Good Construction = Hard Commissioning

Posted by Rick Stehmeyer on Feb 15, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Sometimes, acting as a commissioning authority day in and day out can weigh on you when you hit a streak of projects with dozens of issues that need correction.

frustratedGuy.jpgImage by Flickr user flyspy123

But every so often, you encounter a project where everything goes smoothly. Recently I had the pleasure of commissioning just such a project.  It was very refreshing to be on a project where it was really challenging for me, as the commissioning agent, to find any issues.  This project was the uncommon example of when everything comes together just right, on time, with full cooperation between all the stakeholders involved.

easybutton.jpgImage by Flickr user Craig Dugas

The project was a small mixed purpose office space that was renovated.  The system had 10 or so supply variable air volume boxes (VAVs) and 2 return VAVs that were tied into an existing air handling unit (AHU).  The space was empty before construction so there was nothing to demolish which saved a lot of time at the front of the project.  The construction crew put up framing, electrical, sprinkler, HVAC, and finished the job in a 3-month period give or take a few days. It was a beautiful example of multiple trades working together the way you hope would happen on every job.

Simple Helps

The design was rather simple, which helped with execution.  It was simple because it was a small space with a typical office layout for the business application it served.  I spent multiple days on site combing through the HVAC, electrical and sprinkler systems trying to find any sort of deviation from the drawings.  When I did find them, it turns out that there were RFIs that had changed the design that I had not received since we (Cx Associates) were brought into the project a little later than normal.  Or, the responsible contractor simply resolved the issue right then and there as it was discovered.  The construction management (CM) team had an online document portal for all the construction documentation and that was a great resource for helping us catch up with the project. 

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Stick to the Specs

The mechanical install was spot on.  They had to move a few VAVs as is always expected in any construction project, however in reviewing the changes with the owner we all came to consensus rather quickly.  This was one of those jobs where after the first site visit from Cx Associates (CxA), we only had five issues on our issues log.  I have never had a job where there were under 10 issues after spending a full day on site.  Even on smaller jobs, the specs can be so voluminous that they are not always followed to the letter, and contractors make assumptions that don’t end up in line with the specs.  This was not the case on this project.  I think the reason it went so smoothly was primarily due to the good communication between contractors, CM, and CxA. 

Factors of Success

Drawing from this project, there are few key factors I’d like to point out that may help your projects get closer to this type of success. 

  1. Cooperation and Communication. Selecting a team that knows how to work well together is essential. All the stakeholders were familiar with each other and knew how to stagger their work to provide the layering that construction work needs to optimize installations.  This was probably the most important factor to the success of this project. 
  2. The RFI process went smoothly with enough time for each trade to get a response and adjust their work accordingly.
  3. Timeliness. We, as the commissioning agents, were brought in to the project just in the nick of time. We were brought up to speed by all the stakeholders to get checkout and testing documents created, completed, and verified on site without interrupting the construction process.

I feel like this type of story is important to tell to people from time to time.  First off because this level of success is rare in a business environment dominated by low bid pricing; but more importantly because it shows what is possible if folks are united under a goal, able to clearly communicate, and are given the resources they need to succeed.  There was a construction efficiency that was realized, and in the end the customer got a good product that was the result of people who were setup to succeed.  This was a great way to start out the year in commissioning.

Topics: Building Cx & Design Review

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