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Why Your Building Needs a Continuous Commissioning Plan

by Patti Althoff - Siwicki | Nov 06, 2019 | Property Manager, Re-Commissioning, Facility Assessment, Facility Manager, Commercial Building | 0 Comments


continous commissioning

Have you heard of the term continuous commissioning? If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of the term retro-commissioning, which is the older version. Retro commissioning is the process of determining the changes or upgrades that need to be performed on a building and its system and implementing those changes on a predetermined time-frame. Continuous commissioning takes that concept one step further by using data and various metrics to monitor and predict the energy consumption of a building then taking that information and using it to determine the next upgrades for the building and its systems.

Understanding Continuous Commissioning

Continuous commissioning can be considered an extension or part of whole building design, which involves designing and constructing buildings that are extremely high-performance and use very little energy when compared to similar buildings that did not or do not utilize whole-building design or continuous commissioning upgrade and maintenance plans. This often involves using energy-efficient products and building materials while implementing certain technologies in order to create an environmentally friendly building that has a low carbon footprint. Of course, even if your building wasn’t designed using high-performance technologies and metrics, you can still take advantage of continuous commissioning and energy-efficient upgrades and improvements.

Benefits of Continuous Commissioning

It is estimated that continuous commissioning can save a building as much as 20 percent on annual energy usage when implemented and monitored correctly, and those savings can be long term. By contrast, energy performance typically decreases when a Chicago building has poor performance and monitoring. This means that as the unmonitored building ages, it’s energy usage increases.

The middle solution is retro commissioning where a building’s energy performance is monitored and certain upgrades are made in order to improve energy efficiency, but a continuous, automated plan is not in effect. Retro commissioned buildings tend to have flat energy usage rates over time.

Continuous Commissioning Benefits Include: 

  • Take Advantage of New Energy Saving Technologies

  • Save Money on Your Energy Bills

  • Improve Your Building’s Indoor Comfort

  • Improve Outdoor and Indoor Safety

  • Attract New Tenants by Being a Green and Technologically Advanced Building

Drawbacks of Continuous Commissioning

Extreme energy savings is nearly guaranteed when continuous commissioning is implemented. However, if an existing building doesn’t have any automated monitoring of their systems, it may be costly to implement. Not to mention, continuous monitoring means being ready and able to implement energy-saving technologies as they come onto the market and/or whenever the building energy performance starts to decrease.

  • Requires Technologies for Monitoring and Automation

  • You May Need to Upgrade or Install a BAS System

  • Your Property Management Team Will Need Time to Acclimate to the New Software and Building Technologies

How to Go from Poor Energy Monitoring to Continuous Commissioning

If you have a building with limited automation and monitoring of energy usage, it’s best to start with an energy assessment. An energy assessment may be offered by your various utility companies, or you can hire a company to perform a complete energy audit of your building and make recommendations on how you can improve your energy efficiency.

The first steps in decreasing energy usage typically involve making relatively small energy efficient upgrades, like switching to energy-efficient exterior and interior lights and installing low flow showerheads, faucets and toilets. Next, you might consider replacing old appliances with new energy-efficient or Energy Star rated appliances, including water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers.

Once you complete your smaller upgrades, you may want to consider replacing all the exterior doors and windows with energy-efficient doors and windows and upgrading your building’s insulation. Performing these tasks helps eliminate drafts, which can increase your heating and cooling bills.

Install or Upgrade Your BAS System

BAS stands for Building Automation System. This is a system of sensors that monitoring energy usage and equipment performance. It can even alert you to any malfunctions within the system so that you can have them inspected and repaired. These systems also allow you to program lighting, heating and cooling as well as any other system that is tied into the BAS, even your security system. If your building already has a BAS system, you’re well on your way to implementing your continuous commissioning plan because you have the ability to check certain metrics, like your energy and water usage. If it’s an older BAS system, you may want to have it upgrades, especially if it doesn’t monitor your interior and exterior lighting or your security systems. If your building doesn’t have a BAS system, you’ll want to have one designed for your building and installed. This is because continuous commissioning can only be successfully implemented through continuous monitoring and reporting.

Using Continuous Commissioning

Continuous commissioning involves automation and artificial intelligence. A recent example of automation and AI working together is smart thermostats. Smart thermostats learn over time using a system of sensors. This means it can learn habits and change the temperature setting of an indoor space automatically. When we talk about AI and automation for a large residential or commercial building, it typically involves the use of motion sensors and sensors that detect various gases, like carbon dioxide. Motion sensors can trigger lights to turn on or off. Carbon dioxide detectors can help determine if the HVAC system needs to activate in order to provide cooling or heating to an area and vent stale air while increasing the amount of fresh air into the building.

Once there is automation, there can be monitoring and design improvements. For example, if the HVAC system appears to be working as high normal or outside of its normal operating ranges, inspections, repairs and upgrades can be implemented in order to improve energy efficiency and indoor comfort.

If a building manager notices that an excessive amount of energy is being consumed by the interior and exterior lights, steps can be taken to lower that energy usage. This could include switching to LED lights and adding motion detectors or putting the lights on a timer. If AI is used to control the lights, it may mean monitoring the outdoor lighting levels and turning on the exterior lights and security lights once the sun goes down.

Implementing Upgrades with Continuous Commissioning

Technologies for energy savings are always advancing with newer and better products continuously entering the market. This means that if your building was built with the latest technological innovations 10 years ago, without upgrades, your building would be considered out-of-date and energy inefficient by today’s standards. Continuous commissioning allows you to take advantage of new technologies by installing them in your building as soon as they are available or as soon as you notice an increase in your energy usage.

Getting Help with Continuous Commissioning with Althoff

If you need to upgrade or install a BAS system, perform energy-efficient improvements or get help with your continuous commission goals and objectives, our plumbers, electricians and HVAC technicians as well as our engineers can help you. We offer many different types of customized energy savings services for your Chicago building including custom building automation systems, HVAC upgrades and replacements, including large commercial rooftop HVAC systems, lighting upgrades, indoor air and water testing and custom engineering services. We can also evaluate your building to create energy and sustainability reports and improve your building operations and maintenance plans.

To learn more about our energy-saving services so that you can take advantage of all the recent advancements in energy-efficient technologies, give us a call at 800-225-2443.

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