The OPR of the EBCx World 

By Nicole Imeson, P.L.(Eng.)

Current Facilities Requirements (CFR) relate to existing building commissioning (EBCx), as the Owners Project Requirements (OPR) relate to new construction commissioning (NCCx). Where new construction commissioning focuses on buildings under construction, existing building commissioning focuses on facility improvement and energy conservation measures to improve the operation of existing systems. The existing building commissioning plan may include the entire building but is often dialed into specific areas of concern flagged by the owner, operators, or building users. 

The CFR describes the current functional requirements of a facility and the expectations for how the building should be used and operated. CFRs typically include requirements related to how occupants use the space, owner information, factors specific to the facility, sustainability goals, maintenance restrictions, capabilities of the operators and maintenance team, regulatory limitations, and budget information for the existing building commissioning project and future maintenance.  

In new construction, the OPR establishes the goals for the facility, which are often based on experience with similar facilities and a vision for how the new building will operate. However, in existing building commissioning, the owner already  understands  how the building functions because they’ve been operating it for several years. They likely have an awareness of what works, what doesn’t work, and where there may be room for improvement. But even though they may have ideas about how to improve the building and make it more energy efficient, the commissioning provider is an integral player in the commissioning process. The commissioning provider brings the expertise to understand system functions, the experience to implement facility improvements, and the knowledge to calculate upgrade costs and potential operational or maintenance cost savings. 

In buildings that have gone through the commissioning process during original construction, the OPR establishes a base plan for the CFR because the expectations had been previously defined. Even in scenarios where some of those expectations are no longer relevant, the original OPR can be used as a jumping off point to get the owner thinking about how they currently use the facility and how the OPR has changed over the life of the building. 

What should my CFR include? 
The commissioning provider, with input from the Owner and commissioning team, develops a detailed CFR including temperature, humidity, operating hours, filtration, sound, vibration, and energy efficiency objectives. While these may seem arbitrary, these items can have a big impact on how much energy is required to heat or cool the building, which is extremely valuable if the commissioning provider plans to calculate potential energy saving measures. The CFR should also note the systems relevant to the commissioning project, such as HVAC, envelope, controls, and fire & life safety, as well as procedures required, such as personnel training, warranty review, service contract review, and security systems.  

A facility guide is a basic building systems description and operating plan with facility conditions, set points, schedules, and procedures for use by facility operations. It can be included as a component of the CFR to document how systems and equipment operate to support the operational needs of the building’s intended function. Since the owner is more often knowledgeable in operating the services of the building rather than the building itself, the facility guide is a great tool to educate the owner on how the building systems function. It is also a good checkpoint to ensure the entire commissioning team is on the same page about how the building works. If one party understands it to operate differently, this can be flushed out when they review the CFR and accompanying facility guide.  

Get Everyone on the Same Page 
While it may seem like the CFR is a summary of what is already known, it is still important to go through the exercise of creating the CFR to get the owner thinking about how they use their facility and ensure their goals and expectations for the existing building commissioning project are in line with the buildings systems and limitations. It is also possible that the owner’s understanding and expectations  differ from the operators, who are different from the tenant representatives. A CFR workshop and discussion can help gather all these thoughts and opinions and bring them together to create one cohesive set of goals and objectives. While the CFR is a combination of input from a variety of parties who use and operate the facility, the CFR needs to be ultimately approved by the owner, and the goals must be realistic and within the owner’s budget.  

On projects where the stakeholders don’t have time to participate in workshops or where some stakeholders are in different geographic regions, a questionnaire is a great way to engage these parties in the discussion and make sure their input is added to the CFR. The commissioning provider may develop a larger, broader questionnaire and circulate to the entire team with the expectation that each party only answer the questions which are relevant to their usage of the space.  

As part of the development of the existing building commissioning plan and the CFR, it is critical to establish a budget and define the financial metrics for the project. Financial resources and the owner’s budget and funding sequence are typically discussed during the planning phase of the commissioning project. When using outside resources, the costs associated with individual tasks must be estimated to establish what level of funding will be required. 

In the early stages of the existing building commissioning project, when the commissioning provider performs walkthroughs and develops the commissioning plan, they should continually refer to the CFR to make sure the project stays within the owners’ goals and expectations. If new information comes to light that contradicts the CFR, the commissioning provider should schedule a meeting with the owner and relevant parties and determine the best path forward. Similar to an OPR, there are times when the commissioning plan will be revised to conform to the CFR, and there are times when the CFR will be revised to conform to the plan.  

With each phase of the existing building commissioning project—of which there are 5 phases identified in the Building Commissioning Association’s Best Practices guide—the CFR should be reviewed for relevance and completeness and submitted to the owner. Any changes that are made throughout that phase should be highlighted to the owner for information and approval.  

A well- written CFR will help the commissioning provider understand the building systems and owner expectations early on in a commissioning project. Refer to the Building Commissioning Association’s Existing Building Commissioning Best Practices for more on CFRs and when they should be consulted and updated throughout a project.