Building Commissioning: Is it really the best method for managing construction quality?

Bill Reed proposes in The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building that building commissioning is “the current best method” for construction quality control. Reflective of that notion, commissioning has become an integral aspect of high performance buildings, particularly in the green building movement. But can it prevent construction defects?

So what exactly is commissioning? According to the Building Commissioning Association, “Building commissioning provides documented confirmation that building systems function according to criteria set forth in the project documents to satisfy the owner’s operational needs. Commissioning existing systems may require developing new functional criteria to address the owner’s current requirements for system performance.”

In my most recent post for Retail Design & Construction Today, I ask, Is commissioning the “wonder drug” to cure all that ails the built environment?”

There are a lot of things that commissioning does right, in my opinion. And though there are some limitations, let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Commissioning helps to ensure that the complex and inter-connected systems that make up a particular building perform as intended. The process also results in empowering the operations and management team to squeeze the best performance and useful life out of the various components and assemblies. According to one study, the cost of commissioning was returned through savings within as little as four months of operation.


Why will commissioning not eliminate construction defects (in my opinion)?

  1. Construction defects are unavoidable. (It’s just that not every construction defect results in catastrophic failure.)
  2. To minimize the number of construction defects, quality has to be proactive. Quality control is reactive.

Image courtesy Orin Zebest