It is not uncommon, or unexpected, for contractors to see a Commissioning Authority as the “enemy.” After all, CxAs are responsible for assessing the contractor’s construction quality and installation practices, which may mean more work than they are used to. However, commissioning can be much more difficult when you come across a project where neither the project manager nor the owner is familiar with the commissioning process and its benefits. When this is the case, I find they usually chose to commission their project only because of LEED or some another regulation.
It doesn’t matter that the reasons for commissioning are explained to the team in the Commissioning Scoping meeting. At that point, it can seem, commissioning is just extra paper work and yet another hurdle to delay the project’s completion. Some may wonder – “Why pay for commissioning when there are inspections and punch list walkthroughs that seemingly cover all of the same things as commissioning?” Commissioning meetings can be brushed over quickly without engaging in discussions about the project status and upcoming commissioning activities. Unfortunately, until the benefits of commissioning for that particular project are realized, it seems like commissioning will be seen by the owner and project manager as more of a chore than necessary for the successful delivery of their building.
The reason I bring this up is because commissioning is something that works best when there is total buy-in from the entire team (designer, project manager, owner, contractors, and CxA). That doesn’t mean that it is a waste of time to have commissioning when no one on the team is familiar with it. The building will still be commissioned, and work as designed. But, when an entire team is working together with a common goal in mind (a high performance building), a considerable amount of heartburn and strife can be avoided, and commissioning will be substantially more effective.
Duluth, Georgia – August 26, 2011 – CxGBS® announced today that they have completed commissioning of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority House on the Mississippi State University Campus in Starkville, MS. The newly constructed house is owned and operated by Pi Beta Phi and Fraternity Housing Corporation (FHC) and is home to the Mississippi Gamma Chapter of Pi Beta Phi.
“Our objective in designing this house was to build a sustainable sorority house that could serve as an example of the leadership values which Pi Beta Phi instills in its members. This is the first of its kind and sets a precedent for other sororities across the country,” said Leah FitzGerald of Fraternity Housing Corporation. “However, with the owner a thousand miles away, we felt it was important to have third party eyes and ears on the project.”
Pi Phi and FHC hired CxGBS to be that objective third-party and help ensure construction of the house met their specifications and requirements for achieving LEED certification.
”CxGBS has an incredible reputation for other work they have done on the Mississippi State University campus and were vital to our process,” continues FitzGerald.
The newly constructed Pi Phi House is almost 20,000 square feet with 20 bedrooms, including rooms for the chapter president and the house director. The façade and architectural style of the house was designed in keeping with the surrounding buildings on the campus. The house has a painted brick exterior with porches on the exterior. Inside are dining and study halls, as well as a formal living room, library, study rooms and TV lounges.
Pi Phi recently gained special recognition when the house became the first sorority house in the country to be recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council with a LEED Silver certification for new construction.
”Today’s students are making not only their housing decisions but their university decisions based on how “green” or environmentally sensitive they find the campus,” said Jay Enck, CEO, CxGBS. “In order to remain relevant, Universities and Greek letter organizations are responding with a higher level of design, construction and sustainability in university buildings and campus housing.”
About Pi Beta Phi
Founded at Monmouth College in Illinois in 1867, Pi Beta Phi has 134 active chapters and more than 330 alumnae groups in the United States and Canada. The partnership with First Book, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to giving children from low-income homes the opportunity to read and own books, solidifies Pi Beta Phi’s commitment to literacy.
Pi Beta Fraternity for women founded its Fraternity Housing Corporation (FHC) in April 2008. The mission of the Fraternity Housing Corporation is to strengthen, support and service Chapter House Corporations (CHC) and FHC managed chapters within Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. The FHC serves as a CHC resource in many areas including volunteer development, finance, safety issues and training. FHC staff assist CHC members in need of third party services which include a variety of disciplines such as property management, fundraising, interior design, furnishings and employment searches.
The FHC currently provides the day-to-day facility management services for 10 chapters including all newly chartered chapters.
Commissioning & Green Building Solutions, Inc. (CxGBS®) is a nationally recognized green building consulting firm that helps clients build environmentally friendly, top performing buildings. The firm’s professionals work with project teams to reduce risk and apply sustainable development principles that lower the total cost of ownership and create healthy conditions for occupants. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with a satellite office in Jackson, Mississippi, CxGBS® offers a comprehensive suite of services to provide high value solutions for better performing buildings including Sustainable Design Consulting, Holistic Commissioning®, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Certification and Forensic Investigation.
Energy-Efficiency and Disaster Proofing: Commissioning for the Mississippi Department of Safety – As published in Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine
Aug 9, 2011 Press Release
By H. Jay Enck
When the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MSDPS) had its Harrison County facilities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, a core specification for the project was to bring the facility inland to higher, less flood-prone ground. The State, which now has a mandate that all new projects above a certain budget threshold be commissioned, also wanted to achieve maximize performance from the new facilities.
Commissioning and sustainable design and operations expert CxGBS®, which has been approved to commission state buildings by the Mississippi Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management, was chosen to bring its Holistic Commissioning® process to the new facility. With this service, CxGBS performs commissioning for the building envelope and HVAC/mechanical and electrical systems.
CxGBS helped MSDPS define—and document in the owner’s project requirements (OPR)—critical attributes for the three-building facility to perform under Hurricane Katrina-type operating scenarios. Utilizing the OPR, CxGBS performed design reviews, on-site evaluations and acceptance testing to ensure the owner’s requirements and benchmarks were met or exceeded. During the warranty period, CxGBS will monitor facility performance and assist MSDPS with identifying and resolving both warranty and operational issues.
For the commissioned building systems, CxGBS evaluated the proposed design against the objectives and criteria documented in the OPR. CxGBS applied its extensive energy, environmental and building forensic experience to identify potential issues that might prevent the facility from meeting the needs of the MSDPS or the sustainability goals of the project.
CxGBS also looked for issues that might cause early degradation of the facility (and therefore, higher operation and maintenance costs), given the environment of the area and the needs of MSDPS. Geographical factors, facility mission and integration of sustainable development practices are the most important considerations for sustainably designed buildings. That’s especially true in south Mississippi, where humidity can negatively affect occupant comfort, operational and maintenance costs, and equipment stability and useful life.
CxGBS also made recommendations for HVAC, lighting and other systems that would promote energy efficiency—and the State’s goal of making the facility a command center for future disasters.
For example, CxGBS recommended the use of low-e glazing on the windows, enabling the facility to take maximum advantage of natural light without excessive heat gain. The company also offered recommendations for reducing lighting by 20-30% of the watts-per-square foot baseline provided by ASHRAE 90.1-2004—with no apparent affect to visual acuity.
Testing for Performance.
CxGBS also performed extensive testing, observations, monitoring and analysis to ensure systems would perform optimally and within required operational parameters for forensic analyses being conducted at the facility. . These included testing electrical distribution and grounding systems, lighting and lighting controls, and HVAC systems (pressurization to maintain environmental separation, DNA testing temperature thresholds, and efficient operation).
In keeping with the “command center” approach, CxGBS tested systems in both normal and emergency operation modes. For the dual-fuel generators that would support full functionality all the buildings if power went out, CxGBS performed continuity testing and simulations of power transfers and other processes.
The result was an energy-efficient compound that will provide crucial continuity and support to south Mississippi during future disasters. “CxGBS’ approach to commissioning a wide range of systems throughout the build process was much more detailed than we had experienced prior to working with a commissioning authority,” says Curtis Jones, special projects director for the MSDPS. “Now, for our projects in Mississippi, we bring CxGBS in during the planning stages.”
This article can also be found on CSE’s web-page: HERE