Best Practices For Commissioning A New Project

The planning and construction of new projects is extremely complex. Adding a poorly planned and executed commissioning process can increase this complexity and even cause dysfunction. 

However, a well planned, fully engaged, and rigorously executed commissioning plan has the potential to streamline some of the most critical and complex activities and systems. Not to mention the significant benefits the owner of the building will enjoy over the early life cycle of the building. 


Use these Best Practices for Commissioning A New Project as a starting point for developing a robust commissioning program:

#1: Build An A-Team

The commissioning team size and specializations will vary from project to project but hands-on experience, general engineering knowledge, and understanding of the construction process are key attributes that most team members should possess.


#2: Define The Commissioning Scope, Schedule, & Budget

Begin the commissioning process before any formal design phases begin. Treat commissioning as a formal part of the project and begin assessment on delivery plan, project schedules, and budgets. Have plans heavily detailed and finalized before any work begins.

The scope of the commissioning identifies all systems to be commissioned and to what extent, defines roles and responsibilities across the construction and design teams, as well as helps to inform the commissioning budget. When this step is taken early in a project, the commissioning plan, including contractor roles and responsibilities, can be incorporated into construction documents and contractual language ensuring everyone is committed to the plan.


#3: Finalize and Implement Project Plans

On smaller projects, this can be as simple as spreadsheets that are distributed via email to the project team. Many project teams on larger, modern projects utilize some form of cloud-based commissioning management platform. This not only gives everyone access to real-time information, but it can also improve quality control, efficiency, and allow a high degree of efficient collaboration across the project team.


#4: Design Phase Kickoff Meeting

A design phase kickoff meeting can help ensure alignment of the early understanding of the building design requirements with the commissioning plan. The number and frequency of design document reviews will vary based on project size and complexity, but there should be at least one initial review that discusses the details of the entire project.

Responses by the commissioning team for each design review should be incorporated into the design documents, and this review-feedback-update process can be used like a phase-gate before subsequent design phases begin.


#5: Hold a Construction Phase Kickoff Meeting

While all activities leading up to this point are critical, getting buy-in and a thorough understanding of the commissioning process from all necessary contractors is one of the most critical.

This isn’t a time to be used for issuing directives, but for mutual respect and collaboration among the various teams, with the ultimate goal of delivering the best possible outcomes for the building owner.

It’s at this point that all involved parties should also be informed of (and trained if necessary) on the process and software platform that will be used to manage issues and communication. Efficient and high-quality collaboration is key.

Distribute detailed commissioning documents to the construction team. This information should include lists of systems, functional testing scripts and procedures, and any necessary task or checklists, or access to the software platform being used if not already provided.


#6: Hold Regular Commissioning Check-Ins

With as much complexity and as many details involved in starting up and commissioning a new building, process is key. The project team (and any other interested stakeholders) will need constant access to current information.

While excessive meetings are a significant cause of waste and inefficiency on construction projects, the commissioning process deserves a dedicated meeting with a regular cadence. Hold commissioning check-ins with critical contractors and stakeholders to ensure any necessary communication is happening and issues are being handled and closed regularly and quickly.


#7: Regularly Visit Work Site

Regular site visits should be a recurring and scheduled part of a commissioning plan. Observe and participate in key work as it is occurring. Review start up reports, functional test reports, test and balance reports, etc. Talk to contractors about challenges that have occurred during high-impact activities.

Maintain open and constructive dialogue with project stakeholders and contractors, and engage as a team builder. It will allow greater insight into the process they use to execute work, and may provide opportunities for incremental improvements to designs or systems that would have otherwise been overlooked.


#8: Carry Out Functional Testing

Carry out functional testing according to written, repeatable test procedures developed in earlier phases. Produce detailed documentation of this testing. Record any information about system performance, maintenance, or characteristics that may be useful to future building operators. 



The benefits and ROI of commissioning are real. However, the effectiveness of the commissioning efforts are determined by how well the process is executed, as well as the expertise and experience of the commissioning providers.


For expert and experienced commissioning providers contact the Valiant Group team today!