Lessons Learned from Commissioning 15 Schools

School building commissioning projects have challenges that differ from standard commercial commissioning projects. Schools are generally owner-occupied buildings with school district energy managers who are interested in saving energy in their facilities. However, these managers must give priority to teacher and student comfort. Sometimes the same school districts that emphasize energy efficiency and comfort are the ones that have an understaffed maintenance department running from school to school putting “band-aid” fixes on equipment just to get through the season. 

When commissioning or retro-commissioning a school project, the commissioning authority must meet several challenges: helping the district to minimize change orders, steering the design towards low maintenance and high efficiency systems, and working with the construction team to meet the fall class opening deadlines. 

Because a child will spent close to 13,000 hours in the classroom from kindergarten through 12th grade, the air quality, lighting and daylighting systems, and comfort delivery systems need to operate at their maximum potential. Commissioning and retro-commissioning can optimize these systems' performance, thus producing the best possible learning environment with the least possible energy use.

This paper will discuss the issues to consider when commissioning a school facility, and present a guideline for school-related commissioning services, including new construction, retrofit (renovation) construction, retro-commissioning, and LEED-related commissioning. General concepts are illustrated by specific project experiences.

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