Overnight Efforts Bring Big Daytime Returns

Making the case for retro-commissioning 

What is Retro-Commissioning?

Retro-Commissioning (RCx), also called Existing Building Commissioning (EBCx), is a unique commissioning effort that can be undertaken for any or several of the following reasons:

  • Earning LEED EBOM Certification
  • Performing an ASHRAE Level II or Level III Energy Audit
  • Pursuing ENERGY STAR certification
  • Meeting contractual requirements of a Lease Agreement
  • Addressing tenant concerns about building systems performance

With most of the existing commercial building stock in the USA aged 10 years or older, Asset Managers, Property Managers and Developers all can enjoy significant long-term gains in energy and money saving opportunities from retro-commissioning efforts.

The Problem:

  • Owners understand the importance of RCx, but don’t want to invest in the effort due to cost concerns about what will be found in the investigative process
  • Owners and tenants want to avoid system interruptions or long-term outages to the building
  • Owners have been unsuccessful resolving the issues with traditional subcontractor repair efforts
  • Owners aren’t planning on extensive MEP renovations

The Solution:

RCx is an affordable solution, which limits system outages while investigating and re-calibrating systems to address identified issues. In most instances, the RCx effort can occur while the building is still occupied, taking place on nights and weekends to avoid interruptions to Owner and tenant activities. Where critical systems are involved, planned outages with back-out plans and back-up plans can be developed and used.

Our Latest Success Story:

GHT recently led an RCx project on a local historic university building that had many of these concerns. Immediately, we brought value to the project by controlling costs for the Owner in the RFP phase – we developed unit cost categories for the contractor performing the work to secure advance competitive pricing for known / likely anticipated repairs. If the systems were neglected, or the process revealed hidden design or construction flaws, some of those issues may be remedied immediately using the preset pricing categories.

To address concerns about system shutdowns, our RCx team worked nights and weekends, running functional performance tests (FPTs) on MEP systems, conducting “test-fix-retest” scenarios on all major equipment. In most cases, the costs associated with this first pass effort are predictable, but follow-up costs can add up.

Issues that couldn’t be immediately corrected required a more involved survey and pricing effort. In this case, collaboration with the Owner and an understanding of their Capital Expenditures limitations from the earliest concept phases of the project allowed us to identify repairs which fit into their budget. Though original design flaw issues were identified and remedied, the effort fell well within their anticipated spending through a closely managed effort from our firm.


Want to Find Out More?

GHT’s team of experienced building commissioning professionals is here to help – whether you’re contemplating beginning the process or preparing a budget request for your next fiscal review. Together, we can work with you to identify activities to perform, provide cost estimates, lead the RCx effort, and put you in touch with quality contractors to help you complete the work. Please email rsmith@ghtltd.com for questions about your next RCx project and get started on the cost-effective path to better building efficiency.


Ray Smith, CCP is Principal and Section Head of Commissioning and Building Operations Consulting for GHT’s Operations & Energy Services (OES) Studio. He specializes in optimizing the performance of MEP systems in new and existing buildings. Ray can be reached at rsmith@ghtltd.com