Commissioning Document Compliance and Acceptance  

by the WBDG Project Management Committee & Commissioning Leadership Council



The purpose of commissioning (Cx) documentation is to serve as the historical record of the "what, why and how" of key delivery team decisions throughout the planning and delivery process. Commissioning documents the establishment of standards of performance for building systems, and verifies that designed and constructed work 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, the owner's project requirements (OPR) document is developed. 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.

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


Document all Levels of Project Development and Acceptance

Requiring documentation of results and findings provides a record of the benefits received from commissioning and should also be used in the future to troubleshoot problems and optimize operating strategies. Decision making is an iterative process taking place 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.

Compile Key Commissioning Documentation

Commissioning documentation is generated throughout the project delivery process. Key documentation includes the OPR, Basis of Design (BOD), Cx Plan, and the Final Commissioning Report. Commissioning documentation that will be included in the Final 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. Here is a partial list and descriptions of key commissioning documentation:

  • Owner's Project Requirements (OPR)—The OPR is first and possibly the most important document an owner and Commissioning Provider (CxP) have to ensure the commissioning process meets the owner's goals. The OPR defines the expectations, goals, benchmarks and success criteria for the project. The OPR must be developed by the owner; the CxA may be tasked with assisting the Owner's team in development of this document.. The CxP typically assists the owner in identifying the facility's requirements regarding such issues as energy efficiency, indoor environment, staffing training and operation and maintenance. An effective OPR incorporates input during the pre-design phase in the project from the owner, design team, operation and maintenance staff and end users of the building and is updated throughout the project.
  • Basis of Design (BOD)—The BOD is a narrative and analytical documentation prepared by the design architect/engineer along with design submissions to explain how the OPR is 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 by the design team in more technical terms. The CxP will review the BOD for compliance with the OPR and provide comments to the design team.
  • Commissioning Plan—The initial commissioning plan should be assembled at the predesign phase and include both the design and construction activities. The Cx Plan outlines the scope of the commissioning activities along with responsibilities, schedules and procedures. It is updated throughout the project.
  • Commissioning Specifications—The specification sections are developed by the design team with assistance of the CxP to convey the commissioning process and contractor responsibilities to the construction team. Each commissioned system should have a commissioning specification section.
  • Design Review Comments—CxP provides comments on the design to verify that the OPR and BOD are met relative to facilitating the commissioning process. In particular, the reviews confirm that there are adequate access points, test ports, and control features. Reviews also verify that energy efficiency, operation, control sequences, maintenance, training and O&M documentation requirements are consistent with the OPR and BOD. A commissioning review of the design is not the same as a technical Peer Review. The commissioning review is intended to review aspects of the design that no one else typically reviews.
  • Certification Documentation—Owners sometimes require their facilities to achieve building performance rating certifications. 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, designated commissioning team members review products and systems submittals for compliance with the OPR. Special attention should be given to vagueness, substitutions and proposed deviations from the contract documents and BOD documentation. Submittal review comments on commissioned systems will often generate issues for coordination between integrated systems, equipment, and technologies. Approval of submittals typically remains with the design team. The Cx review should also be utilized to prepare functional testing documents.
  • 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/Construction Manager, 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 and include inspection/observation reports, functional and performance test (FPT) reports, performance testing and other test results specified for the commissioned systems.
  • Issue and Resolution Logs and Reports—Issues and resolution 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 meeting minutes, design review comments and inspection reports, they explain the thought sequence and rationale for key decisions in the commissioning process. The issues log should be formatted to facilitate the documenting, tracking and resolution of commissioning related issues. Issues logs typically contain at a minimum a detailed description of the issue, date identified, party responsible for corrections, issuing agent and completion status. All findings are documented and distributed as they occur. It is the responsibility of the owner to review and approve all issue resolution decisions.
  • Systems Manuals—The systems manual provides the information needed to understand and properly operate the building systems and assemblies. It should be understandable to people unfamiliar with the project. The systems manual is ideally delivered to the owner in electronic indexed (bookmarked) and hyper-linked format that can be updated throughout the life of the building. ASHRAE Standard 202 and Guideline-0 recommend that O&M manuals, submittals, as-built drawings, specifications, certifications, training documents and commissioning documentation be organized in a systems manual for ease of access and use by building management staff. The systems manual should be assembled with all documents available before training begins and utilized during the training process.
  • Training Documentation—During the design phase, training requirements for operations and maintenance personnel and occupants must be identified relative to commissioned systems, integrated 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. The training plan and training materials should be retained and updated for ongoing training activities.
  • Seasonal Testing—Due to climate 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 solar photovoltaic systems is also dependent on seasonal conditions. Commissioning plans should therefore provide for multi-season testing to allow testing, balancing, and optimization of integrated systems under the best conditions.
  • Final Commissioning Report—The commissioning requirements, process, documentation, and findings are incorporated in a final commissioning report that accompanies the construction contractor's turn-over documentation. ASHRAE Standard 202-2013 Commissioning Buildings and Systems and Guideline-0-2013 The Commissioning Process recommend 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.

