Commissioning Documents: Process, Contents, and Acceptance  

by the WBDG Commissioning Committee

Updated: 
01-13-2022

Introduction

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 documentation becomes the road map for the success criteria to be met by facilities that are put in service.

Commissioning documents the establishment of standards of performance for building systems and verifies that designed and constructed work meets those standards. This page describes the commissioning documentation development process, content requirements, acceptance and usage, and provides detailed descriptions of common commissioning documentation deliverables.

Commissioning is a team effort to document the continuity of a building project as it moves from one project phase to the next. Designated team members are responsible for specific documents during the various phases. The acceptance, maintenance, and utilization of the documents varies by usage and phase. Since documentation for each project varies, these activities and responsibilities need to be planned and designated in the project Owner's Project Requirements (OPR). When the entire project delivery process is documented in a consistent manner, a historical perspective is created that explains the iterative process of determining the agreed-to project requirements at each step of the development process.

Documentation Process

The development of documentation for a new construction project and the commissioning process must be carefully planned, coordinated, organized, and controlled. Commissioning documents are project-phase dependent. The process starts at project inception with determination of project requirements and spans all phases from pre-design through testing, acceptance, and operations.

Team member responsibilities for the documentation must be planned by the Owner or project/facility management personnel and carefully supervised. The documents must be organized and accepted, and a current document retention process must be developed and enforced. Typical assignments throughout the documentation process are shown in the Documentation Matrix below.

Each project will require different documentation specifics. Thus, while the titles or topics may be the same, the specific requirements must be developed and documented for the task and project at hand. This variability requires the careful planning and supervision by the Owner's team and the commissioning team. Review and acceptance processes must be in place to assure the accuracy of the documents and report. This control increases accuracy and the value to the project and ultimately increases the success of the project.

Commissioning documentation is generated throughout the project delivery process. The content of commissioning documents varies with each project, and must be created specifically for the project needs as defined in the OPR. Upon completion, each document is reviewed and accepted as determined by project requirements and retained with the other project documents for building operation and maintenance.

In the planning and development phase of a project, the OPR document is developed. Documents created for specific functions and documentation of results are collected by the responsible team member and processed by the required procedures on the necessary schedules. At post-occupancy, commissioning documentation becomes the benchmark to ensure that the building can be efficiently operated and maintained. This assembly of information is usually organized in a set of documents called the Building Systems Manual.

Documentation Matrix — Table A–1

The following matrix from ASHRAE Standard 202–2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems (by permission) summarizes the commissioning documents by project phase and indicates some of the information sources along with the usual acceptance and the intended usage of each document.

