Building commissioning: Ensuring efficiency and performance from start to finish

February 23, 2024

At its core, building commissioning is the process of ensuring that all systems within a building or facility operate interactively and efficiently according to the design intentions and the owner's operational needs. This comprehensive procedure, spanning from the pre-design phase through to construction and occupancy, is pivotal for verifying that building systems such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and more, function as intended. But commissioning is more than a checklist; it's a quality-focused process that aims to enhance the safety, comfort, and energy efficiency of buildings from the get-go.

The scope of building commissioning is extensive, covering new constructions (initial commissioning) and existing buildings undergoing renovation or needing performance improvement (re-commissioning or retro-commissioning). Regardless of the type, the primary goal remains consistent: to deliver a building that operates as a cohesive system, offering optimal performance and energy efficiency.

Key objectives of building commissioning

The objectives of building commissioning are multifaceted, focusing on:

  • Ensuring the accurate installation and functionality of systems.
  • Achieving energy efficiency and operational cost savings.
  • Enhancing the comfort and safety of building occupants.
  • Providing proper documentation and instruction for future maintenance and operations.

Exploring the types of commissioning

  • Initial commissioning: This type is for new buildings, ensuring systems are designed, installed, and calibrated to run according to the project requirements and design specifications from the very start.
  • Re-commissioning: Aimed at buildings that have previously undergone the commissioning process, re-commissioning is conducted to ensure that a building continues to meet its original design and operation objectives, usually after a significant change in use, occupancy, or major system upgrades.
  • Retro-commissioning: This process applies to buildings that have never been commissioned. It seeks to improve the efficiency of an existing building's systems to reduce energy consumption and costs, enhance system controls, and improve occupant comfort.
  • Monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx): Leveraging real-time data collection and analysis, MBCx provides ongoing commissioning benefits. It utilizes building automation systems to continuously monitor system performance and detect deviations from design specifications.

In the dynamic world of building management, commissioning stands out as a crucial practice for safeguarding a building's operational integrity, efficiency, and comfort. By embracing the various types of commissioning, building owners and managers can ensure their facilities not only meet but exceed the expectations of all who walk through their doors. Whether it's a brand new construction or an age-old structure seeking rejuvenation, commissioning is the key to unlocking a building's full potential, delivering tangible benefits in energy savings, system reliability, and occupant satisfaction.

Building commissioning process: A step-by-step guide

Pre-design phase: Before the first sketch is drawn, setting clear objectives and expectations is crucial. This phase involves defining the goals for building performance, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability. It's about asking the right questions: What are the building's primary functions? Who are its users? What are the sustainability targets? This stage lays the groundwork for a successful project by ensuring that all stakeholders have a shared vision for the final outcome.

Design phase: With the project's objectives in hand, the next step is to develop comprehensive commissioning plans. These plans detail the specific tests, inspections, and verifications needed for each building system, including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and more. Integrating these plans into the project specifications ensures that the commissioning process is woven into the fabric of the construction project, setting the standard for quality and performance.

Construction phase: As construction progresses, the commissioning process shifts into high gear. During this phase, commissioning agents work closely with contractors to implement the commissioning plans. This involves rigorous installation checks and system testing to verify that all systems are installed correctly and functioning as intended. It's a hands-on phase, requiring a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of how building systems interact.

Acceptance phase: The acceptance phase is where the rubber meets the road. Commissioning agents perform a final round of testing and verification to ensure that all systems meet the agreed-upon benchmarks for performance. This phase often involves simulating various operating scenarios to test the building's responsiveness to different conditions. Successfully passing this phase signifies that the building is ready for occupancy, with all systems go.

Post-occupancy phase: Commissioning doesn't end when the occupants move in. The post-occupancy phase focuses on ensuring that the building continues to perform efficiently and effectively over time. This may involve fine-tuning systems based on actual occupancy patterns, providing training for facilities staff, and establishing ongoing monitoring protocols. It's about maintaining the building's performance and ensuring that it continues to meet the needs of its occupants in the long term.

The role of building analytics software in commissioning and DLP

Building analytics software leverages data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to provide unprecedented visibility into the operational performance of building systems. It's designed to analyze vast amounts of data generated by a building's HVAC, lighting, security, and other systems, transforming this data into actionable insights. Capabilities include real-time monitoring, diagnostics, energy consumption analysis, and predictive maintenance, making it an essential tool for modern building commissioning and management.

