Fine-tuning a building’s performance is not easy and more work needs to be done to help facilities managers and building owners
We all want buildings that are comfortable, facilitate productive occupants, do not use excessive amounts of energy and really are low carbon in use. Making sure building services are commissioned properly is a critical part of this. If buildings are not commissioned correctly, then we are not able to provide comfortable conditions within the built environment and staff productivity is likely to suffer.
The Building Regulations 2010 cover the commissioning of “Fixed Building Services” and there is a specific section (Part 9) on Testing and Commissioning. Regulation 44 of Part 9 applies to any fixed building service where testing and adjustment to improve energy efficiency is possible.
There can be real problems with commissioning engineering services in buildings if the systems have not been designed in an appropriate way. CIBSE and BSRIA have very good commissioning guides that are referred to in the government’s “Building Services Compliance Guides”. There are also recommended minimum standards for the control of fixed building services covered in these guides. The problem is that many of the systems in use in our buildings do not come close to these minimum standards.
We will only get buildings that really deliver low energy consumption when we begin to tackle these commissioning issues and provide good handover documentation that allows the building owner or facilities manager to control the building as sustainably as possible.
In the prediction of energy use, many calculation methodologies assume controls work perfectly by default. This however, is not the case in reality. There are thermal inertia and distribution losses to be taken into account. It can take time for a heating or cooling delivery system to reach its optimum performance and deliver energy where needed. Inevitably, the building will use more energy than we predict.
Building Control bodies must be provided with evidence to show that we have commissioned buildings correctly. We need to make sure that buildings are set up to work well in order to optimise the thermal performance across all seasons of the year. For certain spaces within a building, the highest heat gains may not be at the height of summer due to the amount of glass on different orientations of the building.
Nonetheless, fine tuning a building to optimise its energy performance is no easy task. We will only get buildings that really deliver low energy consumption when we begin to tackle these commissioning issues and provide good handover documentation that allows the building owner or facilities manager to control the building as sustainably as possible.
Finally, I would like to promote the use of the Soft Landings Framework and Soft Landings Core Principles as a way of ensuring buildings are properly commissioned and monitored after handover. The Government Soft Landings will be required on government projects and I am convinced that the proper use of these systems will lead to all new buildings being commissioned to a much higher standard to the benefit of all building occupiers.
Ant Wilson is European leader for advanced design, applied research and sustainability at Aecom