DOCUMENTATION PHASE DOCUMENT INPUT BY PROVIDED BY REVIEWED/ APPROVED BY USED BY NOTES
Project Initiation / Pre-Design / Design Owner's Project Requirements Owner, CxP, O&M, Users, Design Team Owner, CxP or Design Team Owner CxP, Design Team Design Team may not be hired yet
See BCxA New Construction Best Practices
Initial Commissioning Plan Owner, Design Team, CxP Owner or CxP Owner CxP, Owner, Design Team, Construction Team Design Team may not be hired yet.
Systems Manual Outline Owner, O&M, CxP Owner or CxP Owner Design Team, Construction Team Should follow Guideline 1.4
Training Requirements Outline Owner, O&M, Users, CxP, Design Team Owner or CxP Owner, CxP Design Team, Construction Team Should follow Guideline 1.3 and as defined
Issues and Resolution Log Format Owner, or CxP Owner, CxP, Owner CxP, Design Team May be only format at this phase
Pre-Design Phase Commissioning Process Report Format Owner, CxP CxP Owner Owner, Design Team Follow requirements in standard
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, O&M Design Team and/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 Contractor may not be hired yet.
Training Requirements in Specifications Owner, O&M, Users, CxP, Owner, CxP, O&M 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 Design Team, Owner CxP, Design Team  
Design Phase Commissioning Process Report CxP CxP Owner Owner Close of Phase report
Owner's Project Requirements Update Owner, O&M, Users, Design Team Owner, or Designer Owner CxP, Design Team, Contractors, Owner  
Construction Basis of Design Update Design Team Design Team CxP, Owner Design Team, CxP, Owner  
Commissioning Plan Update Design Team, CxP, Owner, Contractor CxP Owner CxP, Owner, Design Team, Contractors  
Submittal Review Comments CxP Design Team Design Team Contractor  
System Coordination Plans Contractor, Design Team, CxP Contractor CxP, Design Team Contractor, CxP  
Evaluation CxP CxP CxP, Design Team Contractor  
Checklists Contractor, Design Team Contractor   Contractor  
Cx Progress Reports CxP, Contractor CxP CxP, Owner Contractor  
Test Procedures CxP, Contractor, Design Team CxP CxP, Design Team Contractor  
Specified Test Data Submittals Owner, CxP, Design Team CxP, Owner, Contractor CxP, Design Team Project Team  
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 or CxP Owner, CxP O&M, Users See ASHRAE Guideline 1.4
Issues and Resolution Log CxP CxP N/A Project Team  
Progress Report CxP CxP Owner, Design Team Project Team  
Preliminary Construction Commissioning Report CxP CxP Owner Owner Prior to Occupancy
Owner's Project Requirements Update Owner, O&M, Users, Design Team CxP or Designer Owner CxP, Owner Contractors See ASHRAE Guideline 0.2, BCxA Existing Building Best Practices. and Ongoing Commissioning Best Practices for post-occupancy Cx
Occupancy and Operations Basis of Design Update Design Team Design Team CxP, Owner Owner, CxP, O&M  
Maintenance Program Owner, O&M, Contractor, CxP Owner or CxP Owner, CxP O&M, Users  
Test Procedures CxP CxP Design Team, CxP Contractor, O&M See Systems Manual
Updated Issue and Resolution Log, Test Data Reports CxP CxP N/A Project Team  
Final Issues and Resolution Log Project Team CxP Owner Owner  
Prefinal Report Project Team CxP N/A Owner  
Final Commissioning Report Project Team CxP N/A Owner Final Report
Re-Commissioning Plan O&M, Users, CxP CxP or Owner Owner Owner  
Ongoing Commissioning Plan, if required Owner, O&M, Contractor, CxP Contractor, CxP Owner Owner, O&M  

EBCx Documentation

The development and delivery of documentation for an existing building commissioning (EBCx) project is similar. Instead of using the OPR, the CxP and Owner begin with a baseline document, the Current Facility Requirements (CFR). If a CFR does not exist, which is sometimes the case, one will be developed and updated throughout the EBCx process, resulting in a document that would be used as a baseline for current facility and system assessment, verification, tune up and upgrade implementation, and ultimate hand off to facility operation that meets current requirements. The CFR is also necessary for future facility, systems and assemblies' renovation or ongoing commissioning (OCx). The CFR must be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to facilitate facility operation to meet Owner and occupant performance requirements. Existing Building Commissioning, lists variants from new construction commissioning deliverables.

Documentation Contents

The following is a list and descriptions of typical commissioning documents:

  1. Owner's Project Requirements (OPR). The OPR is first and possibly the most important document an Owner and CxP prepare together, 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 and the CxP should be tasked with assisting the Owner's team to develop this document. The CxP typically assists the Owner in identifying the facility's requirements regarding such issues as energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, staff training, and operations and maintenance. An effective OPR incorporates input during the pre-design phase from the Owner, design team, operations and maintenance staff and end users of the building, and is updated throughout the project. An OPR is developed in explanatory terms for an Owner/user audience. The OPR is updated throughout the project design, construction, and initial operation as necessary and each revision should be accepted by the Owner or representative. Determining Project Performance Requirements details the items and information that are included in an OPR.

