The Value of Commissioning

Written by Jenny Powell, Energy Engineer

What is Commissioning?

Many energy and sustainability programs, standards, and codes require commissioning, including LEED, ASHRAE 90.1, NGBS, IECC, IGCC, the PSEG and NYSERDA’s commercial performance-based incentive programs (see glossary below). As states embrace these codes and enforce commissioning requirements you may ask yourself: what is commissioning and why is it beneficial?

Commissioning agents provide third-party quality assurance throughout the construction process. They review design drawings and submittals, periodically inspect construction progress, witness functional performance testing of mechanical equipment, and ensure that the building staff is trained and ready to operate the equipment after it’s turned over. Commissioning agents work on behalf of the owner to ensure that the owner’s project requirements are met. Most importantly, commissioning improves construction quality and reduces maintenance and energy costs.

The benefits of commissioning are never more apparent than during a retro-commissioning project. While commissioning involves a third-party review of operation during the construction process, retro-commissioning is a third-party review of operations well after construction is complete. Some difficult retro-commissioning projects have shown us how valuable it is to resolve issues when the design intent is still clear (or clearer) – and while the construction team is still onsite!

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Stamford 2030 District Commits to a Sustainable Future

The Stamford 2030 District is an interdisciplinary collaborative of high-performance buildings in downtown Stamford committed to ambitious efficiency goals. Stamford 2030 District’s strategic plan outlines a series of interim sustainability goals guiding the city towards 50% reduction in energy use, water consumption, and CO2 emissions for existing buildings and infrastructure, and full carbon neutrality for all new construction by 2030. Watch the video to hear key program stakeholders discuss success measures, including SWA’s Gayathri Vijayakumar on the role of benchmarking, and Mayor David Martin on public-private-nonprofit community participation.

NYC Walks the Line Toward Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane JoaquinIt’s October and a burgeoning category 3 hurricane is forecasted to make its way up the East Coast within the coming week. Somehow this all seems familiar.

It’s been 3 years since Superstorm Sandy came ashore in the New York Metro Area. Much of the damage has been repaired and structures rebuilt, but have we done enough to mitigate the impact of a similar catastrophe? I think we can all agree that likely, we have not. However, progress has been made, and at SWA, we have been working hard over the past 3 years to improve the strength of our buildings through providing resiliency assessments and remediation planning. It’s not a fix-all for the region, but it has helped some buildings to implement upgrades that might make a big difference in the next week. Read more

A Tour of DURA, New York City College of Technology’s Urban and Resilient Solar Decathlon Home

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the DURAhome, New York City College of Technology’s entry for the 2015 Solar Decathlon. This project is currently nearing completion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Over the past 3 months, more than sixty students have toiled around the clock to finish construction in time for the contest, which will take place October 8-18 in Irvine, California. The Solar Decathlon is the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial competition that challenges college and university student-led teams to design and build solar-powered net-zero homes that are affordable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically appealing.

TeamDURA’s focus was to create a prototype of post-disaster housing that is suited for New York City’s high-density urban environment, and could serve as a shelter in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm. As such, multifamily, multistory solutions were preferable to traditional single-family trailers, which have larger footprints. DURAhome consists of several prefabricated modules that can be packaged and shipped on standard-sized tractor trailers for quick response at low cost. These flexible modules can then be joined in standalone configurations or stacked for multifamily uses. Like the city, the DURAhome is diverse, urban, resilient, and adaptable.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

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Community Microgrid: Resiliency via Energy Independence

SWA Senior Mechanical Engineer Lois Arena discusses the recently announced community microgrid project based in the Village of Mamaroneck. The Westchester County village is among 83 New York communities to be awarded $100,000 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to conduct a microgrid feasibility study.

Steven Winter Associates and Murphy Brothers Contracting, along with a team of technical experts and local leaders, will assess the challenges, benefits, and costs associated with using microgrids to improve resiliency and recovery time during a significant power outage, as well as to offset peak demand energy use.

This segment is part of LMCTV‘s videocast of the Murphy Brothers Contracting “10 Steps to Ensuring Those Beautiful Custom Homes are also Comfortable, Long Lasting, and Efficient” event. Watch LMCTV’s complete coverage of the event here.