Building Enclosures: Understanding the commissioning process

 WHO IS YOUR BUILDING ENCLOSURE COMMISSIONING PROVIDER?

The role of a building enclosure commissioning provider (BECxP) is described in National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) Guideline 3-2012, Building Enclosure Commissioning Process. It states commissioning authorities and building enclosure commissioning authorities should be knowledgeable about the commissioning process requirements. They should be in charge of administrative tasks and be acquainted with the building design and project construction processes. Basic architectural and building science knowledge is required.

Per NIBS, a building enclosure specialist needs to be an expert “in building enclosure systems anticipated to be used on the proposed building and possesses the experience and technical qualifications to design, critique, validate, and support the team in the project development and construction validation.”

Even though there are no recognized BECxP certification programs, the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering Department of Engineering Professional Development launched a Commissioning Process (CxP) certification program in 2003. Its certifications include the Building Enclosure Commissioning Process Professional (BECxP) and Building Enclosure Specialist (BES).

Finally, ASTM is starting a Building Enclosure Personnel Certification program in conjunction with a NIBS training program. The anticipated start date for the certificate and training sessions is this fall.

Where to next?
ASTM E2813 is in the process of being updated to reflect the ongoing industry efforts to align with the new ASTM E2947, as well as relevant comments received since initial publication. Some of the changes include clarifying the minimum test requirements for enhanced and fundamental commissioning (optional tests have been removed from the standard).

As noted, the building enclosure commissioning provider can include additional tests based on the facility’s complexity and the owner’s performance requirements. These tests depend on the materials and construction proposed in the basis of design (BOD), as well as the expertise of the BECxP.

With the standards in place, performance rating systems such as LEED are now referencing building enclosure commissioning directly. LEED v.4 Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Prerequisite 1, Fundamental Commissioning of the Building Energy Systems, requires limited building enclosure commissioning including development of the owner’s project requirements and BOD. LEED v.4 Enhanced Commissioning, offers four to six additional points for enhanced commissioning with two of the points relating to exterior enclosure commissioning. The credit weighting and expansion of Enhanced Commissioning in LEED v.4, in addition to the introduction of ASTM E2813-12 and ASTM E2947-14 standards, indicates growing use of building enclosure commissioning.

The complexity of building enclosure designs, the use of new materials, and the high rate of moisture/air infiltration reported to be occurring in new buildings indicates why enclosure commissioning is an essential step for buildings to remain water- and airtight. In a typical building, a window or door installation may be repeated hundreds of times, so failure of a single component could be repeated throughout the building. This can be exacerbated by the fact the building enclosure is constructed by a variety of subcontractors, who are generally contracted directly to the general contractor so no single installer can be held responsible for the success or failure of the enclosure.

The entire building enclosure cannot be tested until all components are in place, but once the components are installed, any necessary modifications to the wall assembly are exceedingly difficult and costly to perform. Building enclosure commissioning provides a process from design through construction that holds the different forces of the designer, the manufacturer, and the installers to task to provide a facility meeting performance requirements.

Brian H. Neely, AIA, CDT, BECxP, is a senior project manager for Gale Associates’s Building Enclosure Design and Consulting Group. He performs building enclosure evaluations and designs focused on building repairs, restoration, and energy conservation. Neely provides building code reviews including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB) regulations. He has been actively involved with supplying building enclosure commissioning, most recently to new educational, research facilities, and medical centers. Neely can be contacted via e-mail at bhn@gainc.com.

Edward J. Stewart, RRC, is the director of building technology for Gale Associates. He has specialized in building renovation projects for 35 years for primarily institutional clients, such as hospitals, universities, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Stewart has extensive experience in evaluating and designing roof, vegetated roof, wall, window, plaza deck, and weatherproofing assemblies. He can be reached via e-mail at ejs@gainc.com.

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