Grumman|Butkus Associates (GBA) is a professional consulting firm of energy efficiency consultants and sustainable design engineers. The firm provides mechanical, electrical, and plumbing/FP engineering services to healthcare, commercial, academic, hotel, governmental, multifamily residential, senior living, science/technology, cultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial clients.

GBA was founded in 1973 as an energy consulting firm incorporated in Illinois. In the 1970s, the firm’s commissions consisted mainly of energy management studies, energy grant applications, and energy consulting services. During the following decade, the firm grew and expanded its capabilities to include design of retrofits for implementation of energy conservation measures recommended in its studies, plus remodeling and renovation of mechanical/electrical systems in large buildings. GBA now operates four offices with a staff of about 125 engineers and support professionals.

Commissioning is a growing aspect of the company’s work, nationwide. Our New York regional office, which focuses on commissioning services, was opened in 2013. In 2015, GBA was named a Certified Commissioning Firm by the Building Commissioning Certification Board.

Commissioning pioneering/success

GBA has built a strong Cx and RCx team, with more than 25 staff members who specialize in this work, and another 15 who collaborate in commissioning, energy analysis, and RCx projects. Since 2008, we’ve won more than 25 awards for our work on existing building commissioning—mostly from ASHRAE but also from third-party firms that verify our savings so projects receive incentives from utility companies.

Due to the creativity of our team, GBA has developed two proprietary software applications that aid in our monitoring-based (continuous) commissioning projects: Trend Sumo®, a fault detection and diagnostics program, and Energy Sumo®, an energy dashboard program. A recently developed service, pioneered through our work with a large healthcare client, is design/build retro-commissioning (DBRCx), with which we provide turnkey RCx, design, and construction management services. This allows us to work with clients from initial identification of measures through installation and measurement and verification.

When did the company initially engage with the BCxA – when and why?

GBA’s commissioning principal-in-charge, John Villani, first engaged with the BCxA in the early 2000s, giving his first presentation titled “Commissioning of Controls Systems” at the 2002 National Conference on Building Commissioning (NCBC). Since then, he and other members of GBA have held (and still hold) many positions within the BCxA chapters, international board of directors, and committees.

John Villani, GBA Vice President and former BCxA President, says, “Engaging with the BCxA was something encouraged and supported by the company I worked at back in the early 2000s, and for that am very grateful. It allowed me to interact with, and learn from, industry leaders and experts in a field I have grown to love. Twenty years later, through the work I do at GBA, I try to give these same opportunities to our staff and younger engineers. With more than 20 BCxA members on staff and many CCPs it is great to see a new generation of leaders developing.”

Tell us what it means to be a Certified Commissioning Firm (CCF) providing a CCP to projects.

GBA has many CCPs and is a CCF. These credentials have gained, and continue to gain, traction and recognition each year. When we engage with new (and even existing) clients and organizations and explain about what these credentials are and the level of rigor involved in obtaining and maintaining them, it demonstrates a clear differential in the marketplace that clients value. These certifications bring tangible benefit to owners.

Do you have an interesting/important representative project example you can share? 

Our work has taken our team into many fascinating facilities, from cutting-edge science labs at Argonne National Laboratory, to numerous large replacement hospital campuses, to expansive academic sports and cultural centers, to complex urban high-rises and hotels. A recent major project consists of long-term sustainability consulting for New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which was the outgrowth of a chiller system RCx effort and the commissioning of a major new addition/renovation to the museum. Our deep familiarity with the client’s buildings and infrastructure has led to a multi-year partnership, including significant capital development based on GBA’s ongoing analysis and recommendations.

What are you seeing that is shaping the practice of commissioning in your markets?

Keep pushing the boundaries! As a 49-year-old firm, it would be dangerous to be rigid in our process and procedures in an ever-changing and developing world of construction and technology. For those playing in the world of ongoing building commissioning (OCx), don’t be afraid to jump in, and provide and support those services. We have made some mistakes and have plenty of lessons learned, but today offer services we never envisioned just 5 or 10 years ago. Our industry is being demanded to do more and take on more responsibility from design to turnkey retro-commissioning (RCx). These demands will only increase with the significant movement of electrification and decarbonization. We see this movement as a distinct driver for all of the services the commissioning, design, and construction industry can provide and the need for very tight collaboration across all parties.

Recommendations for new entrants to the profession of commissioning.

Get engaged in industry associations like the BCxA. I remember being intimidated and awed, but also inspired, by the presenters at the first commissioning conference I attended back in 2001. I jumped in and presented the next year. Little did I know that would launch a 20+ year career in the commissioning profession. Over that time, I have laughed, cried, helped, asked for help, had many long meetings, and shared many meals with my BCxA “family.”

Ask questions, yearn for knowledge, stay curious, put in the hard work, always try to bring value to everything you do, and you will be rewarded with the bonds of friendship from members of an organization like the BCxA when you get engaged.