Persistent Commissioning: Maximizing Existing Monitoring Systems
Contributed by Bill McMullen, Business Unit Manager – Energy Solutions, Dewberry

The term “commissioning” originated from a quality assurance process performed by military shipbuilders before ships were commissioned as active-duty vessels. Due to the high cost of failure, these sea trials were formulated as systematic tests and regulated checklists that ensure the ship’s interconnected components work in tandem reliably before being mission ready.

Commissioning was adopted by the building energy industry about 25 years ago and is about to mature into its next iteration: persistent commissioning (PCx).

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Reintroducing the Human Element
For years, energy solutions developers have been creating new hardware and software faster than facility managers can evaluate, building owners can purchase, and engineers can implement.

Imagine a tool used to build a house. It’s highly specialized and produced by hundreds of manufacturers offering dozens of different options—each more expensive and more effective than the next. This type of marketplace is competitive and fosters innovation, but the homeowner doesn’t care about the tool; the only thing that matters is that the house is built to last in a cost-effective manner. Homeowner’s typically pay for a contractor or developer’s knowledge and skill with the tool, not the tool’s sole capabilities.

Building monitoring and automation systems sold and installed over the past two decades were marketed to potentially save time, energy, and money; an expectation that often isn’t realized. For reasons similar to the homeowner/contractor situation above, an expensive tool isn’t worth much without someone skilled to use it.

This is the PCx solution—offering building owners a highly specialized group of engineers and building science specialists to continually monitor, analyze, and interpret data so the best possible solution can be implemented.

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Speaking the Same Language
One of the biggest challenges with PCx, and what sets it apart from monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx), is the addition of a systems implementation process that allows hardware and software of different makes, models, and years to work together. Using open-source application program interfaces (API), customizable developer kits, and more efficient programming strategies, we have the capability to not only make building systems from different generations talk to one another, but make sense of it too.

After this, PCx professionals can continuously collect data from within the building, the outside environment, and utilities to anticipate instrumentation issues and perform functional testing to help improve building performance. They can even present the data in real-time dashboards so facilities managers can perform repairs using in-house staff.

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The Next Iteration of Energy Solutions
At one point, software upgrades and brand new hardware were necessary barriers to combat sensor malfunctions, manual overrides, scheduling changes, and equipment failures. PCx’s human-centric integrations, revisions, and patches replace the need for costly installations and replacements.

Though this solution seems simple, we believe PCx represents the next chapter of building optimization. By streamlining processes, putting the information in the right people’s hands, and continually keeping an eye on operations without forcing expensive technology upgrades, more building owners can realize the value of existing building monitoring systems over longer periods of time.