Commissioning is the process of making certain that a building works as it has been designed. By systematically evaluating and adjusting building systems to function properly, commissioning optimizes efficiency, health, and comfort. A commissioning agent--a certified third-party architect or engineer--acts as the owner's representative and can give advice during the design phase and follow through with testing on the construction site as well as training of operations and maintenance staff.


Commissioning emphasizes the function of the whole building. It expands on the testing, adjusting, and balancing (TAB) of a standard inspection to make sure that systems have been properly designed, installed, and functionally tested, which includes making certain that electrical and mechanical systems work together. Commissioning usually includes:

  • Building envelope
  • Heating, cooling, and ventilation, including automation systems and controls
  • Electrical, including lighting and variable speed drives
  • Plumbing
  • Additional specialty equipment and systems


Commissioning makes the building process and the building itself more efficient.

  • With enhanced commissioning, commissioning agents work with the team members before and during construction to make sure that ideas and systems are integrated. This reduces the potential of costly change orders and delays, making the commissioning agent a valuable resource for the project owners.
  • Commissioning agents work with the team members before and during construction to make sure that ideas and systems are integrated.
  • When using enhanced commissioning, the commissioning agents serve as a resource for owners, thereby reducing the potential of costly change orders and delays.
  • Quality control. Careful review and testing eliminates defects.
  • Best operating practices. Training and calibration build systems knowledge into operations and maintenance (O & M).
  • Performance savings. Effective and efficient mechanical and electrical systems cut energy costs, extend equipment life, minimize downtime due to component failures, and avoid contractor callbacks.
  • Resident health and comfort benefit from improved thermal comfort and indoor air quality. Owners hear fewer resident complaints.

Process and Responsibilities

By identifying commissioning needs, the team can assign responsibilities and budget for a range of services -- from a simple testing and verification contract to a dedicated commissioning team that liaises to the design team, reviews construction, tests all systems, and follows up with O & M staff for at least the year following building acceptance.

Many of the following responsibilities will fall to the architect, a green consultant, the construction manager, or even a specialized government inspector. While affordable housing developers may already involve themselves in the design process and perform a high level of testing during construction, adding a commissioning specialist to the project team will take construction and operating efficiencies to the next level.


  • Check design documents against the initial design intent.
  • Create a commissioning plan that includes all tests and required documentation.
  • Develop a list of specifications to be produced by the commissioning agent.
  • Check contract documents to assure complete coordination among the trades, particularly with regard to construction sequences, materials storage, and site access.


  • Finalize details of the commissioning procedures, including a schedule of tests with required attendance for team members, subcontractors, et al.
  • Review shop drawings and equipment submittals.
  • Conduct periodic commissioning team meetings.
  • Observe construction, installation, start-up, operation, testing, and balancing.


  • Final commissioning and evaluation reports.
  • Verify that building system performance meets design intent.
  • Suggest corrective actions for all deficiencies discovered during commissioning.
  • Check final testing, adjusting, and balancing reports for accuracy and completeness.
  • Train operations and maintenance staff.
  • Owner's manual. Compile this comprehensive reference describing operations and maintenance appropriate to the building as designed and constructed.
    • Team effort to ensure proper operation and maintenance for the long term. Include contributor responsibilities in the project specifications.
    • Key building statistics and contact numbers for all firms on the building team.
    • Organize by building systems with design intent and performance criteria for each of the following: architectural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.
    • Certification documents and schedule of required inspections
    • Instruction manuals from equipment manufacturers, fabricators, or installers for all mechanical and electrical systems
    • Commissioning final report and video of training program
    • Lighting specifications and maintenance protocols
    • As-built record drawings

Post-Acceptance Commissioning

  • Help O & M staff make iterative adjustments to optimize systems performance according to specified operating requirements.


Whole Building Design Guide's excellent commissioning page

Building Commissioning Association

RESNET , the Residential Energy Services Network