Keep Buildings Efficient: Retrocommissioning, Continuous Commissioning, and Retrofits

When a new building is constructed, its brand-new gleam often boasts the latest in energy efficiency, amenities, and tenant comfort. Over time, these buildings lose the optimization that they once had as the equipment and operations within the buildings become outdated.

To keep buildings running like new, building operators have several methods for improving their systems. Here’s the breakdown on retrocommissioning, continuous commissioning (a.k.a. real-time commissioning), and retrofitting an existing building to help find the best solution for every building’s needs.


Retrocommissioning: The Reliable Building Efficiency Solution

Retrocommissioning (RCx) has become common practice for building operators. Practice has proven that this is a reliable way to keep buildings running efficiently. A building is commissioned after construction to ensure it operates according to scope.  Retrocommissioning is, quite simply, the re-commissioning of a building; that is, the systematic process of analyzing a building’s operations and maintenance to identify inefficiencies and make necessary adjustments.

After the analysis process, low cost upgrades are often made to ensure optimal efficiency. For example, an HVAC system may have a leaky hose; this hose can be replaced without changing the entire HVAC, thereby extending the life of the equipment with minimal capital investment. Some utilities, like PG&E in California, offer incentive programs to reward clients for their efforts. For building teams that are developing an energy management program, retrocommissioning is a great way to start identifying areas of improvement.


Continuous Commissioning: The New Real-Time Standard

Continuous commissioning is a much newer concept in building operations. This is a constant process, instead of a periodic, investigative process. In order to properly implement a real-time commissioning system, a building needs real-time submeter data on equipment, spaces, and other areas of interest. Armed with this data, building operators can save 10-20% on average through low-cost and no-cost adjustments to building operations and equipment. Although the initial investment may be higher than retrocommissioning, the payback on this investment is shorter and the identified efficiency opportunities are greater.

One client, The Tower Companies, used real-time data to monitor a suspicious float in the cooling tower. After realizing the float was, in fact, faulty, the team replaced the float and avoided an impending flood. Since retrocommissioning occurs at periodic intervals, it’s unlikely the engineering team would have caught this issue if they did not have real-time commissioning.

As technologies for real-time electric, water, and gas data expand, continuous commissioning will be the new standard for existing building efficiency. Real-time data provides deeper insights into consumption and allows building operations teams to make significant progress in maintaining or even improving baseline consumption. More and more building teams are adopting real-time monitoring, which enables them to drastically reduce consumption while increasing efficiency back to an optimal level.


Retrofit Your Building: Machines Don’t Last Forever

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever; that includes the equipment in a building. Making adjustments in both retrocommissioning and continuous commissioning can significantly improve the life of equipment, but there comes a time when machines need to be replaced. Retrofits are necessary to keep the building running properly. Many engineers are hesitant to invest, though, since large equipment is particularly expensive and difficult to install; however, what they don’t realize is that the payback can be very quick, depending on the piece of equipment.

Payback on these investments can be achieved in as a little as 6-12 months. As machines and technologies on the market become more effective and more efficient regularly, retrofitting a building can actually be more cost effective than making smaller fixes to equipment. Ready to take the next step? See what you can achieve with minor adjustments to your operations.

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