An essential element of the commissioning process is construction observation and testing of commissioned systems, assemblies, and features. The CxP coordinates and witnesses commissioned systems verification tests to verify that the systems operate in accordance with the design intent. Deficiencies discovered during verification testing are documented and logged by the CxP.

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

Documentation Matrix — Table A
Documentation Phase Document Input By Provided By Reviewed / Approved By Used By Notes
Project Initiation and Pre-Design Owner's Project Requirements Owner, CxP, O&M, Users, Design Team Owner, CxP Owner CxP, Design Team Design Team may not be hired yet.
Initial Commissioning Plan Owner, Design Team, CxP CxP Owner CxP, Owner, Design Team, Construction Team  
Systems Manual Outline Owner, O&M, CxP Owner or CxP Owner Design Team, Construction Team May be included in OPR
Training Requirements Outline Owner, O&M, Users, CxP, Design Team Owner or CxP Owner Design Team May be included in OPR
Issues and Resolution Log Format Owner, or CxP Owner, CxP, or Design Team Owner CxP, Design Team May be only format at this phase
Pre-Design Phase Commissioning Process Report Owner, CxP CxP Owner Owner, Design Team  
Design Owner's Project Requirements Update Owner, CxP, O&M, Users, Design Team Owner, CxP Owner CxP, Design Team  
Basis Of Design Design Team Design Team Owner, CxP Design Team, CxP  
Construction Specifications for Commissioning Design Team, CxP, Owner Design Team aand/or CxP Owner Contractors, CxP, Design Team May also be provided by Project Manager / Owner's Rep.
Systems Manual Outline-Expanded Design Team, CxP, O&M, Contractor Design Team or CxP Owner, CxP Design Team Contractor may not be hired yet.
Training Requirements In Specifications Owner, O&M, Users, CxP, Design Team Owner, CxP, Design Team Owner Design Team Contractor may not be hired yet.
Design Review Comments CxP CxP Design Team, Owner Design Team  
Issues and Resolutions Log CxP CxP N/A CxP, Design Team  
Issues Report CxP CxP Owner Design Team, Owner  
Design Phase Commissioning Process Report CxP CxP Owner Owner Close of Phase report
Construction Owner's Project Requirements Update Owner, O&M, Users Owner, CxP Owner CxP, Design Team, Contractors  
Basis of Design Update Design Team Design Team CxP, Owner Design Team, CxP  
Commissioning Plan Update Design Team, CxP, Owner, Contractor CxP CxP, Owner, Design Team, Contractor CxP, Owner, Design Team, Contractors  
Submittal Review Comments CxP Design Team Design Team Contractor  
System Coordination Plans Contractor, Design Team Contractor CxP, Design Team Contractor, CxP  
Evaluation CxP CxP CxP, Design Team Contractor  
Checklists Contractor, Design Team Contractor, Cx Team CxP Contractor, Cx Team  
Evaluation Reports Contractor CxP CxP, Owner Contractor  
Test Procedures CxP, Contractor, Design Team CxP CxP, Design Team Contractor  
Test Data Reports, Test and Balance Report Contractor CxP CxP, Owner Contractor  
Commissioning Meeting Agendas and Minutes CxP CxP All All  
Training Plans Design Team, CxP, O&M, Contractor Contractor or CxP Owner, CxP O&M, Users, Contractor  
Systems Manual Design Team, CxP, O&M, Contractor Contractor Owner, CxP O&M, Users  
Issues and Resolution Log CxP CxP N/A CxP, Design Team, Contractor  
Issues Report CxP CxP Owner, Design Team Design Team, Owner, Contractor  
Preliminary Construction Commissioning Report CxP CxP Owner Owner Prior to Occupancy
Occupancy and Operations Owner's Project Requirements Update Owner, O&M, Users, Design Team Owner or CxP Owner CxP, Design Team, Contractors  
Basis of Design Update Design Team Design Team CxP, Owner Design Team, CxP  
Maintenance Program Owner, O&M, Contractor, CxP Owner or CxP Owner, CxP O&M, Users  
Test Procedures Contractor, CxP, O&M, Design Team CxP Design Team, CxP Contractor  
Test Data Reports Contractor CxP CxP, Owner Contractor, O&M  
Issues and Resolution Log CxP CxP N/A CxP, Design Team, Owner, Contractors  
Issues Report CxP CxP Owner Design Team, Owner, Contractors  
Commissioning Report CxP CxP Owner Owner Final Report
Re-Commissioning Plan O&M, Users, CxP CxP or Owner Owner Owner  

ASHRAE 202 Table D-1 Documentation Matrix

Related Issues

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building Information Modeling (BIM) based on criteria developed through the National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance and others 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 managers work with (and store for downstream users) tangible components such as walls and furniture, and also concepts such as activities, spaces, and costs. This would allow CxPs to upload and store all the commissioning documents like the systems manual and final commissioning report for use by the O&M staff. 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, as 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.


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 CxP 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.

Additional Resources