Retro-Commissioning and Commissioning K-12 Schools By Chris Duranceau Upstate New York received the proverbial shot in the arm recently in the form of legislation that allocated millions of dollars for capital improvement projects. It is clear to anyone who has traveled through the many small towns along the highways of Upstate New York which most towns and schools would benefit from capital improvement projects. Many of these school districts haven’t received help of this caliber since the 1960s and 70s. In some cases it has been even longer. School mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are usually covered in a patchwork of minor repairs, which were made to keep the various units running. Who suffers in the end? The answer is pretty simple. Systems that are antiquated do not perform as they were designed. In fact, in many cases the designs no longer meet current energy codes and requirements. Rooms are too cold, too hot, too humid, or overly dry. Often, the environment differs greatly from room to room. Stu- dents, teachers, and staff suffer the daily frustrations, while taxpayers face the ever-increasing burden of paying for inadequate systems. Retro Commissioning School superintendents rely heavily on their facility staff to operate systems and to be involved in the decision-making process when updat- ing and renovating systems. They are, in essence, the front line when it comes to updating mechanical equipment. When the facility team determines that updates or upgrades are essential, there is a second step that many schools are still unaware of: bringing in a third-party commissioning firm to perform a system assessment, which can lead to tremendous savings for the district. This service is referred to as retro-commissioning. The commissioning engineer provides observa- tions and facts on systems that can build upon the information provided by the facilities staff. This knowledge is based on extensive experience with numerous mechanical systems across a broad range of makes and models. Commissioning Engineers work with facility operators as a joint team to assess and perform testing on existing equipment. The commis- sioning engineer then writes the assessment report on each piece of equipment, providing a detailed summation of the current system’s operation. Recommendations are included in the report based on what was found during testing and on the input of the facility operators. The retro-commissioning report then can be used as evidence of need for the sake of securing government funds. Furthermore, the report makes it easier to appropriately budget for approved capital improvement projects. Commissioning Once capital improvement budgets are finalized and approved, the hir-
ing process can begin. Project management teams, engineering firms, mechanical contractors, and construction contractors are brought to the site. The capital improvement project can begin. Hopefully, the school district has retained the services of the commissioning firm once again. Phase I: Planning During the capital improvement planning process, the commissioning engineer can be utilized to help write owner’s project requirements (OPR), perform basis of design reviews (BOD), and coordinate engi- neering activities with the design firm. Who benefits from this process? The entire community wins—administration, students, staff, and, of course, the tax payers. By retaining the commissioning engineer during the design and capital improvement planning process, the school district has ensured that all the items that were identified during the retro commissioning process are being addressed and implemented in the most effective manner. The commissioning engineer also keeps the facility operators engaged in this process. This helps to ensure that preventative maintenance pro- grams are implemented, and that there are no "exotic" pieces of equip- ment being designed into the project. Accessibility, workability, parts availability, and cost of operation are all assessed during the capital improvement planning process by the commissioning engineer. All commissioning activities, including system acceptance, are out- lined in the commissioning specifications. In this way, the project manual provides an air tight document that protects the owner and clearly identifies milestones for the contractor. Each and every line Updated Boiler controller module. BMS integration, allows for trending, and energy monitoring.
csengineermag.com april 2020
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