Operations and Maintenance (O&M) assessments are a branch of the commissioning industry that dovetails into MEP assessments. Not all commissioning providers perform O&M assessments, although many of the processes and tools that Commissioning Authority's employ are also used during an O&M assessment.
The flavors of O&M assessments vary. One owner may want to follow the retro-commissioning model, wherein the investigative phase is primarily focused on discovering the so-called "low hanging fruit" in terms of energy savings. In this model, local utilities often have incentive programs to assist the owner in financing part or all of the assessment itself. Highly popular on the west coast, these programs typically reimburse the owner $.05-$.10 per square foot for the assessment/investigative phase.
Another owner may want to focus on the effectiveness of their O&M team, including systems knowledge, maintenance best practices, personnel qualifications, purchasing, spare parts inventories, the use of preventative maintenance processes and tools including automated tracking systems, training needs, vendor procedures, and more.
The retro-commissioning model focuses less on long term capital improvement needs, where another model may focus on a more extensive look at prioritizing and budgeting short, medium and long term needs.
In each case, O&M/retro-commissioning assessments typically offer a relatively low cost, "hands-on" field investigation that should yield very useful data for an O&M director. The best assessments also focus on providing low cost results that are relatively easy to deploy.
An article by PECI - "Operations and Maintenance Assessments" - and informally adopted by the federal government as a general guideline, is useful in getting an understanding of the basic "lay of the land" when it comes to performing these kinds of assessments.
From PECI's article...
The greatest benefit of performing a building O&M assessment is informational. The information resulting from an O&M assessment can be used to help prioritize both financial and policy issues regarding the management and budget for the facility. It presents a clear picture of where and what improvements may be most cost effective to implement first. The assessment process, depending on the owner’s or manager’s requirements, can also provide direct training and documentation benefits for O&M staff.
Depending on the goals for performing the assessment, typical benefits may include:
- Identifying operational improvements that capture energy and demand savings
- Identifying operational improvements that positively affect comfort and IAQ
- Improving building control
- Developing a baseline report on the condition of major HVAC equipment
- Developing an updated and complete equipment list (nameplate data)
- Identifying issues contributing to premature equipment failure
- Identifying ways to reduce staff time spent on emergencies
- Increasing O&M staff capabilities and expertise
- Determining whether staff require additional training
- Identifying and gathering any missing critical system documentation
- Developing a complete set of sequences of operation for the major HVAC systems
- Evaluating the EMS for opportunities to optimize control strategies
- Recommending energy-efficiency measures for further investigation
- Determining original design intend and the cost to bring the building back to original design
- Providing a cost/benefit analysis of implementing the recommended O&M improvements
- Developing an operating plan and policy to maintain optimal building performance over time
The best benefits keep on giving long after the process is completed. For example, the final master log of recommended improvements along allows an owner or building manager to prioritize and budget accurately for the implementation process. Also, minor problems that could be solved during the assessment may begin to reduce energy costs and improve comfort immediately; equipment life may be extended for equipment that may have failed prematurely due to hidden problems, short cycling, or excessive run time.