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Document Compliance and Acceptance

by the WBDG Project Management Committee

Last updated: 06-11-2012


It is often said that commissioning is all about good project documentation. The purpose of commissioning documenting is to record the standards of performance for building systems, and to verify that what is designed and constructed meets those standards. Commissioning is a team effort to document the continuity of the project as it moves from one project phase to the next. In the Planning and Development phase of a project, planning and programming documents begin to define an owner's requirements for building performance. When the entire project delivery process is documented in a consistent manner, an historical perspective is created that explains the iterative process of determining the agreed-to project requirements at each step of the development process. Commissioning documentation becomes the road map for the success criteria to be met by facilities that are put in service.

At post-occupancy, commissioning documentation becomes the benchmark to ensure that the building can be maintained, retuned, or renovated to meet future needs. It documents the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) in the beginning of the project and records compliance, acceptance, and operations throughout the facility's life.

This WBDG page provides information on common commissioning documentation practices and resources related to commissioning specific systems and assemblies.


Document all Levels of Project Development and Acceptance

Requiring documentation of results and findings of the commissioning process at all project delivery stages and phases provides a record of the benefits received from commissioning. It also provides documentation to be used in the future to troubleshoot problems and optimize operating strategies. Decision making is an "iterative" process made over the course of a project through analysis of options, selection of alternatives, refinement of application, and integration of the design components. As each decision is made, commissioning documentation provides the basis for evaluation and acceptance to proceed to the next development level.

Emphasize Inspection, Testing, and Training on Commissioned Systems

An essential element of the commissioning process is field verification inspection and testing of commissioned systems, assemblies, and features. The Commissioning Authority coordinates and witnesses commissioned systems verification tests to verify that the systems operate in accordance with the design intent. The Commissioning Authority may be tasked with conducting special testing of commissioned systems beyond what is required in specification requirements. Deficiencies discovered during verification testing are documented and logged by the Commissioning Authority in corrective-action reports. Retesting specific systems and/or system components takes place once the respective deficiencies discovered during the first test are resolved.

A draft set of system readiness checklists (SRCs) and verification test procedures (VTPs) is included in the commissioning specification to communicate to the bidding contractor the level of rigor that can be expected during the testing phase of the commissioning process. The SRCs are detailed checklists for documenting that each system is prepared for testing. The VTPs are a detailed set of instructions and acceptable results for thoroughly testing each system.

During functional performance testing and operator training, the commissioning team moves to the forefront. The team verifies the performance of building systems based on detailed test procedures developed by the commissioning team and determines the most efficient equipment settings. Testing must be performed not only in normal operating modes but also under all possible circumstances and sequences of operation, with real-life conditions simulated as much as possible. Further, integrated systems testing should examine systems as a whole in order to evaluate overall design and compatibility.

The team also supervises operations staff training on commissioned systems and equipment, and organizes warranty information. Ultimately, the team prepares extensive documentation on systems, including benchmarks for energy use and equipment efficiencies, seasonal operational issues, start-up and shutdown procedures, diagnostic tools, and guidelines for energy accounting.

Compile Key Commissioning Documentation

Commissioning documentation is generated throughout the project delivery process, and key documentation such as OPR, BOD, Cx Plans, schedules, and inspections and test results are included in a Commissioning Report. Commissioning documentation that will be included in the Commissioning Report is normally shown in a table format with responsibilities of individual team members who will prepare, review, and accept the results and documentation. A partial list and descriptions of key commissioning documentation includes:

