Don’t Forget to Commission Your Technology Systems

Editorial Team
March 26, 2020
Min Read
Don’t Forget to Commission Your Technology Systems

Building commissioning (Cx) is a relatively new but now frequently used quality assurance method. Owners typically contract a certified commissioning authority (CxA) to perform independent oversight of engineered systems, ideally through conception, design, procurement, functional testing, acceptance, warranty, and one year of operation.

Independent from the design engineer, a CxA flags issues or opportunities for improvement throughout project delivery and ultimately ensures the built systems function as designed and as required by the owner. Cx is not another step in the process. CxAs don’t perform the design or tests, but act as a coach, providing fluid design reviews and commissioning plans and acting on the owner’s behalf.

Technology Commissioning

Technology systems, including telecommunications, audiovisual (AV), security, acoustics, wired and wireless networks, distributed antenna systems (DAS), and emergency responder radio communications systems (ERRCS), should not be commissioned by a mechanical, electrical (power), or plumbing (MEP) engineer.

Technology engineering commissioning (TECx) needs to be performed by technology engineers under the direct oversight of an engineer of record (EoR) who specializes in technology systems, acting as a technology engineering commissioning authority (TECxA). There is currently no certification as such, but TEECOM is interested in helping to formulate one.

During the design and construction phase, a TECxA can save money by ensuring adherence to the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), reducing change orders, reducing schedule slips, ensuring long-lead equipment arrives on time for installation, reducing iterations of systems programming, and training personnel initially as well as follow-up instruction after six months or so.

TECx can further reduce equipment costs during the system’s lifecycle, as well as reduce energy usage for system components and peripherals that integrate with AV, such as room and floor lighting.

Retro-Technology Commissioning

As with retro-commissioning (RCx), a TECxA can also perform a retro-technology commissioning (RTECx) contract to resolve problems that occurred during design or construction or developed during operations. We have all witnessed the AV system that won’t display the presentation, or security cameras reported not working when an incident occurred.

Quite often, the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manuals are not clear on when to maintain the systems and what actions to take, even within the warranty periods. Other deficiencies include equipment breakdown, the drift of system components, programming reverting to default versus customer-specific, physical damage to cabling, and more.

How to Engage a TECxA

The earlier the TECxA is included in the design phases, the more effectively they can apply the OPR, start the commissioning process, and produce the TECx spec.

TEECOM can perform TECx or RTECx for a project on which we were not the design engineer (to maintain independence). On projects where we are the design engineer, we often provide a robust functional testing and acceptance process as part of project management. Our clients sometimes refer to this as commissioning, but the distinction from true independent commissioning should be understood.

Technology systems are sometimes overlooked in commissioning as “low-voltage” systems. But these are the devices and equipment that most occupants interact with when working in a building, whether it’s WiFi throughout the building or AV in a conference room. As technology engineers, we should not just design technology systems but ensure that during the lifecycle of this equipment, the system’s manager, owner, or building manager has the most efficient performance and longevity from the systems.