Enhancing the building commissioning process

Real-time monitoring and diagnostics of building systems

During the commissioning process, building analytics software offers real-time monitoring and diagnostics, enabling commissioning agents to verify that systems are installed and functioning as designed. This continuous oversight ensures that any deviations from expected performance are identified immediately, allowing for prompt adjustments. Real-time data provides a comprehensive picture of system interactions, ensuring that all building components operate in harmony.

Automated fault detection and issue resolution

A standout feature of building analytics software is its ability to automate fault detection and streamline issue resolution. Throughout commissioning, the software identifies discrepancies and operational inefficiencies, flagging them for review. This automation not only speeds up the commissioning process but also enhances the accuracy of diagnostics, reducing the reliance on manual checks and the potential for human error.

Supporting the defects liability period (DLP)

Continuous monitoring to identify and rectify defects

The DLP is a crucial phase post-commissioning, where the building's performance is closely monitored to identify any defects arising from construction or installation. Building analytics software plays a critical role during this period, offering continuous monitoring to quickly detect and document any issues. This proactive approach ensures defects are addressed before they escalate, maintaining the integrity and performance of the building.

Data-driven insights for optimized performance

Leveraging the power of data-driven insights, building analytics software optimizes building performance throughout the DLP. By analyzing operational data, the software identifies areas for improvement, ensuring systems operate as intended and according to design specifications. This optimization not only enhances efficiency but also contributes to sustainability goals, reducing energy consumption and operational costs.

Facilitating seamless communication

Effective communication among commissioning agents, contractors, and building owners is vital for resolving defects efficiently. Building analytics software facilitates this communication by providing a centralized platform for data sharing and collaboration. With access to real-time data and analytics, all parties can make informed decisions, prioritize actions, and track the resolution process, ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the DLP.

Best practices for successful building commissioning

Implementing best practices for successful building commissioning can significantly enhance the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of a building project. Here are some essential strategies to ensure the commissioning process runs smoothly and effectively:

Engaging qualified commissioning providers

Selecting the right commissioning provider is the first step towards successful building commissioning. It's essential to engage with professionals who are not only experienced but also have a deep understanding of the latest industry standards and technologies. Qualified providers bring a wealth of knowledge, ensuring that all aspects of the commissioning process are handled with expertise. They can anticipate potential issues and implement solutions proactively, reducing the risk of problems during and after the project completion.

Early integration of commissioning into the project lifecycle

Integrating the commissioning process early in the project lifecycle is critical for identifying and addressing design or construction issues that could impact building performance. By involving commissioning agents from the pre-design phase, stakeholders can ensure that operational goals and efficiency targets are incorporated into the project from the outset. Early integration facilitates a smoother commissioning process, allowing for adjustments to be made before they become costly or complex to resolve.

Ensuring clear communication among stakeholders

Effective communication among all stakeholders, including owners, architects, engineers, contractors, and commissioning agents, is crucial for the success of the commissioning process. Clear and open communication ensures that everyone is aligned with the project's objectives, timelines, and expectations. Regular meetings, detailed reports, and shared documentation can help maintain transparency, facilitating collaboration and enabling timely decision-making.

Leveraging technology for data-driven commissioning

In today's digital age, leveraging technology is essential for efficient and accurate commissioning. Building analytics software and other digital tools can automate and streamline various aspects of the commissioning process, from monitoring system performance to managing documentation. Data-driven commissioning allows for real-time insights into how building systems are performing, enabling quick adjustments and ensuring systems operate as intended. Technology also facilitates the tracking of commissioning activities, making it easier to manage the process and report on outcomes.


As this guide on building commissioning draws to a close, it's clear that ensuring systems work in harmony is not just a phase—it's a commitment to excellence, safety, and sustainability from start to finish. 

Commissioning, in all its forms, stands as a cornerstone practice for maintaining operational integrity and comfort. It's about exceeding the standards, ensuring facilities, whether newly built or revitalized, maximize their potential for energy savings and occupant satisfaction.

The integration of technology, such as building analytics software like the PEAK Platform, elevates the commissioning process. With capabilities like real-time monitoring, diagnostics, and automated fault detection, the journey to operational excellence becomes clearer and more accessible.

Elevate your commissioning process with the PEAK Platform. 

Get started with PEAK Platform today and unlock the full potential of your building from start to finish.

Arghya Sen
February 23, 2024