  • Owner's Project Requirements (OPR)—For commissioning to be successful programming documentation must summarize the OPR that is both general and specific to critical requirements. The OPR is a summary of critical planning and programming requirements and owner expectations that is updated by the commissioning team as the project evolves. If program or mission elements change during the span of project delivery, the OPR should be updated to reflect changes in building performance requirements.
  • Basis of Design (BOD)—The BOD is a narrative and analytical documentation prepared by the design A-E along with design submissions to explain how the Owner's Project Requirements are met by the proposed design. It describes the technical approach used for systems selections, integration, and sequence of operations, focusing on design features critical to overall building performance. An OPR is developed for an owner/user audience while the BOD is typically developed in more technical terms.
  • Design Review Comments—Comprehensive reviews targeted to critical systems at all design phase submissions are an important aspect of commissioning documentation. Reviews for code compliance and constructibility will pertain all systems of all projects, while commissioning reviews are focused to commissioned systems, equipment, and building assemblies and building components they are interfaced with.
  • Certification Documentation—Owners sometimes require their facilities to achieve certifications such as Energy Star, LEED, Green Globes, or governmental agency testing and inspection. When such performance certifications are required as part of a design or construction contract, they become critical to an owner's project expectations and may be included as commissionable elements.
  • Submittal Review Comments—Concurrent with the design team and owner review, a designated commissioning team member reviews products and systems submittals for compliance with the Owner's Project Requirements. Special attention should be given to substitutions and proposed deviations from the contract documents and Basis of Design documentation. Submittal review comments on commissioned systems will often generate issues for coordination between integrated systems, equipment, and technologies.
  • Inspection Reports—Commissioning Inspection Reports should be prepared regularly to document progress of the work on commissioned building systems. These reports will normally produce functional issues, integration issues or operational issues that are then captured in Issues Logs for discussion and clarification of performance expectations, integration issues, or operational issues. The construction delivery team (and owner's representative (CM), if applicable) will also prepare inspection reports pertaining to all building systems and components.
  • Test Data Reports—Test Data reports contain results of the Testing and Inspection Plans and include Pre-Functional Test (PFT) reports, Functional Test Reports (FTP), and other test results specified for the commissioned systems.
  • Issue Logs and Reports—Issues Logs and Reports are a formal and ongoing record of problems or concerns-and their resolution- that have been raised by members of the Commissioning Team during the course of the Commissioning Process. Issues Logs should be included in Commissioning Reports because, along with minutes, design review comments, and Inspection Reports, they explain the thought process and rationale for key decisions in the commissioning process.
  • Commissioning Reports—The commissioning requirements, process, documentation, and findings are incorporated in a Commissioning Report that accompanies the construction contractor's turn-over documentation. ASHRAE Guideline-0 recommends that the Commissioning Report be included with O&M manuals in a Systems Manual. Commissioning Report contents should be clearly defined in Commissioning Plans and include a narrative of the commissioning process, the design intent document, design review comments—and resolution, meeting minutes from all commissioning-related meetings, corrective action reports, blank verification test reports for future use, completed training forms, completed system readiness checklists, and tests and inspection reports for commissioned systems, equipment, assemblies, and building features.
  • Systems Manuals—The Commissioning Authority reviews the project operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals to verify that commissioned systems and equipment information and documentation are included. The Commissioning Authority also reviews the as-built drawings, in particular the sequences of operations documentation for automated systems that are commissioned, to verify that the documents turned over to the owner are accurate and reflect what was installed and tested. ASHRAE Guideline-0 recommends that O&M manuals, submittals, as-built drawings, specifications, certifications, training documents and commissioning documentation be organized by building systems in a "Systems Manuals" for ease of access and use by building management staff. Some owners find it is efficient to have the Commissioning Authority compile Systems Manuals for all systems—both commissioned and non-commissioned.
  • O&M Training Documentation—During the Design Phase, training requirements for operations and maintenance personnel and occupants must be identified relative to commissioned systems, building features, and equipment. It is critical that the operations and maintenance personnel have the knowledge and skills required to operate a facility in accordance with the owner's functional plan and the designed intent.
  • Post Seasonal Testing—Due to weather conditions, not all systems can be tested at or near full load during the construction phase. For example, testing a boiler system might be difficult in the summer and testing a chiller and cooling tower might be difficult in the winter. The performance and testing of active solar systems is also dependent on seasonal conditions. Commissioning plans should therefore provide for off-season testing to allow testing, balancing, and optimization of integrated systems under the best conditions.
TABLE D-1 Documentation Matrix Phase Document Input By Provided By Reviewed / Approved By Used By Notes
Pre-Design Owner's Project Requirements O&M, Users, Capital Projects, Design Team CA or Designer Owner CA, Design Team Design Team may not be hired yet.
Commissioning Plan Owner, Design Team, CA CA Owner CA, Owner, Design Team Design Team may not be hired yet.
Systems Manual Outline O&M, CA Owner or CA Owner Design Team May be included in OPR
Training Requirements Outline O&M, Users, CA, Design Team Owner or CA Owner Design Team May be included in OPR
Issues Log CA CA N/A CA, Design Team May be only format at this phase
Issues Report CA CA Owner Design Team, Owner  
Pre-Design Phase Commissioning Process Report CA CA Owner Owner Close of Phase report
Design Owner's Project Requirements Update O&M, Users, Capital Projects, Design Team CA or Designer Owner CA, Design Team  
Basis Of Design Design Team Design Team Owner, CA Design Team, CA  
Construction Specifications for Commissioning Design Team, CA, Owner Design Team or CA Owner Contractors, CA, Design Team May also be provided by Project Manager / Owner's Rep.
Systems Manual Outline-Expanded Design Team, CA, O&M, Contractor Design Team or CA Owner, CA Design Team, Contractor Contractor may not be hired yet.
Training Requirements In Specifications O&M, Users, CA, Design Team Owner or CA Owner Design Team Contractor may not be hired yet.
Design Review Comments CA CA Owner Design Team  
Issues Log CA CA N/A CA, Design Team  
Issues Report CA CA Owner Design Team, Owner  
Design Phase Commissioning Process Report CA CA Owner Owner Close of Phase report
Construction Owner's Project Requirements Update O&M, Users, Capital Projects, Design Team CA or Designer Owner CA, Design Team, Contractors  
Basis of Design Update Design Team Design Team CA, Owner Design Team, CA  
Commissioning Plan Update Design Team, CA, Owner, Contractor CA CA, Owner, Design Team, Contractor CA, Owner, Design Team, Contractors  
Submittal Review Comments CA Design Team Design Team Contractor  

