This week, we feature Testcomm, LLC, one of the BCxA’s very first corporate members (since November 1998), which celebrates its 25th year as a building systems testing and commissioning firm.
Testcomm was founded in Spokane, WA in 1996 with the goal of providing high-quality building systems TESTing and COMMissioning services to clients in the inland northwest and northern rocky mountain region. Jerry Ensminger, the owner, had a background that included knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems controls, acceptance testing of industrial facilities, training of operators and owner’s staff, test procedure development, and other work histories that would become requirements for commissioning providers as we know them today.
As building commissioning was in its infancy in the mid-’90s, Testcomm was fortunate to be awarded the test engineer contract for one of the first major projects to be commissioned in our area: Eastern Washington University (EWU) JFK Library. On this project, Jerry worked closely with Rick Casault (a Founder and Past President of the BCxA, and an author of the Building Commissioning Handbook, first and second editions) to “learn the ropes” of commercial building commissioning.
The success of this project led to more work for Testcomm at EWU. Soon, the State of Washington was promoting commissioning and Testcomm was at the forefront in the eastern part of the state. Being selected to the state on-call consultant roster helped further grow the business and open doors to numerous state-owned facilities, such as community colleges, correctional facilities, military operations, and healthcare.
Privately owned healthcare facilities soon recognized the need and benefits. Testcomm developed relationships with several prominent healthcare providers. Next came the private sector, with several Fortune 100 companies utilizing Testcomm services for projects throughout the United States. Many of these relationships with building owners and contractors, developed over the years, continue today.
“I credit Rick Casault for introducing me to the BCxA when it was first formed,” says Jerry. “As a young and energetic commissioning provider, I saw the benefits in learning from this gentleman and this organization and in turn helping to ensure its success. Using references from completed projects and studying the vast knowledge base, I attained the CCP designation in 2004.”
Jerry has remained an active member over the years, having volunteered on the Board of Directors and as President of the NW chapter during its formative years. There are several other trade organizations where he has contributed and continues to do so. Currently, his commissioning volunteer efforts are directed to the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB), participating in test procedure development and review.
According to Jerry, having the CCP and/or CCF behind you and/or your company gives your customers an assurance of the quality of work that will be provided. It also separates you from lesser firms by narrowing the field in RFQ responses.
“It raises the bar, reducing the likelihood of commissioning becoming a commodity that would be available to any low bidder. It is important that we all continue to promote the best practices as set forth by the founders of the BCxA.”
Market and Career Opportunities
Commissioning continues to grow and expand, and the strong commissioning providers will grow with it. The COVID year had minimal impact on our commissioning services. If anything, it reaffirmed to building owners, particularly in healthcare, the need for thoroughly tested systems and for consultants to understand their requirements and meet their needs.
We have expanded our services into related disciplines and built on our HVAC testing/balancing and building commissioning foundation, now offering services such as building envelope (air barrier) testing/commissioning, window penetration testing, infrared thermographic scanning, fume hood testing, and more.
We offer the following suggestions to the newer entrants. These ideas are based on past successes and — yes, failures.
- Ensure the desired outcome of your projects. Follow up-to gauge customer satisfaction.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. Many projects are awarded based on past positive experiences.
- Volunteer. Make time for this! Give back to those that give to you.
- Nurture your employees. Everyone should reflect on you. Do quality checks.
- Always be improving and innovating. Embrace technology.
- Build a commissioning team, do not just be the commissioning provider, be the commissioning team leader.
Caption: Jerry Ensminger, Testcomm Founder