Mandatory Commissioning for All Buildings Proposed for Green Building Standard

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Atlanta — Commissioning for all buildings designed and built under a green building standard from ASHRAE, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) would become mandatory under a new proposal open for public input.

ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2011, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, provides a design standard for those who strive for high performance buildings. It covers key topical areas of site sustainability, water-use efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality and the building’s impact on the atmosphere, materials and resources. 

Proposed addendum p would remove the “Acceptance Testing” provision (Section Acceptance Testing) for small buildings. The proposed addendum is open for public review from Oct. 19-Nov. 18, 2012. To comment on the proposed changes or for more information, visit

Currently the standard implies that when a building area is less than 5,000 square feet it is considered to have simple building systems, and thus requires a reduced level of commissioning effort, referred to as Acceptance Testing, according to Jeff Ross-Bain, a member of the Standard 189.1 committee. However, building area does not relate to complexity as many buildings less than 5,000 square feet can be complex. 

Under the proposed addendum, building commissioning per Section becomes mandatory for all buildings that are designed and built under the requirements of the standard.

“Commissioning is a robust and well supported discipline with established guidelines (ASHRAE and others), a long history of use and with many practitioners,” he said. “The commissioning process is one that adapts to the specific attributes of a given building. A ‘simple’ building would only require ‘simple’ commissioning regardless of size.”

Ross-Bain noted that “Acceptance Testing” is not a universally defined activity nor does there appear to be specific instructions or guidelines within the industry detailing how this activity is formally completed. Also, a review of the mandatory requirements of Standard 189.1 could be interpreted as producing a relatively complex building (i.e. consumption measurement, on-site renewable energy, daylighting control, outdoor air delivery monitoring, economizers, condensate recovery, etc.), which requires a higher degree of commissioning activity.

Finally, under the current “Acceptance Testing” section, Standard 189.1 would not meet the minimum commissioning prerequisite of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which requires all buildings to undergo the commissioning process.

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