The Why and How of Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx)

Today’s building envelopes are much more complex in design and construction than ever before. As trends in materials manufacturing and expanded design creativity have evolved, so have the challenges and risks. One example of this is located just north of Minneapolis, MN. A truly monumental project that is transforming the Duluth skyline, the new Essentia Health Hospital facility sets the stage for continued growth of the hospital and the region. Located along the north shore of Minnesota, the stunning façade and elevated plaza creates a bold architectural statement that effectively integrates with and capitalizes on the natural beauty of the site. However, as with many complex projects, this aesthetic also increases design and construction phase challenges to ensure optimal building envelope performance in an environment where temperatures can vary between -15°F to 88°F throughout the year.

In response to these challenges, Pie’s experienced building enclosure consultants are ready to assist the project team to ensure project goals are met and systems will perform well into the future. 

What is Commissioning?

Commissioning is a process that validates that the installed assemblies and systems comply with the performance requirements expected by the owner and design team. No longer limited to the mechanical systems, the commissioning process has evolved over time and been expanded to include other major system components, such as the building envelope.

Often overlooked, the building envelope is a major component of a building and is the first and last line of defense between the exterior environment and interior spaces. In fact, 70% of all construction-related defects and warranty callbacks can be traced to deficiencies in the building envelope that result in water penetration. Because of this, it has been a natural progression to apply to commissioning to the building envelope.

BECxSo how does this apply to construction? Although the commissioning process varies depending on the standard or guidelines being utilized there are generally six phases of commissioning to the process. They are:

  • Pre-Design
  • Design
  • Pre-Construction
  • Construction
  • Performance Testing
  • Occupancy

In this first step, the Owner Project Requirements (OPR) are developed to identify what the expectations are for the design team. Similar to design being dynamic, OPR may change over the course of a project depending on schedules, budgets, trade partners involved and various other considerations. As such, it is important that at each step in the process, the owner has a chance to revise the OPR for alignment with project goals. and that the design is evaluated through a technical review. Pie’s technical review helps to identify if there are any deviations from the OPR and if so, what corrections are necessary to maintain its alignment with the project expectations.

Why Commission?

As the value for building envelope commissioning incorporation on a project has been realized, it has become a requirement for select municipalities, state funded projects, and an option for LEED points on construction projects. In addition, many of the top construction firms in the nation now include the BECx process, if not formally called commissioning, as a standard in their quality control programs. Commissioning helps achieve building sustainability certifications such as LEED v4, and also provides realized cost savings and benefits to the owner which stretch far beyond a scorecard. And at the completion of the project, the commissioning services provide documentation essential in maintaining and servicing the enclosure assemblies as the process continues to become an ongoing maintenance routine for the life of the building.

How Pie Can Help

Through the development of intricate details for the building enclosure, Pie provides insights on how all the building enclosure materials, components, systems, and assemblies integrate together to create continuity of the building control layers.

Ultimately, this integrated commissioning process leads to a high performing building enclosure thereby providing optimized thermal performance and improved comfort for the occupants. An upfront investment in the building envelope leads to cost savings later through increased longevity, improved energy efficiency, reduced maintenance costs and the minimized potential for warranty claims or litigation.

ABOUT PIE CONSULTING & ENGINEERING

Pie Consulting & Engineering is a leading global provider of building and forensic science services who provides a comprehensive and diverse range of engineering, rehabilitative design, consulting, enclosure commissioning (BECx), construction management, and field performance testing services. As a new subsidiary of Lerch Bates, Inc. (www.lerchbates.com), Pie services its development, design, construction, insurance/claims, and legal professional clients globally from our headquarters in Colorado and multiple regional offices strategically positioned throughout the nation. To learn more, visit www.pieglobal.com.