Step 7: Commission the building

At long last, your new building has been constructed. But it’s not done yet! Now, to increase the likelihood that the building meets its energy performance goal — and earns the ENERGY STAR — architects and building owners should verify that the building is operating properly. This step, called commissioning, is critical to ensuring that goals are met.

Commissioning is the process of verifying that a new building functions as intended and then conveying the intended performance to the building management team. This usually occurs when the building is turned over for occupancy. In practice, commissioning costs are not included in design fees and often compete with other activities.

As the project architect or engineer, you should take the following steps:

  1. Consult a commissioning firm and bring in an expert as part of the design team early in the project.
  2. Separate funding for commissioning work to protect it from being used up prematurely.
  3. Communicate the energy goal during commissioning to ensure that the design target is met.
  4. Use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to measure and track the building’s energy performance as soon as it starts to generate utility bills. This will allow you to compare performance over time and verify improvements.
  5. Specify detailed commissioning activities in the project contracts.
  6. Finalize and transfer technical documents — including manufacturers' literature for systems and components and associated energy use — to the building's operations and maintenance staff.
  7. Supplement technical literature with summaries of intended operation. Provide additional explanation for innovative design features.

The five most common reasons why “good designs go bad” and how to bridge the gap between design and performance.