Don't Wait Until Construction: Commissioning Includes Design Review

If you’ve been working on new projects over 10,000 SF, or LEED projects of any size, you’ve come across commissioning of energy-related systems. Commissioning (Cx) is a great process to verify that all the building systems work as intended, but if you’re used to waiting until construction to get started, you’ll need to adjust your process – all the way back to schematic design.

The requirements for commissioning are spelled out in the Title 24 Energy Standards, with supplemental requirements in CAL Green. The current 2016 code, and soon to be the 2019 code, includes a requirement for a Design Review by an architect or engineer, either in-house or 3rd party, depending on the size and complexity of the project. The design reviewer’s process is related to, but distinct from, the Commissioning Agent’s (CxA) work.

Although the requirement has been in place for a couple of years, recently we have seen more consistent plan check comments requiring the “NRCC-CXR” forms, especially for projects over 10,000 SF.

To help you plan ahead, here’s a chart to determine if 1) commissioning is required and 2) what kind of review is needed.

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Getting Started at Schematic Design

All new non-residential projects require a Design Review Kick-off with the owner, architect, design engineer and design reviewer, ideally during schematic design but it could be during DD. For efficiency, you may want to fold it into a regular team coordination meeting. If you like filling out the forms yourself, look up NRCC-CXR-01-E, available for free at the CEC website. This first form is pretty painless and simply records that the requirement to hold a design review kickoff meeting has been met and what was generally discussed. For projects over 10,000 SF, the kick-off should include review of the Owner Project Requirements (OPR) and the Basis of Design (BOD).  

Next Steps: 90% Construction Documents:

The rest of the forms come into play during the actual design review at 90% CD. At this stage, the reviewer goes through two lengthy checklists to make sure everything is addressed including applicable envelope, lighting/daylighting, water heating and general HVAC code elements. The original designer has the opportunity to respond to any comments. A fourth form is signed by everyone on the team to document that the review has been completed. Then the rest of commissioning proceeds as usual, with the OPR, BOD, Commissioning Plan, Functional Performance Testing, and so on.

Really, more forms?

No one likes to add a bunch of paper work to a project, but as part of commissioning, a design review helps catch missing items or oversights. The requirement for a design review may or may not come up as a plan check comment, but if you incorporate it into your design process, starting at schematic design, you’ll see the benefits during construction and operation.

Have questions about commissioning? Contact us, we’d be happy to help!