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Achieving LEED Certification with Commissioning Efforts

Commissioning is essential in building design and during the construction phase. A robust commissioning plan ensures a project meets performance expectations and easily transitions into the operation and maintenance stage.
While commissioning is not necessarily a required part of every project, it is indeed required if a team seeks LEED certification. LEED has established specific commissioning-related tasks that must be completed to achieve certification, meaning the commissioning impact on LEED is substantial.
Read on to learn more about LEED requirements for commissioning and how to get max points in LEED with commissioning.
  1. What is LEED?
  2. LEED Requirements for Commissioning
  3. Cx Prerequisite: Fundamental Commissioning
  4. Cx Credit Opportunity: Enhanced Commissioning
  5. Frequently Asked LEED Commissioning Questions
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What is LEED?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED program was established in 1998 by the US Green Building Council (USBGC) to lay the framework for more sustainable, efficient, and environmentally-friendly building design and construction.
The official logo for USGBC. Logo originates from Wikipedia
Developers and owners seek to earn LEED certification for their projects as it is not only an honorable achievement, but the program produces higher-performing building structures.
The LEED program is continuously refined to meet new industry standards. LEED v4 is the most current version, introduced in 2013. It includes requirements and opportunities for LEED credits through commissioning and presents new LEED requirements to commissioning.

LEED Requirements for Commissioning

LEED requirements are divided into nine different credit categories. In order to achieve credits in a specific category, all of the prerequisites must be met first.
For example, LEED commissioning credits in the Energy and Atmosphere category have prerequisites in Fundamental Commissioning and credit opportunities in Enhanced Commissioning, worth up to 6 points towards LEED certification.
The commissioning credit opportunities make it possible to get a better LEED score with commissioning.

LEED Commissioning Prerequisite: Fundamental Commissioning

Fundamental Commissioning is a LEED prerequisite. These LEED activities in the commissioning process must be met in the project to earn credits in the Energy and Atmosphere category.
Fundamental Commissioning requires all of the following commissioning (Cx) tasks for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies in accordance with ASHRAE Guideline 0-2013 and ASHRAE Guideline 1.1–2007 for HVAC&R Systems.
  • Review the owner’s project requirements (OPR), basis of design (BOD), and project design.
  • Develop and implement a Cx plan.
  • Confirm incorporation of Cx requirements into the construction documents.
  • Develop construction checklists.
  • Develop a system test procedure.
  • Verify system test execution.
  • Maintain an issues and benefits log throughout the Cx process.
  • Prepare a final Cx process report.
  • Document all findings and recommendations and report directly to the owner throughout the process.
A qualified commissioning authority (CxA) must be appointed to manage these commissioning activities in LEED by the end of the design development phase. In addition to the above requirements during project design and construction, the team must prepare and maintain a facilities requirements and operations and maintenance plan, including the following.
  • A sequence of operations for the building
  • The building occupancy schedule
  • Equipment run-time schedules
  • Setpoints for all HVAC equipment
  • Set lighting levels throughout the building
  • Minimum outside air requirements
  • Any changes in schedules or setpoints for different seasons, days of the week, and times of day
  • A systems narrative describing the mechanical and electrical systems and equipment
  • A preventive maintenance plan for building equipment described in the systems narrative
  • A commissioning program that includes periodic commissioning requirements, ongoing commissioning tasks, and continuous tasks for critical facilities
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LEED Commissioning Credit Opportunity: Enhanced Commissioning

Project teams can earn LEED credits through additional commissioning-related tasks in Enhanced Commissioning if all of the above Fundamental Commissioning requirements are met.
Enhanced Commissioning has two options for credits: Option 1 - Enhanced Systems Commissioning, worth 3-4 points, and Option 2 - Building Enclosure Commissioning, worth 2 points. If both options are achieved, a total of 6 points can be earned through Enhanced Commissioning.

