by Craig A. Hawkins, CxA, CCP

Where, or how, did you learn Commissioning (Cx)?

Did you attend a college or trade school to learn how to commission building systems? Did you take a week-long Cx training course? Did you mentor under someone asserting their knowledge of commissioning? Are you self-taught, reading a Cx guidebook or standard and “taking it from there” on your own? Or perhaps you came from the controls or TAB world and – after watching someone else Cx a project – you thought “I can do that”.

These are common scenarios for how most of us reached this station in our professional careers, this point in time where we call ourselves “Commissioning Providers.” In my opinion, based upon my observations and discussions with fellow BCxA members, most CxPs are “self-taught,” starting their Cx education by reading industry recognized guidelines, supplemented later by webinars, conference sessions, industry magazine articles or maybe a partnership with another CxP along the way. But is that the right way or the best way to educate yourself or someone coming up through the ranks trying to learn Cx?

If in your mind the answer is “No,” then what is the alternative? Or do you think the answer is “Yes, the new crop of CxPs should struggle through just like I did, from ashes a Phoenix rises stronger and smarter!” We’ll come back to that discussion after another question about Cx training/education….

Let’s assume for a minute the average CxP has been providing commissioning services for, say, 7 years. And let’s also assume the average CxP reading this is successful, their clients are happy with their services and they are gainfully employed.” Based on these assumptions can we surmise they must know what they are doing? I mean, their clients are happy and they are busy, so they must be good at it, right? The answer to that question is a resounding, definite, unequivocal “maybe.”

Why “maybe” you might ask? It’s simple. We commission facilities and the systems/equipment within them, but do we commissioning our own commissioning practice? In other words, we verify and document the design, installation, operation and maintainability of the building and its systems, but do we ever apply the same verification & documentation process to ourselves and how we deliver commissioning? How do we know if we are performing Cx correctly in accordance with BCxA Best Practices and ASHRAE Standard 202?

CCP Certification is a demonstration to owners that you have an industry-recognized level of understanding of the Cx Process, but what I am asking about in this article is not your knowledge of the process but your delivery of the technical aspects of the steps that make-up professional, high-quality commissioning. Are you sure:

  • you are doing everything within the Cx Process that you should,
  • your training and education is complete and you are giving your clients all the services they need (and not just what they are asking for), and
  • you have the training/education necessary to provide all steps or aspects of high-quality commissioning?

The answer is probably, once again, a resounding, definite, unequivocal “maybe.”

Let’s return to the discussion about the right way or best way to achieve Cx education, and add another point: who needs (or needs more) Cx education? If you remember the title of this article, you already know my answer to that question is: EVERY ONE OF US! Regardless of your number of years in the commissioning profession and regardless of how you learned your craft, it is my contention that every CxP can benefit from periodic, up-to-date Cx education.

For those just starting on their path to professional commissioning, formal Cx education provides the opportunity to learn the process of high-quality commissioning from seasoned professionals with decades of experience versus reading a guidebook on their own and trying to apply that information on projects.

For those who have been providing Cx services for some time, formal Cx education provides the opportunity to validate their understanding of the Cx Process, raise their level of Cx services, hone their Cx skills and learn what steps or tools they could (or should) have in their suite of Cx services.

A side benefit from in-person education (Cx training classes) is the opportunity to learn or refresh your knowledge on Cx in a group setting where questions and discussions with fellow Cx providers allow the opportunity to learn what and how other providers are delivering, and validate that the issues you run into are typical for each CxP or each Cx project.

This all comes back to “How did you learn Cx?” Can you benefit from more formal Cx education? The answer isn’t “maybe,” it’s “yes” for every one of us. Education IS for everyone.