The owner negotiates an agreement for commissioning services directly with the selected commissioning services provider. This agreement shall incorporate provisions relating to conflicts of interest, the scope of commissioning services, lines of communication, and authority. The owner must have the full allegiance of the commissioning authority during the project.

Accordingly, the agreement prohibits the commissioning authority from having any business affiliation with, financial interest in, or contract with the design professionals, the contractor, subcontractors, or suppliers for the duration of the agreement. Violation of such prohibitions constitutes a conflict of interest and is cause for the owner to terminate the agreement.

The scope of services includes responsibilities during the design, construction, and post occupancy periods. In the design process, the commissioning authority should review each design submittal for commissioning related qualities.

These qualities include design consistency with design intent, design criteria, maintainability, serviceability, and physical provisions for testing. The services provided should also include commissioning specifications, with emphasis on identifying systems to be tested and the associated test criteria.

The commissioning authority participates in onboard review sessions and various other design meetings with the design professionals. The intent is to ensure that the commissioning authority has as much familiarity with the design as is feasible. This allows an understanding of the design for effective reviewing, providing input to the design professionals regarding commissioning requirements which would not be readily evident to many design professionals.

Commissioning authority participation in the design process results in increased effectiveness during the construction and postoccupancy phases of the project. During construction, the commissioning authority performs a quality-assurance role relative to the contractor’s commissioning activities.

The scope includes review of the qualifications of the contractor’s selected testing contractor, all equipment submittals and shop drawings related to systems to be commissioned, commissioning submittals, O&M and systems manuals, and training plans. Commissioning submittals include the commissioning plan and schedule, static and component testing procedures (verification testing), and systems functional performance testing procedures.

The commissioning authority’s scope also includes witnessing and verifying the results of air and hydronic balancing, static tests, component tests, and systems functional performance tests. To the extent the owner’s staff is involved in witnessing the balancing, equipment testing, and systems functional performance testing, the commissioning authority’s scope can be reduced to witnessing critical functional performance tests and a sample of other verification and functional tests.

The owner’s staff benefits from witnessing as much of the balancing and functional performance testing as possible. The commissioning authority’s function, then, is to ensure that the testing contractor and test technicians properly understand and execute verification and systems functional performance testing procedures.

The commissioning authority’s agreement should also include analysis of the functional performance test results, review of the contractor’s proposed corrective measures when test results are not acceptable, and recommendation of alternate or additional corrective measures, as appropriate in the commissioning authority’s scope.

Clear lines of communication and authority must be indicated. Communications and authority of the commissioning authority should be tailored to the level of involvement of the owner in the project. If the owner is intimately involved in all aspects of design and construction, the owner should manage the commissioning authority’s involvement.

In this case, the commissioning authority would communicate formally with the design professionals through the owner. During construction, the commissioning authority should communicate formally with the contractor only through the established lines of communication—that is, directly through the design professional, or indirectly through the design professional via the owner. In either case, it is essential that the owner be kept informed of problems and decisions evolving during the commissioning process.

In cases where the owner is only marginally involved in the day-to-day business of the project, it may be desirable to allow the commissioning authority to communicate with the design professionals directly on commissioning issues. This is recommended only when the owner is very confident of the expertise and judgment of the selected commissioning authority, and only when the commissioning authority and design professionals have a good working relationship.

The authority of the commissioning authority should be limited to recommending improvements to the design or operation of the systems, solutions to problems encountered, and acceptance or rejection of test results. The commissioning authority should not directly order the contractor, or design professionals, to make changes. Only the design professionals may make changes in the design or order construction changes. The owner must speak with only one voice.

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