  2. Basis of Design (BOD). The BOD is a narrative and analytical/technical documentation prepared by the design team, 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, sequence of operations, controls, and codes and standards application focusing on design features critical to overall building performance. A BOD is developed by the design team in more technical terms. As a best practice to close any gaps, the design team will review the OPR along with BOD design review comments from the CxP. The Owner or representative must review and ultimately approve the BOD to facilitate OPR compliance.

  3. Design Review Comments. The CxP will review the BOD for compliance with the OPR and provide design review comments to the design team, to verify that the OPR and BOD are met and to facilitate the commissioning process and building operations. In particular, the reviews confirm that there are adequate access points, test ports, and control features. Reviews also verify that energy and water efficiency, systems operation, control sequences, maintenance capability, 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 few others typically review such as system access, controls application, and testing and maintenance access and planning. The CxP design review must be sent to and addressed by the appropriate design team and the results accepted by the Owner or representative.

  4. Commissioning Plan. The initial commissioning plan should be assembled at the predesign phase and include planning for both the design and construction activities. The Cx Plan outlines the scope of the commissioning activities along with responsibilities, schedules, communication requirements, and procedures. The Cx Plan is updated throughout the project and will include the listing of required documents with assignments of responsibility, updated commissioning schedules, installation, verification and commissioning checklists, and report formats. The Cx Plan is distributed to the Owner for review and to the commissioning team members and contractors for application.

  5. Commissioning Specifications. The commissioning specification sections are developed by the design team with assistance of the CxP to convey details of the commissioning process, and contractor and supplier responsibilities to the construction team. Each commissioned system should have a commissioning specification section that includes requirements and formats for drafting, application, and completion of system checklists. A draft set of system readiness checklists and verification test procedures ideally includes the commissioning specification to communicate (to the bidding contractor and others) the processes and level of rigor expected during the system installation and testing phase of commissioning. System readiness checklists are detailed checklists for documenting that each system is prepared for testing. Verification test procedures are a detailed set of instructions and acceptable results for thoroughly testing each system. The supplier and contractor installation, startup, and testing checklists shall be reviewed by the CxP for integration into the commissioning process and ultimately the Systems Manual when complete.

  6. Certification Documentation. Owners sometimes require their facilities to achieve building performance rating certifications, sustainability program application, and code compliance. When such performance certifications are required as part of a design or construction contract, they become critical to an Owner's project expectations. They may, and in some cases must (in order to achieve the rating status sought) be commissioned. These requirements along with the processes and responsibilities should be included in the OPR and necessary construction documents.

  7. Submittal Review Comments. Concurrent with the design team and Owner review, designated commissioning team members review products and systems submittals for compliance with the design and OPR. Special attention should be given to avoiding vagueness, substitutions, and proposed deviations from the contract documents, OPR requirements, and BOD documentation. Submittal review comments on commissioned systems will often generate issues for coordination between integrated systems, equipment, and technologies. These issues need to be addressed before equipment installation. Acceptance of submittals typically remains with the design team. The Cx review should also be utilized to prepare the functional testing procedures, check lists, and documents.

  8. Field Observation Reports. Commissioning Field Observation Reports should be prepared regularly to document progress of the work on commissioned building systems and assemblies. These reports will normally identify functional issues, integration issues or operational issues that are then captured in Issues and Resolution 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 reports pertaining to all building systems and components. These field observation reports shall be sent to the CxP and to other entities as required by the OPR and Commissioning Plan.

  9. Test Data Reports. Test data reports contain results of the testing and field observation and include field observation reports, functional and performance test (FPT) reports, performance testing, and other test results specified for the commissioned systems. These are distributed and reviewed in accordance with commissioning plan procedures. Final copies are included in the Systems Manuals.

