Sidebar 1: Design Phase Commissioning – A Foundation for All That Follows


Most experienced commissioning providers would agree that the best commissioning processes begin with design phase commissioning.

Design is the time to capture intent.  Design intent is integral to the commissioning process.  Many of the requirements associated with functional testing, acceptance and ongoing operating parameters have their roots in the project’s design criteria.  By working with the designer to develop the details of the control sequences, the commissioning provider for the student center helped to ensure that the designer’s goals were clearly communicated to the construction team and operating team.  Not only did the provider make his job easier, he took a big step towards making sure the design goals were realized during construction and will persist through the life of the project.[1]

Design is the time to capture savings.  Design time well spent typically leads to lower capital expenditures and operating costs and increased equipment life cycles.  It was in the course of a design review for the student center project that the commissioning provider suggested that the designer consider an airfoil blade smoke damper design in lieu of the traditional blade design specified.  After reviewing the savings potential associated with the lower pressure drop, the designer agreed and recommended the change to the Owner, who realized a 6 month return on his investment for the higher quality design.[2]

Design is the time to solve problems.  Coordination and efficiency problems addressed at design prevent conflicts in the field and less than optimal solutions.  As a result, construction change orders and ongoing operational problems are minimized.  Because the commissioning provider for the Student Center had an O&M focus, he was able to proactively ensure that service clearances and access requirements were reflected in the design documents. Since the owner had the provider involved in the project from the start, the suggestions were readily embraced by the design team because they could incorporate them as the design progressed rather than having to make extensive modifications to documents that were substantially complete.



[1] For more on integrated design, see “Improving Mechanical System Energy Efficiency through Architect and Engineer Coordination,” a free download from  Or try your hand at an interactive integrated-design tutorial also available from the Energy Design Resources web site.

[2] For an example of how to calculate the savings potential associated with this suggestion, see Appendix C – Calculations of the Functional Testing Guide.