Brent Grimm, PE MBCx Manager
What is Monitoring-Based Commissioning?
Monitoring-Based Commissioning is a process that is applied to buildings to continually identify and improve performance over time. While traditional recommissioning projects might narrowly benchmark building ‘performance’ as energy use, monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) can handle an expanded set of benchmarks. The availability of a huge amounts of operational data and advanced software techniques to analyze that data quickly allows for the scope of performance to encompass simultaneously reducing energy use, improving comfort, ensuring compliant environments, and improving equipment life. While no two buildings are alike, the techniques and software that make up a robust MBCx program can be applied to a wide range of systems and facilities to drive improved building performance from any data-supported aspect.
This concept can be especially appealing to sensitive environments, such as hospitals, where reducing energy use is important, but maintaining environmental comfort of occupants is the priority. Additionally, since hospitals often contain critical spaces with airflow and/or adjacent space pressurization requirements, like operating rooms and isolation rooms, it is to be expected that operation improvement objectives would need to include maintaining code compliance for these spaces. There are many key performance indicators that can influence a building’s objective performance beyond energy and facility teams will have more confidence in projects that address all of them. ETC Group recognizes that all buildings have their own unique combination of factors, and therefore we have built our Monitoring-based Commissioning program to be customizable according to the specific needs of an individual building.
ETC Group’s MBCx program, which started in 2014, was initially conceived as a way to protect building energy savings that have been achieved through recommissioning-style projects. It’s been shown that over time, unmonitored buildings “drift” away from their optimized conditions and increase energy consumption. “Drift” can be the result of a variety of reasons:
- The lack of visibility into the massive amounts of data in controls systems
- Remodel/construction or other events that change system dynamics without optimizing the HVAC systems
- Override of automatic operation made by facility staff out of necessity, but that simply get forgotten (no one is perfect!).
- Mechanical equipment wear and tear that is difficult to detect (equipment can still accomplish objectives, but does so less efficiently).
- Building automation system programming issues that were not apparent during project implementation and commissioning.
- Removal of scheduling to address occupant comfort complaints.
- Changes to the building automation system that do not preserve optimized programming.
Now in 2021, after several years of continually improving the software and processes of ETC Group’s MBCx program, we have observed success in avoiding drift and other performance objectives, and providing a platform from which clients can:
- Continue to drive further system optimization
- Provide a building performance platform by which you can make informed decisions
- Collect data whereby recommissioning projects can be accurately scoped and quantified
Once a building’s performance objectives have been determined, ETC Group provides progress updates on these objectives in the form of periodic MBCx reports as well as an interactive online dashboard.
If more than one building is enrolled in the MBCx program, regional and/or enterprise reports are a valuable tool for benchmarking the progress buildings have made toward performance goals.
This report example focuses on high level key performance indicators, such as energy use intensity (EUI), year to date (YTD) total savings. It also includes high priority open issues, which are prioritized by annual cost savings (or cost avoidance) and other impacts such as occupant comfort, preventative maintenance, and critical space requirements. These open issues are vetted by ETC Group’s experienced energy engineers to ensure that the best information is shared with the facility teams, including actionable steps needed to resolve the issues.