BCxA corporate member Colliers Project Leaders has provided commissioning since before it was a “requirement” — even before LEED™ was created. “We got involved back when we had to sell people on why they needed commissioning; CPL commissioned the first LEED Gold higher education lab building,” says Evan Wyner, Senior Director of Commissioning and Energy Services.
The group established its commissioning services as Strategic Building Solutions in 1999. The current business name, Colliers Project Leaders, provides Owner’s Representation / Project Management and Commissioning Services. CPL’s Commissioning & Energy Services group is a team of 20 people with offices in Boston, MA; Madison, CT; New York, NY, and Washington DC.
We reached out to Evan to talk about what he describes as “the important role commissioning providers can play in filling in gaps between designers, builders, and owners in particular in a post-COVID-19 world where potential prevention measures can have an impact on the energy and operational aspects of the building.” CPL feels pride in its role as a market leader and is excited to be advancing the built environment through its work on Net Zero, the Living Building Challenge, and energy efficient buildings.
For example, Evan cites a representative project example involving two healthcare facilities:
- New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s David H. Koch Center and the New York-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center, a world-class ambulatory care center that opened in 2018. The facility is designed to be highly sustainable, from its green roof, which is also a “blue roof” that can detain up to six inches of stormwater, to its high-performance building envelope. The building is also resilient in the case of an extreme weather event or disruption to city power, with heating equipment, air handling units, emergency generators, and other key operational equipment located on higher floors above potential flood levels.
- Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns completed in 2020, featuring single-bedded rooms for every patient, a triage suite, labor and delivery rooms and five operating rooms, private antepartum testing rooms, ultrasound rooms, and a 60-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with advanced in-unit technologies
These facilities are two separate but connected hospitals, one above the other, 750,000 gsf total, with over 40 procedure rooms. They feature revolutionary care in all aspects.
Colliers Project Leaders worked on this project as commissioning providers for nearly 10 years, from project conception to post-occupancy. The project team included CPL (Commissioning); NYP leadership, PJ Romano (Owner’s Representative); Turner Construction (CM); HOK (Architect); and Syska Hennessy (Engineers). The entire team worked together focused on the impact that the project would have on healthcare for NYC and the surrounding areas.
The Northwest Chapter of the BCxA was established with the leadership of CPL’s Mark Miller, Managing Director, Commissioning & Energy Services who became the founding president of the chapter. Over time, Mark also served as president of the BCxA Board, and chaired development of the BCxA’s first New Construction Commissioning (NCCx) Best Practice and Existing Building (EBCx) Best Practice documents. David Vallerie, Managing Director at CPL, also became the NE Chapter President. As a Chapter, we were interested in helping to advance our profession, there were no standards of service in the industry at the time. CPL thought it was important to allow a competitive marketplace and set customer expectations. Evan Wyner himself has served on the Building Commissioning Certification Board and on BCxA committees. AJ Kindya, Regional CPL Director of Commissioning & Energy Services, currently serves on the Best Practices Committee.
We asked Evan to answer a few questions based on his extensive experience and his personal point of view:
What does it mean to be a Certified Commissioning Firm providing Certified Commissioning Providers to projects?
We encourage all of our staff to earn and maintain their CCP. We feel it is the mark of a true commissioning professional; and the CCF demonstrates the firm’s dedication and commitment to excellence of service.
Have you experienced an impact on CPL services as a result of the pandemic?
Most ongoing projects were considered essential and have continued throughout. We found creative ways to complete services when travel was not allowed. We have and are providing support to many school districts to help address air quality issues related to Covid.
In your opinion, why is commissioning NOT a commodity?
Two major drivers are pushing a return to full service commissioning over commoditized services:
- Net-Zero buildings are increasingly complex and demand verification of performance. It was well known that many LEED buildings did not actually perform as intended for a variety of reasons (including design, construction, and operations issues). Now, with the new version of LEED and push for carbon neutrality, Owners are paying attention to performance and expect their buildings to work as designed. In a complex net-zero design, this takes a significant effort beyond the bare-bones commoditized services many Owners are used to paying for.
- The skilled workforce is aging and not being replaced with younger people fast enough. From the commissioning perspective, this may mean longer and more in-depth training sessions because the maintenance team has less experience and higher turnover in staff, along with the need for repeat training. When you combine these with the most technically complex buildings ever built, it requires a higher level of service from the commissioning team during the typical project life, and through the first year of operation.
What advice do you have for new entrants to the commissioning profession?
Find a mentor that people like, learn the skills and techniques they use to enforce the project specifications; make buildings work properly; and get along with people.
You can always learn technical skills from people you don’t like, but they can never teach you people skills. The old adage that you get more with honey than vinegar holds true!
“We at CPL are excited to be part of the commissioning profession and building industry as we work towards carbon neutrality,” says Evan. “With our work on both new and existing buildings, commissioning providers are an essential part of greening the built environment.”