Last edited 13 Mar 2017

Commissioning building systems

Commissioning refers to the process of bringing an item into operation and ensuring that it is in good working order. On building projects, this refers primarily to building services.

Approved Document L1A Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings (2010), defines commissioning as:

‘…the advancement of a fixed building service after all or part of the system has been installed, replaced or altered. The system is taken from a state of static completion to working order. Testing and adjusting, as necessary, ensure that the whole system uses no more fuel and power than is reasonable in the circumstances, without compromising the need to comply with health and safety requirements. For each system, commissioning includes the following: setting-to-work; regulation (that is, testing and adjusting repetitively) to achieve the specified performance; calibration, setting up and testing of the associated automatic control systems; and recording of the system settings and the performance test results that have been accepted as satisfactory.’

Building services requiring commissioning may include:

The contract documents should set out:

  • Who will be responsible for commissioning different building services.
  • What methods, standards and codes of practice are to be used.
  • What should happen to test results.
  • Whether commissioning is to be witnessed and if so, whom.
  • The documentation that is required.

Commissioning can benefit from the preparation of a commissioning plan, which according to BSRIA Guide BG 8/2009 Model Commissioning Plan should:

  • Provide general information about the project.
  • Identify the commissioning team members for each stage of the commissioning process.
  • Define roles and responsibilities for each commissioning team member.
  • Identify the systems to be commissioned.
  • Create a schedule of commissioning activities for each stage of the process.
  • Establish documentation requirements associated with the commissioning process.

A commissioning manager may be appointed to give advice during design, construction planning and installation and then to manage commissioning, testing and handover.

Commissioning activities may include:

  • Ensuring client access and providing client training and demonstrations.
  • Completing operating and maintenance manuals, record drawings, software and test certification.
  • Obtaining statutory approvals and insurance approvals.
  • Manufacturers work testing.
  • Component testing.
  • Pre-commissioning tests.
  • Set to work: this is the process of switching on (i.e. setting to work) items such as fans and motors to ensure that they are operating as specified (for example checking that fans are turning the right way).
  • Balancing: this follows setting to work and involves looking at whole systems (rather than individual components) to ensure that they are properly balanced (ie water is coming out of all the taps at the correct pressure, air is coming out of the correct diffusers etc).
  • Commissioning checks and performance testing.
  • Post commissioning checks and fine tuning during occupancy.

NB The building regulations require that a commissioning notice is given to the relevant building control body (BCB) confirming that commissioning has been carried out according to a procedure approved by the Secretary of State. See Commissioning notice for more information.

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