what is commissioning?

The Building Commissioning Association states the basic purpose of commissioning is:

“To provide documented confirmation that building systems function in compliance with criteria set forth in the Project Documents to satisfy the owner’s operational needs.”

In ‘plain speak’ we can say:

Commissioning is communicating with the owner, designer and contractors to make sure everyone understands the project goals, looking at the installed system, making sure that all the components (typically moving parts) are doing what they were designed to do (under every possible situation), making sure that matches the owners expectations, and then documenting it.

Real world application
The owner wants a ventilation system that shuts down at night.
The engineer designs it with a motorized damper that is told to close by the control system during unoccupied periods.
The contractor installs it and tells us it is ready to be tested.
We go on site, simulate night time operation (i.e. unoccupied period), and verify that the damper actually closes.

How does that apply to me?
As a rule of thumb, “moving parts” (operating components) are commissioned. Instead of commissioning the lights, we commission the lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors. There are some exceptions including: solar PV, envelope, some control systems and the building envelope system (for LEED V4).

What to take away from this?
Commissioning is done to systems. We either test a system as a whole, or simulate the interaction with other parts of the system.


key points:

The commissioning process bridges the design and construction stages.

The majority of off-site commissioning happens during the design phase and involves making sure the design meets the owners goals.

The majority of the on-site commissioning happens at the end of the project and involves making sure the installation meets the design (and thus the owners initial goals)

Commissioning is done on behalf of the owner.

As such we only identify issues and bring them to the owners attention. Decisions on actions must be made by the owner, contractors and/or engineer.


There are a number of similar terms that refer to commissioning performed on existing buildings. Here is a quick refresher:

  • Re-Commissioning is the process of retesting a building which has previously been commissioned
  • Ongoing commissioning is a regular scheduled testing plan that repeats commissioning checks on all equipment every 2 years
  • Retro-Commissioning (RCx) is performing commissioning on a building that was never initially commissioned
  • Existing Building Commissioning (EBCx) a more generic term used to describe all of the above.

    learn more

    Contact Nate Goodell to discuss your commissioning needs at ngoodell@taitem.com or by phone