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New DOE Research Strengthens Business Case for Building Commissioning

By Better Buildings Beat Team on May 02, 2019

The newest research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA) shows that building commissioning remains a cost-effective way to improve the operation of your building while lowering energy use and mitigating other risks associated with poor building performance. The study provides the world’s largest and most current resource of commissioning cost and benefit data for commercial buildings.

Commissioning (Cx) verifies whether a building is performing according to its original design and intent and meets the needs of its owners and occupants. This quality-assurance process helps to identify deficiencies that could lead to equipment failure, increased energy use, and poor indoor air quality so that building operators can better maintain their facilities.

LBNL’s updated 2018 study, funded by DOE’s Building Technologies Office, reaffirms the overall value of commissioning through analysis of almost 1,500 buildings across the U.S. and parts of Canada.

Among the findings:

  • Cx projects in existing buildings offered reliable cost-effective savings with a median simple payback of 2.2 years.
  • Data on new construction Cx projects showed lower costs in 2018 compared to LBNL’s 2009 study, both in cost per square foot (median of $0.82 compared to $1.16 in 2009) and cost as a percent of overall construction cost (median of 0.25% compared to 0.57% in 2009).
  • The top 4 reasons for implementing Cx in existing building have remained the same since 2009:
    1. Capturing energy savings
    2. Ensuring system performance
    3. Improving thermal comfort
    4. Maintaining proper indoor air quality
  • Cx providers are reporting higher profitability, suggesting significant productivity improvements in the delivery of Cx services.

The original studies (completed in 2004 and updated in 2009) have been widely cited over the last decade. LBNL’s commissioning cost/benefit database has grown to nearly 1,500 commercial buildings, representing a combined area of more than 370 million square feet, compared to 643 buildings in 2009. In addition, the BCxA surveyed Cx providers about industry trends to gain deeper insights on market drivers and the business of commissioning. Make sure to check out the resource on the Better Buildings Solution Center!