Commissioning for the 2022 CalGreen Code
2022 CalGreen Commissioning
This article will detail the Commissioning for the 2022 CalGreen Code compliance.
The 2022 California Green Building Standards Code, aka CalGreen, requires commissioning on all new nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet.
Commissioning is the process of planning, documenting, scheduling, testing, adjusting, verifying, and training, to provide a facility that operates as a fully functional system per the owner’s requirements and in accordance with the design. While a project’s design professionals and installing contractors are ultimately responsible for the quality of the installation, commissioning coordinators provide a second set of eyes and ears to catch any deficiencies and resolving issues prior to building occupancy.
The 2022 CalGreen Code did not make any changes to the 2019 code commissioning requirements. These same requirements have been in effect since the 2016 CalGreen Code. Apparently the California Energy Commission believes the current system is working just fine.
It is important to understand that the California Energy Code also contains commissioning requirements for nonresidential buildings both over, and under, 10,000 square feet. For buildings under 10,000 square feet the effort is limited to the initial permit application. For buildings over 10,000 square feet the process includes requirements for the permit application, as well as during the construction of the project.
Since the California Energy Commission is the controlling organization for both the CalGreen and Energy Codes, the commissioning effort is intended to be handled as a single process. Two separate commissioning efforts are not required, even though both codes contain similar requirements.
California Code Versus National Standards
When the California Energy Commission decided to add commissioning to the codes it understood that it needed a less expensive process than the national standards. For this reason it did not adopt LEED or the AABC process into the code. While these organizations can bring value to complex projects, they require extensive onsite observation and testing that is hard to justify on smaller, less complex projects.
The California Energy Commission wanted to provide a reasonable level of commissioning without the cost burden of the national standards. As a result, they created the specific commissioning requirements that are detailed in both the CalGreen Code and the Energy Code.
Unfortunately, there are some commissioning organizations that try to sell national standard commissioning services to unsuspecting clients, when only California Code standards are required. To be clear, a national standard process will meet, and exceed, the commissioning requirements of the California Codes.
It is not uncommon for us to quote a project and have a skeptical client ask, “Why are we so cheap? Your competitor is asking three times that amount.”
When this happens we, we don’t criticize the competition. There can be great value in performing a national standard commissioning process for a project. The decision of which process to use should be based on the complexity of the project and the level of concern by the owner. We will help the owner make the right decision for their project.
If you have a large project with boilers, chillers, cooling towers, emergency generators, and a sophisticated central energy management system, the national standard commissioning is probably the way to go. For less complex systems there may be little benefit to the more costlier process.
The Commissioning Process
The 2022 CalGreen commissioning process is divided into a number of steps that are specifically outlined in the CalGreen Code section 5.410.2. These are:
- Owner’s project requirements.
- Basis of design.
- Commissioning plan
- Functional performance testing.
- Documentation and training.
- Commissioning report.
The first step is the creation of the commissioning documents required for the building permit submission. Although it is not clearly stated in the body of the code, the Compliance Forms, Worksheets, and Reference Materials section of the code clarifies that the Owner’s Project Requirements, the Basis of Design, and the Commissioning Plan are to be provided at permit intake.
Unfortunately, too many projects are submitted for permit without the required commissioning documents. This is due to two reasons. The first, as noted above, it’s not clear in the code. The second is that building departments, with few exceptions, do not make it clear on their website, or their permit submittal documentation, that they are required. Instead, it gets left up to the permit technician to add another permit review comment and add further delays to the project.
Although it is not the intent of the code, many of our projects actually begin at this stage. The architect was unaware of the required commissioning documents for permit and now they are in a panic to get this completed. We can usually get the permit documents turned around in three business days.
Commissioning During Construction
The 2022 CalGreen commissioning construction process includes a commissioning kickoff meeting, submittal reviews, authoring the functional performance tests, reviewing the completed test reports, reviewing the air balance reports, owner training, systems manual, and authoring the Final Commissioning Report. The Final Commissioning Report is required by the building inspection department to close out the commissioning process.
Bringing It All Together
Commissioning is all about communication. The communication needs to begin early in the design stage and continue throughout the construction and beneficial occupancy stages of your project. It is poor communications on the commissioning scope and responsibilities that frequently turn the end phase of a project into a quagmire.
Commissioning is also about engaging all parties to work together. A good commissioning agent can improve the efficiency of the process. This is accomplished by avoiding duplication of procedures by working your subcontractors to streamline the process.
CalGreen Energy Services knows how to ensure all parties on your project understand their roles and responsibilities. This understanding can eliminate confusion and ensure the building owner ends up with a fully commissioned building that will serve them well for years to come.
At CalGreen Energy Services we are specialists in the CalGreen Code commissioning. CalGreen is our only business.
Call us today and let us show you how we can help with your project.
To learn more about CalGreen commissioning see our post here.
Gary Welch has over 35 years experience in the field of sustainable building design. He is the CEO of CalGreen Energy Services. Gary is an ICC Certified CalGreen Special Inspector and Plans Examiner.