  10. Issues and Resolution Logs and Reports. Issues and resolution logs and reports are a formal, ongoing record of problems or concerns—and their resolution—that have been raised by members of the construction and commissioning teams during the course of the commissioning process. Issues logs should be included in commissioning reports because, along with meeting minutes, design review comments and field observation 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. The Issues and Resolution logs are normally generated by the CxP and distributed according to the OPR requirements, the Cx Plan, and/or agreement with the Owner and Cx Team. It is the responsibility of the Owner to review and approve all issue resolution decisions. The current or final Issues Logs are included in the commissioning reports with a copy included in the Systems Manuals.

  11. Systems Manual. The Systems Manual provides the information needed to understand and properly operate and maintain the building systems and assemblies. It should be in clear language that is understandable by people unfamiliar with the project or systems. The Systems Manual is ideally delivered to the Owner in electronic indexed (bookmarked) and hyperlinked format that can be updated throughout the life of the building. ASHRAE Standard 202–2018, The Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, and Guideline 0–2019, The Commissioning Process, and Guideline 1.4–2019, Preparing Systems Manuals for Facilities, recommend that the Systems Manual include the OPR, BOD, submittals, as­built drawings, specifications, certifications, Facility Guide for the building operation parameters, operational and maintenance requirements and O&M manuals, training documents and commissioning documentation with testing and verification reports and final issue and resolution logs. This information should be organized in the Systems Manual for ease of access and use by building management and appropriate operational and maintenance staff. The systems manual should be assembled by the general contractor or CM with CxP review with all documents available before training begins, and utilized as part of the training process.

  12. Training Documentation. Training program and requirements should be defined in the project OPR. During the design phase, training requirements for facility managers, operations and maintenance personnel, and occupants must be identified relative to commissioned systems, integrated building features, and equipment. These training requirements should be included in the project specifications in all appropriate sections. 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 Project Requirements, functional plan and its designed intent. The training plan and training materials should include where to find systems information in project documentation. Training materials should be retained and updated for periodically scheduled training activities and included in the Systems Manual.

  13. Seasonal Testing. Due to climate conditions, not all systems can be fully tested 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 are 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 varying actual operating conditions. This testing often extends into the initial operation phase of the project which requires the updating of reports until the functional tests are satisfactorily completed. The final completed testing and reports should be included in the updated Systems Manual.

  14. installing solar panels on the roof of a new project

    Installing solar panels on the roof of a new project, which may need to be commissioned for multi-seasonal conditions.
    Photo Credit: 186561180, Awargula/Dreamstime

  15. Final Commissioning Report. The commissioning requirements, process, documentation, and findings are incorporated in a final commissioning report that is transmitted to the Owner for review and acceptance and accompanies the construction contractor's turn-over documentation. Commissioning documentation that will be included in the Final Commissioning Report is normally listed in a table format with responsibilities of individual team members who will prepare, review, and accept the results and documentation. ASHRAE Standard 202–2018, The Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, and Guideline 0–2019, The Commissioning Process, recommend that the commissioning reports be included with O&M manuals in a Systems Manual. Commissioning report contents should be clearly defined in commissioning plans and include an executive summary, a narrative of the commissioning process and Cx process results. In addition, the report should include the design and submittal 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 installation and system readiness and startup checklists, current Issues and Resolution logs, and tests and field observation reports for commissioned systems, equipment, assemblies, and building features. Due to project schedule and/or seasonal testing requirements, it may be necessary to provide a preliminary commissioning report for interim project or code compliance that includes all available data along with the summary of requirements for commissioning completion. The preliminary report is updated with final commissioning results, transmitted to the Owner and included in the updated Systems Manual. The Final Cx Report should include the results of the off-season and completion verification Cx documentation.

The project and commissioning documentation is usually produced in electronic format or at least converted and organized in an electronic system that is designated at the beginning of the project in the OPR. This organization must be compatible with the required building operation and maintenance systems, the Owner's documentation systems, and be understandable in the O&M training functions.

Conclusion

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.

Additional Resources

See the Additional Commissioning Resources page for more information.

 

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