Charles Russell, August 16, 2011

Recently I have been consulting developers on design-phase projects. For the most part, projects are located in cities that have adopted additional measures beyond the mandatory CALGreen requirements. These local amendments present some unique challenges to design teams because some cities are not clear about their goals.

Some cities are viewing commissioning as a field verification tool. One city requires commissioning on any new commercial building regardless of square footage; however, CALGreen does not require commissioning for buildings under 10,000 sq. ft. This city’s CALGreen application is reminiscent of LEED.

Another jurisdiction requires TIER 1 compliance for multi-family structure over four stories. This particular scenario places field verification responsibilities upon the commissioning agent, not the city inspector. This results in the following:

  • Makes the commissioning agent responsible for verifying CALGreen compliance in areas the City may not have developed expertise.
  • Relieves the burden and responsibilities of under-staffed and under-funded building departments.
  • Building departments are still trying to learn and understand green codes.
  • Gives building departments time to work out local policies and procedures to manage green code implementation.

Another way to think of commissioning is as a form of special inspection. Commissioning agents are required to document field verifications on approved forms, which makes site visits by building departments unnecessary. Commissioning acts like a continuous inspection program that follows a predefined schedule.

There are some perceptions within the construction industry that commissioning has no value. I recommend developers use commissioning to maintain schedules, meet goals, and control costs.

If you have any questions regarding commissioning services, please send me an e-mail or call my office.