ASHRAE GL-0 Table D-1 Documentation Matrix

Related Issues

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building Information Modeling (BIM) based on NIBS BuildingSMART Alliance is a technology that enables accumulation and management of facility life-cycle information based on Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). IFC-BIM lets architects, engineers, construction managers, facility operators, and facility manager's work with (and store for down-stream users) tangible components such as walls and furniture, and also concepts such as activities, spaces, and costs. OGC's Geography Markup Language (GML) facilitates interoperability for users of geospatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), aerial and satellite imaging, location services, and sensor webs. BIM is a simple concept—a master, intelligent data model, resulting in an as-built database that can be readily handed over to the building operator upon completion of commissioning. The BIM standard could someday integrate CAD data with product specifications, submittals, shop drawings, project records, as-built documentation and operations information, making printed O&M and Systems manuals virtually obsolete. The technology has moved forward, but the industry's ability to absorb these IT advances has yet to change. Clearly, if BIM offers a genuine solution to reduce errors and rework, while improving building operations, it will eventually change the way all project team members develop and share information over facility life-cycle phases.

Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE)

COBIE is an IFC reference standard supporting the direct software information exchange and a spreadsheet that can be used to capture COBIE data for both small renovation and capital projects. COBIE may be directly incorporated into existing post-construction data exchanges using existing contract specifications. COBIE data can also be captured during the design and construction process by adding information as it is created. Capturing COBIE data during the project and eliminating paper exchange is expected to significantly decrease existing paper based exchange costs. Owners and construction managers' implementation instructions will allow COBIE data to integrate within existing maintenance, operations, and asset management systems.

Construction Specification Institute (CSI)

The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) has assigned commissioning to MasterFormat™ section number 01 91 00. The commissioning specification details specific responsibilities of the construction contractor and subcontractors for commissioning procedures, checklists, tests, and documentation. The role of an independent commissioning authority is to witness, verify, document, and recommend owner acceptance of the specified inspections and tests. As commissioning becomes a routine quality assurance process on projects, CSI language for commissioning will continue to evolve to reflect standard industry practices.

Relevant Codes and Standards

Additional Resources