Option 1 - Enhanced Systems Commissioning

Option 1 - Enhanced Systems Commissioning is comprised of two separate paths. Path 1: Enhanced Commissioning is worth 3 points and requires the commissioning authority to complete the following.

  • Review contractor submittals.
  • Verify inclusion of systems manual requirements in construction documents.
  • Verify inclusion of operator and occupant training requirements in construction documents.
  • Verify systems manual updates and delivery.
  • Verify operator and occupant training delivery and effectiveness.
  • Verify seasonal testing.
  • Review building operations 10 months after substantial completion.
  • Develop an on-going commissioning plan.
  • Include all enhanced commissioning tasks in the OPR and BOD.

Path 2: Enhanced and Monitoring-Based Commissioning is worth 4 points if the team develops a monitoring-based plan to measure and evaluate the performance of energy- and water-consuming systems and all of the Path 1 requirements are satisfied. The procedures and measurement points in the monitoring-based plan must include the following.

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Measurement requirements (meters, points, metering systems, data access)
  • The points to be tracked, with frequency and duration for trend monitoring
  • The limits of acceptable values for tracked points and metered values (where appropriate, predictive algorithms may be used to compare ideal values with actual values)
  • The elements used to evaluate performance, including conflict between systems, out-of-sequence operation of systems components, and energy and water usage profiles
  • An action plan for identifying and correcting operational errors and deficiencies
  • Training to prevent errors; planning for repairs needed to maintain performance
  • The frequency of analyses in the first year of occupancy (at least quarterly)

Option 2 - Building Enclosure Commissioning

Option 2 - Building Enclosure Commissioning is worth 2 points, bringing the total number of possible points for Enhanced Commissioning to 6 points. It can be completed with Option 1 or separately.

The team must fulfill the requirements of Fundamental Commissioning as they relate to the building's thermal envelope and complete the following commissioning tasks for the building's thermal envelope in accordance with ASHRAE Guideline 0 and ASTM E2947-16: Standard Guide for Building Enclosure Commissioning.

  • Review contractor submittals.
  • Verify inclusion of systems manual requirements in construction documents for enclosure systems.
  • For specialty enclosure systems with controls and automation:
    • Verify inclusion of operator and occupant training requirements in construction documents.
    • Verify systems manual updates and delivery.
    • Verify operator and occupant training delivery and effectiveness.
    • Verify seasonal testing.
    • Review building operations 10 months after substantial completion.
  • Develop an on-going enclosure commissioning plan for maintenance, renewal, and revitalization cycles.

Frequently Asked LEED Commissioning Questions

What is a LEED commissioning authority?

A LEED commissioning authority (CxA) is responsible for leading a project's entire commissioning process, from design to turnover.

To be compliant with LEED requirements, the CxA must have the following qualifications:

  • Have commissioning process experience on at least two building projects with a similar scope of work, from early design phase through at least 10 months of occupancy.
  • Be an employee of the owner, an independent consultant, or an employee of the design or construction firm who is not part of the project's design or construction team, or a disinterested subcontractor of the design or construction team.
  • For projects smaller than 20,000 square feet (1,860 square meters), the CxA may be a qualified design or construction team member. The CxA must report their findings directly to the owner in all cases.

Is commissioning a LEED requirement?

Commissioning is a LEED requirement in order to earn points in the Energy and Atmosphere category. To receive credits in this category, project teams must adhere to the commissioning provisions outlined in Fundamental Commissioning and Enhanced Commissioning.
While commissioning is not necessarily a requirement, it presents itself as an opportunity to earn up to 6 points toward LEED certification.

What is the difference between enhanced and fundamental commissioning?

Fundamental Commissioning is a LEED prerequisite that requires commissioning activities for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies.
Fundamental Commissioning requirements must first be met to qualify for Enhanced Commissioning credits. Enhanced Commissioning is worth up to 6 points towards LEED certification. It outlines various requirements for Enhanced Systems Commissioning and Building Enclosure Commissioning.

CxPlanner, be compliant and efficient with your commissioning process.

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