Retro-Commissioning: Huh?

Retro-Commissioning: Huh?

Recently, 3C Engineering has received an increase in calls regarding Retro-Commissioning so we decided to put this PSA out there. Let’s take a quick run through of Retro-Commissioning and the what, why, how and dollars involved.

What is Retro-Commissioning (#RetroCx)?

#RetroCx is the process of reviewing existing buildings to identify deficiencies that have developed over time. Issues found are typically related to design changes from Tenant Improvements, legacy pneumatic controls systems patched together with newer DDC systems, or a lack of training for building maintenance staff.

Why Retro-Commission?

While all newly constructed buildings in California over 10,000 SF are required to be Commissioned, this is a new requirement (2013). There are hundreds of buildings in Central California built before that point that never underwent any form of formal Commissioning. Let’s be generous and say a building built in 1995 did undergo initial Commissioning, but, do you think any continuous Commissioning measures occurred between 1995 and now? Doubtful. This building will have an antiquated or patch-worked DDC system, a design that incorporated minimal energy savings initially, maintenance that has been neglected (no offense…), no legitimate IAQ measures, and my personal favorite, Tenant Improvements.

Show me the Money!

HVAC and lighting costs are the primary low-hanging fruit here. Average building HVAC energy usage accounts for 46% of operating costs while lighting ranges from 12%-15%. Understanding that, let’s consider some national studies related to #RetroCx payback.

·       Electrical savings ranging from 5%-15%

·       Gas savings ranging from 1%-23%

·       Average payback ranges from .2 – 2.1 years

·       Energy savings values of $0.11 - 0.72/ft²

·       Non-energy savings values of $0.10 - $0.45/ft²

What’s involved with RetroCx?

Easy, think DISCOM.

Design, Installation, Setup, Controls, Optimization and Maintenance.

Whether your #RetroCx agent is pursuing AHSRAE Level audits or simply tracking down inefficiencies, the plan of attack will incorporate DISCOM or various aspects of it. Identify those O&M issues and get staff trained up. Take an in-depth look at that pneumatic controls system that is now a hodge-podge of legacy DDC systems, noisy compressors, and band-aids. Compare existing equipment and controls strategies to what is available now.

#RetroCx is Not…

This is not an energy study! Plenty of groups provide that “service”, but why are you paying someone to tell you something you already know?

·       Don’t hire someone to tell you what you already suspect, that something is wrong. Hire someone to identify, create ROI talking points, and a plan of attack to rectify.

·       Find a #RetroCx Agent that isn’t focused solely on paperwork. Emphasis should be placed on identifying specific issues and recommending legitimate solutions to start saving energy.

How to Start?

Contact 3C Engineering of course! Seriously though, find a qualified Engineering or Commissioning firm with team members that focus specifically on Commissioning and Retro Commissioning services day in and day out. Ask for resumes to be submitted along with your proposal. Look for a team with Mechanical Engineering Degrees, Professional Engineering certificates, and most importantly, look for industry recognized Commissioning certificates such as the ASHRAE BCxP certificate or the AABC Commissioning Group’s CxA certification.

3C Engineering