Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx) – Why Still All This Confusion?
Building enclosure commissioning (sometimes referred to as “building envelope commissioning” and abbreviated BECx) is a process in which the building envelope is evaluated to ensure it meets the owner’s expectations for performance. Those goals may take into account differing aspects of the project, from building operability to cost effectiveness to longevity.
BECx evaluates factors associated with what is often referred to as the “six-sided box”. Ideally, it is a process that begins as the roof, wall systems, and below-grade waterproofing are being conceptualized in the schematic design phase and continues to evolve with the project through the construction phase and into owner occupancy.
The commissioning process aids in reducing situations where an owner’s vision for the project and the end product are not in sync, which may lead to costly revisions and remodeling to obtain the desired final outcome. Revisions and changes made early on to alight the overall project are often more economical than when they’re made mid-construction.
Not Your Typical Commissioning
Unlike the traditional “commissioning” of mechanical components in a building through testing and balancing, BECx is a much broader endeavor that includes everything from assisting the owner with creating desired project requirements to routine maintenance plans and follow-up assessments after building is operational. ASTM E2813 Standard Practice for Enclosure Commissioning was released in 2012 and provides the architect of record a single-source guideline to build a baseline for owner project requirements and provide a focused pathway to complete each phase of the project to satisfy the requirements related to the building enclosure. Note that the guideline is one of many tools available to provide direction in the commissioning process.
A building isn’t a static structure. In fact, it more resembles a living, breathing entity. And, each building is unique in the way that its components interact with one another and with the structure’s surroundings. Consequently, there is no simple checklist to follow when considering the performance of roof, wall, and below-grade waterproofing systems. Often, attempts by owners or builders to use a simple “condition assessment list” can lead to a false sense of confidence and may allow issues to go unnoticed and fester for years that could have been identified and corrected at any early stage during the BECx process.
For owners to protect their investment in a new building, a thorough commissioning process is critical. This need has always existed, but it is especially pertinent today as new building products are being introduced at a rapid rate, and understanding how they integrate and interact with one another requires insights from experts who form careers around understanding what may seem to be insignificant differences.
Sometimes the expectation is that the “designer of record” on the project will commission the enclosure. However, the reality is that the designer is responsible for the big picture items and those can comprise a long list of details to attend to and consequently may not have the bandwidth or the in-depth knowledge required to perform a comprehensive enclosure analysis. A building envelope consultant, on the other hand, specializes in the intricate details of the building enclosure and may be able to provide insights to minute details often overlooked.
BECx delivers a whole host of benefits, including:
- Improved communication and enhanced collaboration. The BECx process is a catalyst for conversations that ensures all the stakeholders, from the owner and architect to the general contractor and subcontractors, are on the same page. It also creates a collaborative atmosphere in which each team members experience and expertise can be leveraged to produce the best possible finished product.
- No missteps. With BECx, problems are either anticipated or detected early in any aspect of the construction process. Consequently, there is a reduced need to backtrack and correct overarching issues.
- Owner education. Commissioning not only identifies potential problems with the current project, it is an educational process for the owner that can help them make better-informed decisions on future projects.
- Building longevity. A well-built structure can last for many decades. On the other hand, structures that are not well commissioned or built may perform poorly and require rework, excessive maintenance or even replacement long before its expected lifetime is achieved.
- Operations “guidebook.” Part of the building enclosure commissioning process is the creation of a guidebook that outlines steps the owner may take going forward to ensure the building continues to operate at peak efficiency and effectiveness. This proactive approach to building operation and maintenance delivers considerable cost savings over the life of the building. The guidebook also provides continuity in the event the property later changes hands.
- As-needed resources. While BECx is most effective when it addresses a construction project from start to finish, a business enclosure consultant can be engaged at any step of the process to advise on specific aspects to ensure the components are capable of producing the desired results.
What Pie Can Do for You
BECx is about making the built world more effective and more sustainable. At Pie, the customized building envelope commissioning plan developed by our Building Science Group for an owner ensures that a structure will meet the organization’s needs today and in the future.