Making Buildings Work Better

Are Building Commissioning Agents simply “The Quality Police”?

by Ray Dodd

When I first started my career as a building commissioning agent (I had been a design engineer for 15 years before that) we were viewed by the contractors as the quality police: clipboard in hand, jotting down everything they did WRONG! From the first commissioning kick-off meeting I attended (the let’s get-to-know-you meeting) it was a contentious relationship. This was not what I had envisioned at all.

I had just come from a nine-year stint working for a large mechanical design/build contractor. We did everything in-house: sheet metal, pipe fitting, controls, service and engineering. When our people said they were ready to close-out the job there was no reason not to believe them. They were excellent, hardworking technicians. Yet our warranty costs far exceeded what we had budgeted, and our service trucks were a familiar sight in completed building parking lots long after we had pulled off the job. Clearly something was wrong.

After much discussion, it was decided that we should commission our own jobs. Using a standard commissioning protocol we set up a system and tasked each engineer to test the function of every system they designed. Within the first year we reduced our warranty costs by 70%!

We never uncovered a pattern of deceit or incompetence. What we learned was that these projects, especially with the increasing use of digital controls, were complex. The intersection of different trades, engineering disciplines, accelerated schedules and conflicting agendas required somebody to help the project achieve the intent of the designers. Since we were all on the same team our job as the building commissioning agent was to assure the success of the project for our company and the owner alike.

Today, as a third-party commissioning provider we have kept the same philosophy. We actively work with the contractors and engineers to reinforce the idea that we are dedicated to their success, and not interested in just pointing out flaws. It works. Over time we have created a team dynamic with many large contractors because they know that having us on their team assures a successful, more profitable project for them. For us, providing measurable value for every stakeholder in the project is a much better job than being the quality police.

Ray Dodd, P.E., LEED AP, CxA is the President of Total Building Commissioning, Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. Dodd has been the owner of an HVAC service company, worked as a consulting engineer, and directed the engineering group for a large national mechanical design/ build company. Overall, Mr. Dodd has over 25 years experience in the design, construction, service, and commissioning of commercial, industrial, institutional, and high technology mechanical facilities systems and is frequently called upon as an expert witness providing easy-to-understand analysis to non-technical participants. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering, a LEED AP, is a registered Commissioning Professional through AGC, and he is a registered professional engineer in Utah and Colorado.

Category: Total Building Commissioning (Cx)

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About TBC

As a leader in the building commissioning industry, Total Building Commissioning (TBC) is a facility consulting firm that specializes in the commissioning of mechanical, electrical, controls and all other major building systems as well as LEED™ certification consulting.

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Phone: 801-401-8401
Toll Free: 877-822-9462

324 South State Street, Suite 400
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111