A critical issue in building and construction is in the spotlight again with AIRAH’s Commissioning Forum, to be held virtually on March 24. The keynote speaker Dr Paul Bannister, L.AIRAH, who will focus on commissioning for energy efficiency

It’s a subject that Dr Bannister understands deeply. He was the primary technical author of the NABERS Energy and Water ratings, which have underpinned significant efficiency improvements in the Australian office market. He also led the upgrade of energy-efficiency measures in the 2019 edition of the National Construction Code.

Dr Bannister notes that part of the problem stems from the fact that “commissioning” is used to describe two different activities: functional commissioning and tuning.

“Good traditional commissioning ensures things work,” says Dr Bannister, “which is essential, but not sufficient, to achieve efficiency. To achieve efficiency, one has to ensure that things work well, rather than just work. These are not the same thing.”

According to Dr Bannister, the best commissioning outcomes have a few features in common.

“They have a rigorous well documented process,” he says, “with full planning of tests to be undertaken, work method statements, clear criteria for pass or fail on each test, and preferably an independent commissioning agent to provide independent overview and independent witnessing. It’s time consuming and pernickety, but essential!”

Over his long time in the industry, Dr Bannister says there have been improvements.

“The early introduction of Independent Commissioning Agents by Green Star did a great deal to improve focus on commissioning in the early days,” says Dr Bannister. “But it was when this was combined with buildings aiming for post-construction efficiency targets (i.e., NABERS Commitment Agreements) that things really moved in terms of achieving buildings that are both well commissioned and efficient. I also see the introduction of automatic fault detection systems at the time of commissioning as a major and not yet fully rolled-out advance.”

But he also says the different systems could work more harmoniously.

“The Building Code of Australia doesn’t really deal with commissioning, and indeed is limited in its ability to do so without a change in its legislative implementation at state/territory level,” says Dr Bannister.

“Green Star has led the way with provisions that drive better functional commissioning and encourage tuning, albeit the latter within a somewhat loose framework. And NABERS is generally understood by the industry to require both good commissioning and tuning, vitally providing targets for the latter, but is silent on detail.

“If we are to achieve the reliable delivery of efficient buildings, we need to improve the integration, institutionalisation and education relating to commissioning. This requires a holistic approach to the overall problem.”

For more details on Dr Bannister’s presentation and the Commissioning Virtual Forum 2022, click here.


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