Persistent Commissioning: Maximizing Existing Monitoring Systems

The term "commissioning" originated from a quality assurance process for the shipbuilding industry performed before ships are put in to service as an active-duty vessel. They are commissioned because the cost of failure is too high if something were to go wrong at sea. The key to sea trials is systematic tests and regulated checklists, which confirm that the interconnected components work in tandem reliably before the ship is "mission ready."

This process was adopted by the buildings industry about 25 years ago and has matured and gained broad acceptance of its benefits. We're now on the cusp of the next iteration of advanced commissioning of building systems: persistent commissioning℠ (PCx℠).

Reintroducing the Human Element

Having been in the energy savings business for decades, we have observed that developers were creating hardware and software solutions at a faster rate than facility managers could evaluate, building owners could purchase, and engineers could implement.

Imagine that you own or use a tool to perform a job, like building houses. This tool is highly specialized and produced by hundreds of manufacturers offering dozens of different options—each more expensive and more effective than the next. This type of marketplace is competitive and open to innovations for the toolmaker, however the homeowner who hired the contractor to build the house doesn't care about the tool. The only thing that matters to the homeowner is that it's built to last in a cost-effective manner. They're paying for the contractor's knowledge and skill, not the tool's capabilities.

Building monitoring and automation systems over the past two decades were sold and implemented with features that could save time, energy, and money. That expectation is often never realized though. For reasons similar to the homeowner/contractor situation above, an expensive tool isn't worth much without someone skilled enough to use it. PCx offers building owners a highly specialized group of engineers and specialists in building science, trained and experienced with the "best in class" tools and technology to solve problems on a continuous basis. Monitoring, sensing, and visualizing data from points in a building system is important, but acting on what you find and implementing the best solution are the most important pieces of the puzzle.

Speaking the Same Language

With the advent of the internet of things, open-source APIs, customizable developer kits, and more efficient programming strategies, we have the capability to not only make building systems from different generations talk to one another, but make sense of it too. Once we get these systems to talk to one another via minor hardware upgrades and programming, our team can continuously collect data from within the building, the outside environment, and utilities, allowing us to anticipate instrumentation issues and perform functional testing to help improve building performance. By tracking building system deficiencies and irregularities, and properly estimating costs, real-time analytics presented on custom dashboards become useful in implementing improvements and correcting deficiencies via work orders, or other means.

The Next Iteration of Energy Solutions

At one point, software upgrades and brand new hardware were important to avoid sensor malfunctions, manual overrides, scheduling changes, and equipment failures. With PCx, such costly installations and complete replacements aren't necessary. The key for building owners and managers is that the PCx team also is concerned with software integrations, revisions, patches, servers, and security of data so that the owners and managers can focus more time on their business or mission.

Though this solution seems simple, we believe PCx is the next evolution in building performance. By streamlining processes, putting the information in the right people's hands, and continually keeping an eye on operations without forcing expensive technology upgrades, more building owners can realize the value of existing building monitoring systems.

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