Editorial: The Very Real and Sad Truth About Codes and Commissioning

Editorials are meant to influence opinion and promote critical thinking essentially, an opinionated news story. We are adding a section to The Checklist to allow for occasional articles that reflect our market, and provoke thought or action. If selected, your article may either contain a byline or be anonymous.  BCxA President John Villani has offered to initiate the Editorial Section. Feel free to leave comments online at the end of this (or any) blog article!

What do the excavator, iron worker, carpenter and commissioning provider (CxP) all have in common? While I have the utmost respect for the expertise and hard work of trade contractors, the sad reality is that we CxPs are being procured as subcontractors just like the trade contractors to the general contractor.

Today I received the “Bid Invitation” shown below from a general contractor I have never worked with or heard of for a project in our area.

The first two things that came to my mind were: is this really how far down the food chain commissioning has gone, followed by the realization that I’m too young to retire, as my youngest child won’t be out of college for another decade.


We, the experts and practitioners in the commissioning industry, went through higher education to obtain building sciences degrees, with most of us continuing to lead and obtain professional certifications for our craft in the commissioning industry. Quite simply, commissioning has been and still is a professional service! That sounds great, but there is that email staring back at me to “BID” on this unknown project, with an unknown GC and with an Architect and Owner that I’m NOT ALLOWED TO CONTACT? What is that about? How is one supposed to provide: “a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project. . . a process focused on verifying and documenting that all of the commissioned systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the OPR.” (ASHRAE Standard 202) when we aren’t even provided a scope of work.

Ok, with another cup of coffee – off to work to change the world. Start by rolling up your sleeves and trying to make a connection with each one of these opportunities. Who is this GC and what are they looking for? Although I already know the answer (IECC code-required commissioning), I use each chance to explain to the GC what commissioning is, and why saying “code commissioning” doesn’t provide a real scope of work. In this case, it’s a personal phone call to the GC’s corporate chief project estimator.

We providers have a lot of collective work to do, to keep Cx as a professional service, to engage with local, state and federal code officials and most importantly Owners, on the breadth of commissioning and how this best serves the built environment. If you would like help explaining the difference between bidding and qualifications-based selection of professional services, please look to the BCxA resources and the position paper on Qualification Based Selection (QBS) for the Commissioning Profession.

So. Cheers with my cup of coffee — here’s to the next decade of progress!

  1. Justin Harder

    Well stated. We’re seeing these random bids from GC’s we’ve never worked with looking for a price check or a lowest dollar approach that appears to have little actual value to the owner. Glad you’ve shed some light on the issue.

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