Commissioning and the uniqueness of buildings

Commissioning: Recognize the Uniqueness of Every Building

Every building we work on is unique. Sometimes the differences seem small — from minor system adjustments, to material differences in system resilience. Every project comes with a unique set of variables to consider as a whole. However, there is one common factor, and that is that without adequate investment in commissioning, successful completion is unlikely to be achieved.

In the first article of this series, we explained the benefits that thorough commissioning and testing of a building brings, and in the second article we evaluated why engaging with the commissioning process can seem difficult — and yet is so important to successful project outcomes. In this final article in the series, we identify some of the crucial ways in which our commissioning process can accommodate the unique qualities of a project.

Introduce Commissioning Early for Project Success

The process we adopt for managing or validating the commissioning and testing of a building is recognised as best practice around the world and it is clear that there are benefits whenever our appointment occurs. However, to maximise the potential of our process, it is ideal to introduce our commissioning services at an early stage. In this way, every aspect of how a unique building is to be constructed and set to work can be assessed.

In considering the detail of the commissioning process at the start, potential issues can be identified and resolved with the project stakeholders and operational requirements can be factored into the process at the earliest opportune moment. Adequate time to commission and test can be built in to provide a bespoke project schedule that considers every eventuality.

Collaborate Effectively From Day One to Avoid Issues

Our commissioning and testing process is designed to anticipate and resolve complications during the Project Assessment and Planning phases, and to facilitate rapid identification of issues and their solutions during quality assurance and construction phases. One of the most effective ways to see that that this process is a success is to engage everybody involved in it actively. This creates a collaborative, open and respectful culture, where communication is recognised as a key success factor, and outcomes are transparently reported.

Identifying issues and escalating them to deliver positive solutions becomes second nature when there is a collective sense of responsibility for the outcomes. By making this shift towards collaboration and away from a traditional culture of blame, we believe that a project culture where every member of the team is ‘in it together’, even on the most difficult projects is a highly viable option.

Protect the Commissioning Process

At HDR, we see that the industry is recognising more and more the importance of the commissioning process in modern construction projects; the adoption of Smart technologies and ever-growing critical infrastructures means it has to. It is crucial that adequate time to set these systems to work is allowed within the schedule because every one is different to one degree or another; to an extent, each one is a prototype.

The fact that they are prototypes means that adequate time to commission is crucial, it cannot be short-cut. If maintaining a proper commissioning period is essential then, how can that be achieved? We think that having recognised the uniqueness of the scheme, and in addition to developing a positive, collaborative project culture, there are four key steps in leading to a successful commissioning exercise:

  1. Project assessment: Gain a firm and clear understanding of the client’s requirements and how the design has evolved. Be aware.
  2. Project planning and preparation: Develop logical time-and energy efficient strategies in how the building is to be commissioned that are in alignment with the requirements of the program. Then take those strategies and collaboratively develop a commissioning program that is well-considered, logical, creative and pragmatic.
  3. Pre-emptive quality assurance: Take the risk of poor-quality control away from the site and if that is not possible implement robust quality control measures that limit the risk of poor quality installations affecting the progress of the commissioning work. In a recent study, we found that 51% of commissioning issues related to installations that did not comply with the specifications and drawings.
  4. Commissioning: Develop detailed test plans as early as possible and share with the construction team so that they are clear on commissioning expectations and why there is the need for agreed time periods to be maintained.

Building Tests

When a client engages our commissioning and testing services, we need to demonstrate with absolute certainty that, as a result of our involvement, the outcome will be a one off facility that can be operated safely and efficiently, meeting all contractual requirements and key performance indicators with minimal operational risk.

Having provided the requisite time to commission — supported by robust quality control — we are in a position to execute a rigorous, bespoke approach to testing. Comprehensive, unique test scripts should be developed that detail precisely what each step and its success criteria are.

By analysing these core stages for each building, we identify the unique challenges that arise so that we can deliver optimal results.

Along the way, we are continually learning about evolving construction practices and technologies and how these can improve our approach to commissioning and testing, which helps us to refine the way we work so that we can ensure excellent service for our clients every time.

Key Success Factors

  • Recognise that every building is different and determine commissioning strategies accordingly
  • Maximise potential benefits by appointing early
  • Work in an open and collaborative manner
  • Plan in detail
  • Pre-empt issues arising
  • Manage expectations carefully
  • Protect commissioning timeframes