By Diana Bjornskov

There’s a lot of talk going around about ongoing commissioning (OCx) ― publications, documentation and presentations that describe process (approach and methods), content (deliverables), and outcome (what your Owners expect). This article addresses practical OCx experience and how you can go beyond an outline of process “steps” to secure long-term OCx client relationships. Industry resources for junior and advanced CxPs are listed at the end of this article.

BCxA OCx Best Practices, as referenced in the forthcoming ASHRAE Guideline 1.7, defines OCx as “the means and process to optimize and sustain building performance on an ongoing basis through investigation, analysis, and monitoring the operating conditions of building systems.”

OCx increasingly supports monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx), automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD), and data analytics for intelligent buildings to “measure, understand and respond to” the facility’s equipment and systems behavior.

How do you know when you’ve done your job as an OCx provider?

Setting Up Your Project
Figure 1 below illustrates the activities designated for the 3 phases of OCx so they will consistently align with current facility requirements during the life of the building. The BCxA OCx Best Practices and the Building Commissioning Handbook (Third Edition, Chapter 5 OCx) detail the process for CxPs.

Figure 1. OCx Phases

The CxP is heavily involved from initial planning through implementation, but progressing into sustaining long term OCx solutions, the building operations team is increasingly engaged in sustaining the ongoing process over time.

Phase 1. Planning
You know you’re doing your job if:

In addition to the process steps, you work with stakeholders to describe the Owner’s vision, including expected and unacceptable outcomes. You define necessary actions to identify and achieve project success. You list priorities and their level of urgency. You identify team names, roles, responsibilities, and handoff relationships (and why); list documentation requirements and actionable information formats needed from data collection; determine metrics for tracking system performance and share your thoughts/experience about the financial impact. You initiate the OCx Plan and FDD Plan to use for implementation. You find out how much stakeholders know, and discuss interface and dashboards with potential system users to enable simple systems and data access.

Phase 2. Implementation
You know you’re doing your job if:

In addition to the process steps, you work with facility staff to identify current building systems performance issues; such as:

  • BAS network/controller issues
  • Systems operating outside the schedule
  • Setpoint settings outside expected parameters, or lacking reset strategies
  • Control loops performing poorly
  • Control sequences not as designed
  • Sensors/control devices malfunctioning and/or mislabeled

And, you conduct or observe functional testing; work with staff and hardware/software contractors to review IT/OT data mapping and data transformation; oversee data monitoring setup from a building performance perspective; review OCx workflow and assignment links; and prepare an OCx report to Owner that satisfies the value of the OCx business case.

Phase 3. Sustaining
As indicated, the CxP is highly engaged in the planning and implementation phases. As the project team moves into the sustaining phase facility staff, especially the building operations and maintenance team, take on duties that accrue from functional testing, system corrections, and FDD, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. CxP and Operator Role Reversal

You know you’re doing your job if:

In addition to the process steps, you provide underpinnings for successful change management. For example, you can work with staff, contractors and stakeholders to prepare and/or conduct training such as:

  • a presentation to explain what has occurred, why, and how, including their connection and reasons for support of the ongoing process. You can explain the transitioning challenges they may face;
  • interactive OCx training for O&M personnel and building occupants;
  • facility operations staff training on FDD, trend spotting, and how to extract and use data most effectively to meet goals;
  • OCx-focused hardware/software systems; help identify primary and less important data mining, analytics and related action plans related to the original priority plan.

Two recent live BCxA Webinars (now recorded and available), “OCx: Getting the most from building data through analytics” and “OCx: Contracting for Implementation” feature CxP participants discussing how to plan and contract to meet OCx project goals, priorities, and best practices. All of them are OCx specialists who ask and answer questions about situations they encounter, and issues that arise during the planning and implementation of complex intelligent buildings projects.

Communication Standards: A Few Words About Words
Shakespeare wrote, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, anyone working with data analytics would likely refute that – a common understanding of the names of “things” is critical in the digital world.

Standard nomenclature (aka semantic modeling and tagging categories, or ontology) can make or break a technology-based OCx project. Naming conventions play an important role in project execution, clearly defined personnel awareness, universal data readability, and interpretation. A common language streamlines data interchange among different systems, devices, equipment, and software applications.

What is the Cx provider’s role in supporting the implementation of semantic tagging? During design, Cx providers can support the specification of control and analytics systems that can directly support data modeling using semantic tagging. During start-up and testing, Cx providers can validate the use of standard data modeling with the specified tagging protocol. Cx providers can also work with open analytics tools that leverage semantic tagging during existing building commissioning projects, building robust and well-modeled databases that deliver ongoing value to our clients.

Open-Source Semantic Tagging
Currently, in the marketplace, there are three open-source data tagging ontology methods: Project Haystack, BrickSchema, and Google Ontology. ASHRAE is also working to develop two proposed standards: SPC 231P, CDL - A Control Description Language for Building Environmental Control Sequences to define a programming language for building environmental control sequences, designed for specification, implementation through machine-to-machine translation, documentation, and simulation; and SPC 232P –Schema-Based Building Data Model Protocols to define building data structures and conventions for data exchange among building performance and HVAC&R software.

Don’t Forget OCx/Cybersecurity Integration
In April 2021, The Checklist featured BCxA member Wanda Lenkewich (President, Chinook Systems) in “Targeted Disruption: Facility Resilience and Cybersecurity.” OT can link IT to the physical world … building automation systems in both new and existing buildings are increasingly interconnected with IT systems. Where IT systems typically focus on “confidentiality,” OT systems focus on “availability” of controls, to ensure ongoing building operations. OT is easier to hack than IT.  The ease of hacking and lack of monitoring, combined with the interconnection between business and building control systems, can be an attractive potential target.

Additional Resources:

A truly intelligent building measures, understands and responds to its own behavior …The building needs the ability to automatically analyze all of the data produced by its equipment systems, the resources it consumes and the external environmental conditions it is subject to.”

… And then humans need to report and/or fix it.