Commissioning and retro commissioning in real estate

November 20, 2023

Commissioning and retro-commissioning are critical processes in the real estate industry that ensure building systems operate as intended and efficiently. These procedures are essential for both new and existing buildings, directly impacting operational costs, energy consumption, occupant comfort and environmental performance.
Our article explores these concepts, their importance, and their application in the realm of real estate.

Building commissioning: Ensuring quality from the start

Commissioning in real estate refers to a quality assurance process that begins during a building's design phase and continues through its construction, occupancy, and operation. It ensures that the building's systems perform interactively according to the design intent and the owner's operational needs. 

Historically rooted in the shipbuilding industry, this practice has evolved to become a crucial part of real estate development, especially as buildings have become more complex and technology-driven​​.

Key aspects of commissioning include:

  • Design review: Ensuring the building's systems are designed to meet the owner's requirements.
  • System testing: Conducting tests to verify systems function as intended.
  • Performance optimization: Tuning systems for optimal performance and efficiency.
  • Documentation and training: Providing thorough documentation and training for future maintenance and operation.

The benefits of building commissioning are multifaceted. It is a strategy that not only provides basic quality assurance but also serves as a comprehensive project review. It is so integral to building performance that achieving a LEED certification—a globally recognized symbol of sustainability—requires commissioning as a fundamental prerequisite​​.

Through meticulous testing and verification, commissioning can optimize energy use, leading to significant reductions in operational costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commissioning can improve a new building's energy performance by up to 10%.

Moreover, commissioning has a direct impact on a building’s economic value. Institutional investors and asset managers view it as both a revenue-generating opportunity and a risk mitigation technique, leading to substantial cost savings and enhanced occupant satisfaction​​. The market trends also indicate a rising adoption of enhanced commissioning credits (these credits are given for performing extra measures that help ensure a building's systems are designed, installed, and tested to operate efficiently), especially for buildings aiming for higher levels of LEED certification​​.

Retro commissioning: A sustainable retrofit

Retro-commissioning is a process that aims to improve an existing building's performance by identifying and implementing operational improvements, which can lead to significant energy savings typically ranging from 5-20%, often with paybacks within a year​​. Ideal candidates for retro-commissioning include buildings that have been in operation for a long time and may have never been properly commissioned. 

Key components of retro-commissioning include:

  • System assessment: Evaluating current system performance.
  • Identifying improvements: Pinpointing areas for energy and operational enhancements.
  • Implementation and verification: Implementing changes and verifying their effectiveness.

The integration of building analytics software has been a game-changer in retro-commissioning, streamlining the process of system assessment and identifying improvements. Platforms like CIM’s PEAK, enable a more data-driven approach by leveraging real-time analytics to monitor building performance 24/7 and pinpoint inefficiencies. These advanced technologies also support the implementation and verification stages by providing actionable insights for facility managers and contractors, thereby enhancing the effectiveness and precision of retro-commissioning efforts.

Retro-commissioning plays a pivotal role in making existing buildings more energy-efficient (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that retro-commissioning can yield energy savings of 5% to 15%) and environmentally friendly. It addresses the challenges posed by climate change by focusing on low-to-no-cost energy efficiency measures, often without the need for new equipment installation.

Strategically, retro-commissioning is a cost-effective and quick solution that provides immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions​​. It aligns with the growing demand for companies to adopt ESG initiatives, increasingly influenced by the financial sector's push for sustainability reporting and accountability​​.

The role of green building certifications, such as LEED, WELL, and ENERGY STAR, is also crucial. While they validate sustainable building practices and contribute to a building’s marketability and tenant satisfaction, they should not overshadow the need for actual energy performance improvements, which retro-commissioning effectively addresses​​.

It's also becoming more than just a proactive measure; some states are starting to require retro-commissioning studies for larger commercial buildings, recognizing its importance in building operations and environmental impact mitigation​​.


To summarize, commissioning and retro-commissioning in real estate are integral for ensuring buildings operate efficiently and sustainably. These processes help in maintaining asset value, reducing operational costs, and contributing to environmental conservation efforts. Real estate owners and facility managers prioritize these practices to ensure their properties meet current standards and performance expectations.

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Unlock actionable insights and achieve energy excellence in your retro commissioning projects. Start optimizing with PEAK today!

Alex Shan
November 20, 2023