Why is retro-commissioning an important part of facility management?

December 7, 2023

Retro-commissioning represents a critical facet of modern facility management, offering a systematic approach to improving the operational efficiency of existing buildings. This process involves evaluating and modifying the mechanical, electrical, and control systems to ensure they function optimally. In an era where sustainability and efficiency are paramount, retro-commissioning aligns perfectly with the strategic goals of facility management, leading to enhanced system performance, energy savings, and improved occupant comfort.

The alignment with facility management goals

Facility management aims to ensure the functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of a building's environment. Retro-commissioning supports these objectives by systematically improving the performance of building systems. It ensures that the systems operate as intended, which is crucial, especially in older buildings where systems may have degraded or been altered over time. This realignment with original or updated operational goals ensures the building continues to meet its occupants' needs while remaining efficient and sustainable.

Impact on operational efficiency

Retro-commissioning addresses inefficiencies that have developed over time, leading to significant improvements in building’s operational performance. This process can uncover issues such as air leaks, malfunctioning HVAC systems, or outdated lighting, which, when corrected, can lead to substantial energy savings. For example, the U.S. General Services Administration reported that retro-commissioning in federal buildings resulted in an average energy savings of about 8%.

Key benefits of retro-commissioning

  • Energy savings and environmental sustainability: Retro-commissioning directly contributes to a reduction in energy use, often resulting in significant cost savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, retro-commissioning can lead to energy savings of 5% to 15%. This energy efficiency directly translates into reduced greenhouse gas emissions, supporting sustainability goals.
  • Improved system performance and extended equipment life: Regular maintenance and updates through retro-commissioning can significantly extend the life of building systems, reducing the need for premature replacements and costly repairs.
  • Enhanced occupant comfort and safety: By optimizing building systems, retro-commissioning ensures a comfortable and safe environment for occupants. This can lead to increased productivity and satisfaction, especially in commercial and office settings.
  • Additional savings through operational efficiency: The financial benefits of retro-commissioning extend beyond energy savings. Improved system performance can lead to lower maintenance costs and increased asset value, making it a financially sound investment.

Making the case for retro-commissioning

Cost-benefit analysis of retro-commissioning

Retro-commissioning stands out as a cost-effective solution for improving building performance. The cost-benefit analysis typically centers around the comparison of the initial investment against the financial savings achieved through enhanced operational efficiency. For instance, a study by the U.S. Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program found that the average cost of retro-commissioning is about $0.27 per square foot, with energy savings averaging 16%, leading to a payback period of just over a year.

To conduct this analysis effectively, it's essential to consider factors such as the reduction in energy consumption, lowered utility bills, deferred capital expenditures due to extended equipment life, and improved system reliability reducing maintenance costs. The analysis should also account for the potential increase in property value and tenant satisfaction.

Presenting the value of retro-commissioning to stakeholders

To effectively communicate the value of retro-commissioning to stakeholders like building owners, investors, and facility managers, it’s crucial to focus on the tangible benefits. Emphasize the immediate and long-term financial gains, such as reduced operating costs and energy savings. Highlighting environmental benefits like reduced carbon footprint can appeal to stakeholders committed to sustainability.

For tenants, the improved comfort and indoor air quality resulting from retro-commissioning can be a compelling selling point. Using case studies or real-life examples where retro-commissioning led to significant improvements can also be persuasive. Additionally, pointing out the potential for improved compliance with building codes and environmental regulations can address risk management concerns.

Long-term impact and ROI of retro-commissioning for commercial buildings

The long-term impact and ROI of retro-commissioning in commercial buildings are significant. Retro-commissioning not only provides immediate savings through reduced energy costs but also impacts the long-term operational efficiency of a building. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, buildings that undergo retro-commissioning can expect an average reduction in energy usage by up to 20%, with most projects achieving payback within two years.

Over time, the cumulative cost savings from reduced energy and operational costs can be substantial. Furthermore, retro-commissioning contributes to maintaining the asset value of the building, as systems that are well-maintained and efficient are more attractive to current and potential tenants. This aspect is particularly crucial in competitive real estate markets where the efficiency and sustainability of a building can be a key differentiator.

The future of retro-commissioning in facility management

Emerging trends and technologies in retro-commissioning

The future of retro-commissioning is being reshaped by emerging trends and technologies that are making the process more efficient, accurate, and comprehensive. Advancements in IoT (Internet of Things) technologies are playing a crucial role. Smart sensors and connected systems provide real-time data on building operations, allowing for more precise identification of inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are also becoming integral to retro-commissioning. These technologies can analyze large datasets to predict potential system failures or inefficiencies, enabling proactive maintenance and optimization. Additionally, the integration of cloud computing allows for more robust data storage and analysis capabilities, facilitating complex retro-commissioning tasks across larger building portfolios.

The role of technology and data analytics in modern retro-commissioning

Modern retro-commissioning increasingly relies on technology and data analytics to drive improvements in building performance. Platforms like CIM’s PEAK offer a glimpse into the future of this field. PEAK leverages the power of data analytics to provide insights into building operations, helping facility managers identify areas where efficiency can be improved. The platform offers real-time monitoring and diagnostics, making it easier to maintain optimal performance and quickly address issues as they arise.

PEAK’s capabilities extend to automating various aspects of the retro-commissioning process, from data collection to issue resolution, streamlining the workflow and reducing the time and effort required to keep buildings running efficiently. The integration of such platforms into retro-commissioning signifies a shift towards more data-driven, responsive, and efficient facility management practices.

The evolving role of facility managers

In the context of these technological advancements, the role of facility managers is evolving. They are increasingly becoming data analysts and sustainability experts, focusing not just on maintaining buildings but also on ensuring they operate at peak efficiency. Facility managers now need to be adept in using advanced building analytics tools and interpreting the data these tools provide to make informed decisions about building operations and maintenance.


In conclusion, retro-commissioning emerges as a pivotal strategy in modern facility management, offering an array of benefits from enhanced system performance and energy savings to improved occupant comfort and safety. Its role in driving operational efficiency, aligning with sustainability goals, and delivering significant ROI makes it an indispensable tool for facility managers. As we move forward, the integration of advanced technologies like IoT, AI, and data analytics platforms, such as CIM’s PEAK, is set to further revolutionize retro-commissioning. These innovations not only streamline the process but also enhance its effectiveness, empowering facility managers with real-time insights and predictive capabilities.

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Kateryna Dmytriyeva
December 7, 2023