Why is High Quality Commissioning So Hard to Achieve?
High-quality commissioning and testing is integral to the success of a construction project. It helps optimise a safe and energy-efficient operation and helps minimise operational risk. Here at HDR | Andrew Reid, we understand how important it is for our clients to see their projects completed successfully, without drama and without delay.
In the first article of this series ‘What is Commissioning and Testing?’, we shared a summary of what commissioning and testing can deliver for your development project. In this article, we delve into some of the issues that can influence the success of a project, especially when commissioning is considered later in the construction process.
In an ideal world, conversations about commissioning and testing should be happening at an early stage in the project; however, frequently we find ourselves joining projects at a late stage, where commissioning has been considered as an afterthought.
There are several factors that can influence the ultimate success of a project. Here are five of the key challenges, which highlight why the commissioning process is so fundamental to development success:
5 Key Challenges to Development Success
1. Inconsistent quality control
We know that poor quality control is a key factor in affecting successful commissioning. Engaging a commissioning engineer that adopts a quality driven process brings significant programme benefits, at a point in the programme when time is precious.
2. Construction and commissioning driver conflict
Commissioning and the day to day complications experienced by commissioning engineers can (understandably) be overlooked in the desire to complete the project on time and without penalty. However, a hurried ‘fix’ could instead result in significant delays or reputational damage which affects organisations for several years hence. It can also present operational problems and reputational issues for customers that can have a material impact on their business. Ill-judged compromise during commissioning at any stage can lead to expensive mitigation solutions further down the line, which is why following a robust commissioning process is so important.
Commissioning consultants and engineers are rarely involved in assessing the potential impact of project change. Yet this change can have significant implications on how the commissioning is to be carried out, on control measures necessary to protect what has already been done and the opportunity to execute a robust process in the short time often allocated to bring a building to life.
Communication and engagement is vital. Commissioning engineers are an essential part of a project’s team of professionals, and they have much to give.
3. Many projects are commercially driven
Understandably, projects are commercially driven in a desire to seek optimum value for money and return on investment.
In our view, it is important that clients see what we do as an investment in the success of the project; not just an addition to the bottom-line costs. Over many decades we have seen that time and commercial pressures negatively affect how buildings are set to work and what that means to customers in occupation. As a result, guidance has been produced by leading industry institutions in an effort to see that the risks this brings can be mitigated.
This mitigation, however, comes at a cost. It is important that the true costs are budgeted at the outset and client expectations diligently managed. Once that is clear, the services can be procured on a value basis and not merely a race to the bottom.
Commissioning and testing services represent a cost to projects, and as such it is understandable why it could seem like a good idea to engage these services at a later stage. However, the resulting costs of late engagement show that investing in commissioning services early is money well spent – especially when you consider the added value that can be delivered from an early stage, such as providing alignment with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) obligations.
4. Cutting corners is simple
When time is at a premium, fees have been spent and pressure is building, getting systems operational is one of the activities that can be short-cut.; often at the expense of quality and to the detriment of project success. Commissioning, however, cannot be short cut; it can only be done right and that requires time and patience.
If corners are allowed to be cut, if teams involved in putting systems to work are not held to account by technical specialists then the impact can be considerable, especially today where smart technologies are becoming more and more commonplace.
5. Success requires proving and analysis
Explaining the benefits of our commissioning process is not enough – we need to be able to demonstrate that our approach is successful using project-based evidence, especially when clients have experienced challenging projects in the past. We have measured the effectiveness of our approach across six projects, where we achieved a success rate of 99.01% (rising from a 48% base), and projects were completed with fully certified systems and no material defects.
Resolving project issues late in the day can be costly and involve some awkward conversations about where liability lies. Our commissioning and testing process helps to avoid these complications by tackling issues head-on, at the time, as they arise.
What are the Root Causes of Commissioning Problems?
While our commissioning process can add benefits at any stage in development, buying in commissioning and testing services in the later stages of a project can risk a range of issues that threaten the overall success of the commissioning process, and indeed the whole project.
Working with clients in tracking the root causes of commissioning issues, we have found that, as the diagram below illustrates, the most frequent root cause is incorrect installation, followed by missing components, material/component failure, design defects/lack of design, and damage after installation.
Early quality control in the installation and fabrication process is, therefore, instrumental in the timely success of the commissioning exercise.
Engaging commissioning services early in the project can help bring absolute certainty to a building’s outcome, resulting in a reliable, fully operational and low-risk building – one that truly meets expectations.
Here at HDR | Andrew Reid, we have developed a market-leading team of talented commissioning specialists who have the experience required to carry out successful projects for your team.
Key Success Factors
• Set realistic budgets, recognising that each building is different
• Diligently manage installation quality
• Determine how best to protect commissioning period and act accordingly
• Measure performance utilising project specific metrics and key performance indicators