Commissioning For Facilities O&M Boost

Augment quality assurance efforts for facility equipment and operations through the services of a commissioning and energy professional.

By Paul Raschilla, MBA, EMP, CHC, CBCP, LEED AP
From the February 2022 Issue

Facility professionals can find an immediate boost to operations and maintenance (O&M) efforts by utilizing a commissioning and energy professional (professional) in fit-to-purpose focused areas of responsibility for the good of your team, department, project, and organization.

verb: help or encourage (something) to increase or improve.
noun: a source of help or encouragement leading to increase or improvement.

As a facility management leader, there is virtually always a way to justify a more robust quality assurance process. We know the reality that facilities leaders are sometimes triple booked for meetings. Utilizing a professional as a high value asset for your team to augment and cover meetings of significance related to the ongoing energy and compliance effort will ensure departmental concerns are met.

commissioning and energy professional
A commissioning and energy professional can help to coordinate HVAC and related service providers, review test procedures, and facilitate the testing for your team. (Photo: Adobe Stock / SpatesPhoto)

Currently, I am operating as the Interim Director of Facilities Management at a private healthcare regional trauma 350-bed facility. In this role and as owner of an engineering firm, I have a better understanding of the daily and ongoing needs related to surveys, capital expense, AHJ inspections, and emergency readiness. There are not enough hours in the day/week/month to cover every meeting, emergency, committee, complaint, staffing issues, and “oh, by the way” derailing moments.

Commissioning and energy professionals typically understand inherently what leadership at your facility expects, values, and fears. Yes, fear follows uncertainty, and more uncertainty feeds into greater risk. Playing through risk assessments and the what-if scenarios in our heads keeps us going long after executives gets to rest. Destress and break down your most significant concerns into focused smaller scale projects as scope, schedule, and fee, then buy support as needed. Overall, facilities leaders and their teams deal with enough daily, including succession planning, emergency reactive hoop spinning, human resource issues, personality conflicts, and staff shortages.

The facilities management team at health facilities, for-profit centers, higher education, and other institutions have a need for direct commissioning and energy professional task oversight, training, auditing, troubleshooting, project closeout, compliance documentation, and budget assistance.

A few focused items from our latest Joint Commission survey instantly drew my attention as direct areas of commissioning and energy provider interaction for facilities management. These are a few excellent opportunities related to life safety to have every third or fourth event be monitored or conducted by a commissioning and energy professional you hire.

  • Is that space positively or negatively pressurized in your facility? It depends. Look at operating rooms, data centers, anterooms, soiled utility spaces, and kitchens to name a few. Conduct critical space pressure relationship field checks periodically to verify the controls system (BMS, ATC, EMS) devices are accurately reporting. We instituted weekly field checks initially with vaneometers and anemometers. After a few weeks, we trained the departmental/ area manager to use the equipment and understand the room pressurization monitors (RPMs) and expected pressure relationships. This helped reduce end-user calls and improved staff communication. Slowly, this will become a continuous monitoring and commissioning effort without actually stating it aloud.
  • Weekly, monthly, annual, and triennial NFPA required emergency and standby power system testing typically happens at the O&M level with or without us. The testing gets routine for your team over time. Staff turnover without periodic observation and training can lead to diminished compliance documentation accuracy and correctness. Negotiate with your commissioning and energy professional to conduct audits of regulatory requirements on a continual rotating basis like 20% per year. Surprisingly, we identify items that have different compliance periodicity versus actual test frequency. Ask the professional to help fine-tune the testing for what’s needed versus what’s always been done to help save money, shift effort, and improve reporting documentation.

Typically, the facility’s compliance coordinator maintains the documentation of the physical plant to comply based on AHJ, NFPA, The Joint Commission (TJC) standards for Environment of Care (EOC), including periods of construction/renovations and utilities management on an ongoing basis. Depending on your staff availability to proactively review project closeout documentation, this is an area where a small block of professional time can add value for your team.

Your professional can be the point of contact (POC) for the team in readiness preparation to coordinate the TAB, HVAC, and controls contractors, O&M staff, and end-users to ensure fan energy, pressure relationships, and control/monitoring systems are tuned for energy and compliance considerations.

Do you have an energy master plan and a successful project turnover program?

  • If so, then empower the commissioning and energy provider with a roadmap to be the acceptance authority between design, construction, and operations. Include the energy master plan expectations in project deliverables.
  • Else, have a discussion with your professional on what other facilities are doing to improve energy related indicators and better turnover for sustainable operations. Work with them to create the energy master plan and clarify the turnover process for projects.

On more complex projects, ask your professional to discuss required Day 1 test/inspect documents with the design and commissioning team prior to “Issue for Bid” set is finalized. This extra set of “eyes and ears” not directly related to the project can add value with minimal expense. The professional can help create a standard outline of the required and expected demonstrated compliance test requirements for new, renovated, or repaired systems before buyouts.

  • Do you have dedicated staff to develop and continuously update the facility management inventory of all present and newly acquired equipment? If not, augment with the professional as needed periodically.
  • The commissioning and energy professional can help with the collection and organization of construction project closeout documents from the installing contractors and other project team members. Having a third-party turnover report is a very good tool, especially, if some spec items, punch list issues, or other deliverables are still pending. Use the report to keep leverage through final project closeout by the contractor.

The summary of areas for which commissioning, and energy professionals can boost your team in focused bursts of collaborative engineering may include:

  • New construction requires verified documentation of the installed floor plan and system functionality. Have your professional standing by to augment the process.
  • Renovated spaces require life safety drawing updates and equipment list revisions. Identify areas that have typically been overlooked, and buy small packages of support as needed for more critical areas of operation.
  • Predictive maintenance systems must be updated and periodic testing verified; however, the day-to-day O&M staff is typically busy. Explore having the professional audit or manage an event periodically to add a level of quality assurance, feedback, and objectivity to the process.
  • Required documentation of testing for Fire Damper, Fire Protection, Life Safety, Emergency Management, Security, Energy Reporting, and Information Systems is an ongoing effort. Investigate how your professional can help coordinate service providers, review test procedures, and facilitate the testing for your team.
  • Equipment demonstration and proper staff training on the usage of new and modified systems can be a labor-intensive effort, so augment the process with professional support to cover the training shifts. Ensure that the sequences of operation for energy usage and all modes of operation are clarified and can be delivered.
  • Periodic review of your facility-specific local AHJ compliance items against ongoing project and repair events sometimes do not get fully updated in the systems. A professional can boost your team across that gap by providing a closeout report for the completed project.
  • Get help for those areas of higher risk as needed to stay in compliance and for a better night’s sleep for you and your facility.

commissioningRaschilla has over 25 years of MEP-FP engineering, field testing, and commissioning management experience honed through direct involvement in operations, facilities management, construction management, R&D, global manufacturing, and military sectors. He has been a member of ACG and an EMP since 2015 and is an EMP Committee Member. Raschilla is currently Interim Director of Facilities Management for Stamford Health having recently undergone a Joint Commission survey and Storm Ida flood mitigation and remediation. He is also the Owner of Acceptance Engineering, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and a fit-to-purpose consultancy in support of the project team vision and mission.

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