be operated properly, the Facilities Director initiated training sessions in which the project’s design and start-up team discussed the theory behind the system, how the system was configured and programmed, how it was to be operated, potential operating problems, and how to solve these problems. The classes were held towards the end of the construction cycle and included time in the equipment rooms examining the equipment that had been discussed earlier in the training room. As a result of the classes, the operating staff were familiar with the system when it was brought on line and were an extremely valuable commissioning resource. In the long term, the facility’s Owner was the big winner because the proper operation of the new system coupled by the overall diligence of the operating staff with regard to performance and efficiency allowed the facility square-footage to be increased by 94% while the energy consumption increased by only 17%.

As a commissioning provider, you can encourage the Owner to hire some of their operating staff early in the project to allow them to reap the benefits of being involved in the construction and start-up of the building and its systems.

6.2 Supplemental Information

Most training processes rely heavily on resources provided by the manufacturers and suppliers of the various systems installed in the building. Much of this information focuses on the specific model or product line installed on the project and assumes that the fundamental knowledge behind the product is well understood by the trainees. While an experienced operating staff may understand the fundamentals, some staff members may be new to the field or may not have received adequate training in the past. Thus, there may be significant benefits to be gained in supplementing the standard training information provided by the manufacturers with information and training regarding fundamentals.

Generally, there will be two avenues open to you as the commissioning provider if you which to supplement the standard training in this manner.

1   Supplemental Information from the Manufacturer: The first avenue involves contacting the various manufacturers associated with the project and asking them to furnish training materials that deal with the fundamentals behind their products. Most manufacturers offer this type of information, which can often be downloaded from their web site.

It may also be desirable to request that the manufacturers supplement their product specific training with some training in the fundamentals behind their equipment. This requirement can be included in the training portion of the commissioning specifications.

2   Supplemental Information from the Commissioning Provider: The second avenue involves the commissioning provider providing supplemental training to fill in the gaps not covered by the manufacturers. For example, providing some training in psychrometrics in layman’s terms can provide significant benefit for all parties as illustrated in the story in the side bar. The educational information contained in this guide can also be used as a resource for training. The electronic format will allow the user to cut and paste the information to target specific training requirements.

At first glance, providing this supplemental training and information may appear to be an overwhelming task. However, once the package is developed, most commissioning providers will find that they can easily adapt it to specific projects and offer it to their clients as a value added feature for little cost. Providing this information promotes good client relationships, solid operating practice, and persistence of the enhanced performance and efficiency.

6.3 Control System Training

Building control systems can be complex and operating them properly is essential for building efficiency and performance intended by the project’s design. Because of this complexity, the training associated with control systems deserves special consideration. As a commissioning provider, you may want to include some of the following features in the training program associated with your project’s control system.

·       Provide supplemental training on control theory and technology: Before dealing with the specifics of any given control system, it is important that the operating staff have a firm grasp of control fundamentals, the sensing and actuation technologies, and the control algorithms and tuning practices.

·       Provide a phased training approach: To fully understand the operation of a control system, a large amount of information must be learned; attempting to learn it all at once can be overwhelming. It can be useful to develop a training plan that spreads the control system training over a period of time, beginning before start-up and ending near the end of the warranty year. Typical phases are as listed below:

1   Provide training in fundamentals prior to the start-up. This will allow the trainees to relate the fundamentals they are learning to the fundamental system components like sensors and actuators as they see them installed.

2   Provide training on the fundamentals of the specific control system that will be used on the project including the controllers, system architecture, and operator interface. The staff will become familiar with how the system is configured and basic operator interface functions during start-up.

3   Prior to the integrated functional testing of the various building systems, provide training on the specific operating sequences. This will allow the operating staff to become familiar with the operating strategy the interface to the control system while participating in the functional testing.

4   Six to nine months into the warranty period, provide a training session with the control contractor devoted to answering operating staff questions and concerns. This gives the operating staff time to become familiar with the control system and discover their weak points, as well as uncover day-to-day problems with the control system.

Obviously, if the operating staff is not on board early in the construction process, then it will be necessary to modify this training format to accommodate the actual hiring schedule. And, smaller buildings with less complex systems and/or a less sophisticated operating staff may not require training of the depth and breadth described above. In any event, spreading the control system training out over a series of classes that move from the basic to the complex will provide advantages that can not be achieved in a concentrated training agenda. The proposed training schedule also offers the advantages to the commissioning provider in that it will provide them with a “refresher course” on the intended operation of the control system to be commissioned.

·       Provide factory training for key operating personnel: One of the best ways to ensure that a projects control system and the features it contains are understood and utilized to the fullest extent possible is to send key operating personnel to the factory training course associated with the control system. Most factory training classes are taught by experts on the system who will immerse the students in 3 to 5 days of detailed instruction and experimentation with the hardware and software. While somewhat expensive when compared to the more normal training approach, there can be significant benefit to all parties when the operating staff has been provided with factory training early in the start-up process.

1   The Owner benefits the most because the trainee will understand the control system in detail. This will provide them with the capability to operate the building to its peak of performance and efficiency and will also allow them to serve as a “second set of eyes” to monitor the work of the control contractor during construction and subsequent upgrade and repair work. It may also eliminate the need to have the control contractor perform some routine service functions since the trainee will be familiar with many of the necessary procedures and can perform them in house.

2   The commissioning provider will benefit because the trainee will be a valuable resource during the commissioning process. The trainee will tend to become a participant in the process rather than an observer, which will make them a better operator and bring added value to the commissioning process.

3   The trainee will gain knowledge and experience and may be more motivated to operate the building efficiently and participate in the commissioning process. This, in turn, will further expand their knowledge base.

4   The contractor will benefit because the trainee will fully understand their system and will have been exposed to its features and benefits.

6.4 Factory Training

Control systems are only one of the areas where factory training can yield significant benefits. Owners of large buildings or complexes may benefit from sending some of their key personnel to factory schools for some of the major components like air handling systems, chillers, pumps, and steam specialties. Even though the specific lessons learned will apply to the equipment of one manufacturer, the general knowledge gained can be transferred to similar equipment from other manufacturers. Although the costs for the training may be quite high, the benefits will often outweigh the costs in terms of operating savings and avoided costs. Many times, the knowledge gained will prevent an operating error that could have resulted in costs that exceed the value of the training by many times over.