Building Envelope Commissioning

By Jennifer dos Santos

Commissioning of MEP systems is a common practice and, if required, is rarely given a second thought.  Commissioning of Building Envelope components, however, is a relatively new but increasing practice.  This may include windows, roofs, masonry, concrete, or the full building envelope as a system.  The Building Envelope Commissioning Agent should be a part of the project team as early as possible in the design phase.  This will give the Commissioning Agent (CxA) the ability to weigh in on the design decisions made, as well, such as the type of sealant that is specified or the type of roof system that is selected.  Although, the ultimate responsibility falls on the Architect of Record, the CxA should be a member of the design team for the expertise they bring to the table. 

While the project is in the design phase, the CxA will prepare the Commissioning specification sections to be sure that all costs associated with testing are included.  The specifications should require that the Contractor obtain an independent testing agency to perform the functional testing of the commissioned elements.  This may include infrared testing for a roof or spray and/ or pressure testing for windows.  The specifications should also hold the Contractor responsible for correcting all deficiencies that are identified as a result of failed tests and the cost of the additional testing to ensure all corrections have been made. 

During construction, the CxA should visit the site at major milestones and as often as deemed appropriate to review the work and to confirm that the work is proceeding according to the plans and specifications as well as good construction practice.  It may also be decided that the CxA will attend one or more progress meetings to answer questions about the commissioning procedures and expectations or to voice concerns that they have from their construction observations.

Many architects have different areas of expertise in the area of Building Envelope Technology.  When 90% of all litigation against architects is for leaks, it is in the interest of the Owner to have a CxA as part of their design team with strong waterproofing and building envelope experience and expertise.