DC Codes Update Brings More Changes for Commissioning Services Providers

Principal Ray Smith, CCP Outlines These Changes and How to Choose the Best Commissioning Provider


This year has brought significant changes to DC’s commercial real estate industry – perhaps the most notable include the latest issuance of Building Construction and Energy Codes from the District of Columbia.

From DCRA’s official website:

“The 2017 DC Construction Codes consist of the 2015 International Code Council (ICC) family of model codes, the 2014 National Electrical Code, and 2013 ASHRAE 90.1, as amended by the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR), Title 12, Sections A through M.  The 2017 DC Construction Code takes effect on May 29, 2020.  Applicability and provisions for the prior editions of the code, (for Permits issued, Applications Filed, Tenant Layouts, and Permit Revisions) will be governed by the Transitory Provision stipulated in section 123.”

A summary of the code changes has been posted on GHT’s website and this will be updated as more information is made available from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

We would like to draw our clients’ attention to another major change brought on by this latest code issuance pertaining to DCRA based Commissioning.

With the prior code issuance, DCRA permitted the Commissioning Provider to be a member of the design team (with the MEP consultant serving dual roles) as long as the individual providing commissioning services operated independently of the design and construction phase services teams. GHT was able to comply with DCRA requirements, by providing design services from one of GHT’s design studios (Building Systems and Interiors) and commissioning-related services from our Operations and Energy Services (OES) studio, successfully maintaining the separation needed to comply with DCRA requirements.

However, the latest code issuance disallows the situation outlined above, which many members of the commercial real estate industry have become accustomed to over the past several years. The separate entity within the MEP design firm can no longer be the Commissioning Provider on projects that were designed by that MEP design firm. Rather, the Commissioning Provider must be a 3rd party that is not employed by the engineer, the architect of record, or the construction contractor.

What does this mean for project teams looking to design and build in the District? First, it creates the demand for a large number of experienced Commissioning service providers so that clients have choices when it comes to selecting their commissioning team. Second, it means that the building community is recognizing the value of having buildings properly commissioned by experts.  Third, this means that clients need to understand what functions building commissioning professionals serve, so they can make the informed decision when selecting their commissioning teams.

Here are the qualities we expect from the Commissioning professionals at GHT:

  1. Detail-oriented, yet able to see the bigger picture: The success (or failure) of your commissioning effort lives in the details. A Commissioning professional must be able to analyze project performance and facility requirements, develop a commissioning process to test the finished product against those metrics and provide recommendations to bring the facility into compliance. Commissioning team members need to be involved over the life of the project, from determining the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) to developing the Basis of Design (BOD) and ultimately establishing the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) sequence for successful occupancy.
  2. Experienced, with a balanced perspective: Most commissioning professionals have built their careers upon providing this unique, niche service – and that’s a good thing! Commissioning agents should be able to provide case studies and a resume that demonstrates their experience working with owners to provide improved energy efficiency, improved workplace performance and correction of deficiencies which result in a safe and healthy facility. The Commissioning professional you select should have experience with your specific type of facility – the commissioning needs of a data center are different from that of a K-12 school.
  3. Relentless focus on excellence: All new and renovation projects can benefit from the commissioning process – no matter the size or function of the space. For our clients to maximize their investment on commissioning, we require that our commissioning professionals follow rigorous processes based upon those exemplified but not limited to ASHRAE Standards 202-2013 and ASHRAE Guidelines 0-2013. Our commissioning professionals also stay focused on delivering a project which matches the design, is code compliant, and optimizes energy use.

These changes by DCRA present new challenges for building owners and project teams embarking on construction in the District. As the area’s leading local provider of MEP engineering and commissioning solutions, GHT is committed to educating our clients and peers about these important changes to advance the built environment.

For the latest news on code changes, sustainable design and a number of other topics relating to commercial real estate, follow us on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ght-limited/.

Raymond Smith, CCP, serves as Principal and Section Head for GHT’s Commissioning and Building Operations Consulting group in their Operations & Energy Services (OES) studio. With 40+ years’ experience optimizing the performance of MEP systems in new and existing buildings, Ray has worked closely with facility owners, managers and building operators to solve problems, develop operational excellence strategies and provide commissioning services focused on long-term performance goals. A Past President of the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA) National Capital Chapter, Ray also advises on the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB) Examination committee and he is a Certified Commissioning Professional. He can be reached at rsmith@ghtltd.com.