What Is Commissioning?

Defining Commissioning

Historically, Commissioning referred to the process through which the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems of a building were tested and balanced before an owner took possession or was accepted.

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE’s) CIBSE Commissioning Code M: Commissioning Management, which states, “Building-services plant and control systems should be inherently commissionable,” and “The contractor and client should allow sufficient time for the complete commissioning process and ensure integration into the overall program.”

Today, that definition has been expanded to encompass the entire building system’s performance. The General Services Administration of the United States government defines Commissioning in this way:

Total Building Commissioning

To ensure a high standard of excellence, GSA utilizes a Total Building Commissioning Process. Total Building Commissioning is the Public Buildings Service’s (PBS) process for quality assurance in new construction and facility modernization. It is the process of achieving, validating, and documenting that the performance of the total building and its systems meet the design intent and requirements of the owner.

All building systems today are significantly integrated; as a result, a shortcoming in one system can degrade the performance of other systems. This can be manifested in a loss of performance, increased costs, or serious equipment deficiency.

Commissioning is the first step in continuous preventive maintenance. If a piece of equipment or a system cannot be commissioned, it cannot be maintained.

Capitol Commissioning's View:

At Capitol Commissioning, we look at commissioning as an integrated quality control process that can literally be applied to any system. The simplistic terms of the process are:

  • Define and verify the owner’s needs - What does the owner need the system to do, accomplish, etc?
  • Verify the design-in process and post-design to ensure the system will meet the previously defined owner’s needs.
  • Verify and witness the construction process to ensure the installed system will meet the previously defined design and owner’s needs.
  • Develop testing procedures to document and verify the end product meets the construction quality, design intent, defined design, and owner needs.
  • Finally, document the process in a way that an outsider can follow and understand the process and feel reassured that the end product meets the defined owner’s needs.

Commissioning Learning Events

Our CEO routinely gives educational presentations on various aspects of commissioning. He has presented to owners, contractors, architects, engineers, universities, and for non-profit organizations.

Some of our sessions have been approved by the USGBC for LEED continuing education credits.

We have presented at multiple learning series events for the USGBC Hampton Roads Chapter, the Engineering Unplugged event sponsored by Old Dominion University.

Contact us today if you are an owner or client looking for more information on commissioning.
We welcome your questions and queries. Please see our Contact Us page for complete contact information.


Many people use retro-commissioning and recommissioning interchangeably. We view the two differently. We see ‘retro' as going backward. Thus commissioning your systems to a standard or design set in the past would be what we consider retro-commissioning. We view recommissioning as taking a previously commissioned system and recommissioning it to a newer, updated standard or design.

What Is Recommissioning?

In general, recommissioning is a furthered execution of the commissioning process. The overriding purpose of the process can be summarized with the generic statements below:

  1. What do you/the owner/operator need the system to do or accomplish your desired outcome?
  2. Does the system still accomplish your desired outcome? How is the system operating currently?
  3. Does it do so as efficiently as it should? Are there observable problems?
  4. Verify via testing if the system meets your expectations by verifying the various modes and expected responses.
  5. Document your results and compare them to your expectations and determine if modifications are needed, and repeat as necessary.

Reasons for Recommissioning

There are many reasons to perform recommissioning. The below list is only the most common reasons:

  1. Peace-of-mind verification – Some systems are critical to operations, and it is recommended that they periodically are tested to ensure correct operation. This will hopefully find any newly acquired bugs during testing and not during a crisis situation.
  2. Changes in use – In the ever-changing world, building use can change over time. This can greatly affect building operations as the designer typically bases system functions on a previously documented operation. Examples are conversions between 24/7 and partial use, increased or decreased personnel, and increased or decreased loads.
  3. Noticeable Operational Issues – Overtime systems and some of their components can degrade, and eventually, a noticeable lack of functionality or efficiency is noted

How to Recommissioning

Depending on your reason for recommissioning, some modifications to the original process may be needed.

For our projects, we typically provide the original blank forms utilized in commissioning your project. If you elect to recommission a system or sub-system on your own as part of your maintenance practices, you can utilize these forms as your starting point. We also offer these services and can quickly help you run your building through its paces.

You may need to adjust the forms or format depending on your reason and goals. Prior to any recommissioning effort, it is strongly recommended that you first establish your goals. A metric for success is needed to ensure your purpose is understood by all and provide a means of verifying success.

If assistance is needed in formulating your recommissioning process and documentation, please feel free to contact us.

For our government and DOD clients, we also use the first exploratory phase of recommissioning to make a note of needed upgrades to comply with current Anti-Terrorism Force Protection (ATFP) and other current design standards that may have been updated after your building was designed and constructed.

Anti-Terrorism Force Protection

Have Questions?
Need Help?

Has an issue come up?
Have your utility bills increased? Have occupant complaints increased?
Have you changed how you are using your building?
Added a new process?

All of these are just a few signs that recommissioning may be needed. Please feel free to contact us to see if recommissioning is right for you.