Fire Side Chat: Commissioning Considerations Becoming More Critical
Commissioning is a process of documentation, adjustment, testing, verification and training, performed to ensure the facility operates in accordance with the owner’s documented project requirements and construction documents. As a fire systems integrator, knowing commissioning fundamentals helps meet expectations for your aspect of the project.
4 Steps to the Process
Commissioning can begin before the first brick is laid, the first wire is pulled or even a design is completed. The basic steps of commissioning are: 1) predesign; 2) design; 3) construction; and 4) occupancy and operation.
The predesign, or planning, phase is where the building owner develops the owner’s project requirements, or OPR. The OPR specifies what the building owner wishes to achieve when the building or project is complete. Even for a project that will not be using all of the aspects of commissioning, understanding what the owner’s objectives are at the beginning can eliminate problems at the end.
From the OPR, the basis of design or BOD is formed. This is a document that shows the concepts and decisions that are to be used to meet the owner’s project requirements.
With these two documents, the final design will be accomplished, the building or project completed, and final occupancy and use. Throughout these phases, the CxA or FCxA will focus on making certain the completed building or project meets the OPR and BOD. To achieve this, the CxA will schedule testing and inspections of the systems being installed throughout the construction process.
For a fire protection system, the FCxA will look for such items as the correct slope and size of the supply line to a fire sprinkler system; the correct type and gauge of circuit wire; the correct use of fire stopping; the correct specified equipment; the correct type of sprinkler; and so forth.
One important aspect of commissioning is documentation of all aspects of the construction and of the final systems that are installed. This includes closeout documentations such as a compiled list of all deficiencies and resolutions, operations and maintenance manuals, test results, spare parts list, sequence of operations, and as-built drawings. Documentation provides a means for the owner to be able to verify that the OPR and BOD were followed, and to be able to maintain all of the systems that were installed.
The CxA or FCxA cannot have any other involvement with the project, as this could be a possible conflict of interest. While a contractor could possibly perform the functions required for a CxA or FCxA, they will principally come from the engineering community. There is also a growing Commissioning Industry (Cx) that has been in place prior to the development of NFPA 3. Additional information on this industry can be found through the Building Commissioning Association (bcxa.org).
Must Know to Meet Expectations
If your business leads you to a large building project, you may expect to find there is a CxA associated with the project within the next several years. As a security and fire systems integrator, having a firm grasp of the fundamentals of commissioning will aid you in knowing what will be expecte
d of your aspect of the project. Know what the OPR and BOD are so your system or systems will achieve those goals. You should expect more testing and inspections of the systems you install during the course of the project.
The second part of NFPA 3 is Integrated Testing. What this is and how it may affect your projects will be discussed in my next column.
Shane Clary, Ph.D., has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is Vice President of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.
This month, SSI is pleased to introduce Shane Clary, Ph.D., as “Fire Side Chat” columnist. Clary, who is one of the industry’s foremost fire/life-safety experts, succeeds longtime contributor Al Colombo. We wish Al well, and welcome Shane.-Ed.
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