McKinstry’s Phillip Saieg and Josh Harwood are pioneering the concept of “Net Zero Commissioning”—a re-envisioning of the industry that posits the necessity of commissioning agents positioning themselves on the net zero energy frontier in order to stay relevant.
Though most in the construction industry are familiar with the concept of a net zero energy building (wherein the total amount of energy used by the building is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site), Saieg and Harwood think commissioning agents need to become a vital part of the net zero discussion.
“High-performance buildings are becoming more and more ubiquitous, but only half the industry knows you’ve got to have a commissioning agent to build a proper high-performance building,” Saieg said. “It’s up to the commissioning industry to take this by the horns and broaden their horizons, because otherwise they’ll be left out.”
Saieg argues that net zero energy should be an operational goal, not just a design and construction goal.
According to Saieg, commissioning agents—currently too often relegated to an ancillary role evaluating the building and its systems at the tail end of construction—are uniquely suited to position themselves as key players throughout the entire building creation process, especially within the burgeoning energy-efficient building market.
“Commissioning agents can and should play a critical role,” Saieg said. “If somebody designs a net zero building and it isn’t performing, they’ll look to the commissioning agent, who should’ve been involved in the conversation from the beginning instead of being hamstrung.
“Bringing in commissioning agents earlier so they can take on responsibility and ownership should be the ultimate goal,” he concluded. “It’s cheaper to use a pencil eraser during design than it is to build something new.”
Saieg and Harwood first presented their net zero commissioning concept at the 2015 National Conference on Building Commissioning (NCBC) in St. Louis this past May.
“Commissioning can feel like herding cats, but it’s really about trying to fill in the gaps and challenging the building team,” Harwood said. “With net zero or high-performance buildings, you’re designing a structure around specific energy consumption needs and prioritizing its long-term performance and operation—I think that’s where commissioning agents can really shine.”