Editorial: Does the Cx Process Have a Place at the ‘Lean’ Table?

By Tom Poeling, BCxA President-Elect
US Engineering Company

The Cx process still plays well with the design/build, integrated project delivery (IPD), and Lean processes. These processes put a premium on compressing the schedule, and making decisions quicker in a team environment in order to satisfy the clients’ Conditions of Satisfaction. Compressed design and construction schedules put a higher strain on quality, and a higher need for quality assurance. And all the while, the teams need to design to a fixed budget expectation. Here’s what will affect Cx Providers:

The owners will push contractors and architects to make decisions sooner. Commissioning will need to be involved sooner and will need to be in many, many more design meetings as decisions are happening. Waiting until design submittals are available will be too late. Work is being done on progress sets, with enough documentation to get permits to get shovels in the ground. Submittals will be done and equipment will be ordered before the final construction documents will be complete. The design review process will need to be more involved, done sooner, and done more effectively.

Engineers and contractors will need to understand building performance concepts, including commissioning outcomes, better (not just providers). More information will be created with processes like Choosing by Advantage (which help decide system options reviewed through many factors). And owners will need to be more involved to make decisions early in the design process. The documented outcome is still an Owners Project Requirements (OPR), and will be a much more meaningful document than it has been traditionally.

Yes, I think Cx has a place at the table. Commissioning will need to be more embedded within a project (and the D/B team) to show real value. And it will need to evolve with the design/build process to be effective.

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  1. Raymond A. Dodd. P.E,

    Your article says: “These processes put a premium on compressing the schedule, ….” Commissioning is a well defined process with specific steps that have dependencies, and a compressed schedule presents significant challenges.From our experience here are a few: The structural and underground design packages are being constructed and the rest of the design is in progress. The move-in date is looming and the controls point-to-point and sequence verification is not finished, but the testing start date doesn’t move. The extra work, flexibility and bending of the commissioning process in a compressed schedule is significant but the competitive pricing environment doesn’t change.

    A compressed schedule often takes us from commissioning being a high-value exercise to a necessary step to avoid disaster. It reminds me of the concept of “value-engineering.” We often see value-engineering decisions that don’t add any value and can severely compromise functionality. But the industry is in love with the concept!

    From our experience uber compressed schedules are a monetary decision that de-values the commissioning process. We often have 4x the number of Cx issues on a “fast-track” job. For those of us trying to deliver a job that functions as designed, the love affair with the concept of compressed schedules is misguided and needs to be re-examined.

  2. Tom Poeling

    The key continues to be educating the owner to drive valuable commissioning processes when they have maximum effect on the owner’s Conditions of Satisfaction. I doubt that the continued pressure to reduce design/construction schedules and budgets will subside; it will be tough to put that genie back into the bottle. The design and construction industry is being asked to take a hard look at their delivery methods in order to meet difficult owner expectations. They are starting to embrace IPD because it seems that early collaboration results in a pro-active approach to dealing with the inevitable budget struggles that hit most every project. This is actually the opposite of the traditional reactive “value engineering” approach, which discovers the inevitable struggles too late in the design process.

    So the traditional commissioning scope may need to be altered to put more value into areas that are stressed – which continues to be the early design phase and the late acceptance phase. Commissioning providers should continue to leverage their relationships with owners to help them apply the appropriate commissioning scope to each project. Leveraging the regional BCxA chapters to educate owners and to advocate for certified providers is another important step that we should take more advantage of.

    The need for experienced and certified commissioning providers who can drive communication and apply lessons learned-solutions will be greater. Commissioning can still help save this industry from itself, but our providers must be flexible on the approach and must continue to evangelize the value of commissioning done right.

  3. Guy Van Meulebrouck PE

    I would never rush a surgeon through an operation because my time was so valuable.I wouldn’t rush a hair cutter through my haircut because my time is so valuable. Properly managed time realistically allows for all the things that need to happen.

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