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Thought Leadership from Sieben Energy Associates

The Best (and Worst) Retro-Commissioning Practices

The Best (and Worst) Retro-Commissioning Practices

On the afternoon of February 15, I led a presentation in front of 40 members of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA Chicago) about best (and worst) practices relative to successful retro-commissioning projects. First, I set the context for retro-commissioning, including its historical origins and relationship to the commissioning of new buildings. Next, I explained why BOMA Chicago members should care about the ComEd retro-commissioning incentive program.

For almost ten years, all member buildings have been paying into the funding pool for the utility's energy efficiency programs. Participating in retro-commissioning represents an opportunity to get back some of that money. Retro-commissioning also plays an important role in supporting credits for LEED Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) certification or re-certification.

I have found that attitude is a determining factor in both successful and unsuccessful retro-commissioning projects. A collaborative attitude between the site engineering team and the retro-commissioning service team helps ensure a successful project.

On the other hand, lack of focus by the site team and poor communication between the site team and service team yields frustration and, often, a poor outcome.

I emphasized the most important requirement for success: The site team must take ownership of the project.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to encourage the site team to assume ownership of a retro-commissioning project that is funded by a utility―not purchased directly by the building. Failure to take ownership introduces challenges, including delays and mistakes. Strong buy-in by the site team is no guarantee of impressive energy savings, but it ensures everyone is pulling the oars together toward the same goal.

We know what makes a successful retro-commissioning project, because we have done so many of them. Over the past eight years, we have performed dozens of successful retro-commissioning projects through the ComEd retro-commissioning incentive program. Read through our retro-commissioning case studies for more information.
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