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George Owens is a past president of "Association of Energy Engineers", an "Energy Manager of the Year" and an "Energy Managers Hall of Fame" inductee.


O&M Pays, Commissioning Helps
by George R. Owens, PE, CEM

In 1986 George Owens developed his first Preventive Maintenance Manual. In 1988 a formal Commissioning Process for mechanical and electrical systems was added to the Design Guidelines Manual, and in 1992 the Energy Task Force (ETF) Program was developed. The ETF is a low cost/no cost - back to basics O&M Program designed to reduce energy costs.

It has been our experience that an effective O&M Program has real benefits that are measurable. In 1985 an internal comparison was made between our centers that had a formalized Preventive Maintenance Program and those that did not (approximately 50%). The cost of maintaining those buildings not using the formal program was $0.31 per square foot vs. $0.25 per square foot where the program had been implemented. This represents a 19.4% savings without even considering the savings due to longer equipment life. The Energy Task Force was instituted at 19 locations and resulted in a $1.2 million dollar reduction in utility operating costs for these buildings, nearly 10%.

The goals of this paper are to:

  1. To demonstrate the value of quality O&M Programs.
  2. To show that commissioning can contribute to the success of an O&M programs, and,
  3. To discuss the barriers encountered with achieving high quality commissioning and O&M programs.

First, I must define the goals of Commissioning and O&M Programs. Different groups have different ideas of these concepts and the definition of a good program ranges from doing nothing to "Launching a Space Station":

  1. Commissioning is a formal procedure to insure that the new building operates satisfactorily to the owner's requirements. It includes the following elements (note that the starred items () are often already included in most specifications):
    • Systems installed per plans and specifications.
    • Point by point verification of control systems.
    • Electrical testing & cleaning.
    • Generation of punchlists.
    • Completion of punchlists.
    • Written commissioning procedures.
    • Verification of air and water balance.
    • Review of design after all of the above is completed.
    • Documentation.
    • Training.

  2. The Goals of a good O&M Program (in order of importance) from an owner's standpoint may surprise a few:

    Goal #1: No Complaints
    As a commercial building owner, the tenant's comfort must take the highest priority. Without tenants to lease to, the reason for the building is non-existent. A good O&M Program (primarily through Preventative Maintenance), will help to maintain comfort, reliably.
    Goal #2: No Capital
    A good Preventative Maintenance Program will prolong the life of the mechanical and electrical systems and reduce the need for future major capital. For example, the generally accepted standard for roof top HVAC unit life is 15 years. We routinely receive 25 to 35+ years life before replacement due to good preventative maintenance.
    "Goal #3: Low Operating Costs
    Low Operating Costs are achieved by two of the components of an O&M Program. First of all, Preventative Maintenance contributes to lowering energy costs due to clean coils, filter changes, etc., as well as reducing the repair and future capital costs. A program such as the Energy Task Force will identify all of the operational changes required to reduce the utility bills.
  • Ensure that the systems actually work.
  • Supply manufacturers instruction sheets with Preventative Maintenance Procedures and frequencies.
  • Develop easy to follow operating instructions that ties all of the systems together.
  • Help to develop the requirements for the staffing level and their qualifications to achieve an effective O&M Program.

  • Commissioning cannot ensure that an effective O&M Program is implemented. All commissioning can do is provide the tools at turnover to ease the efforts of the owner in implementing, maintaining and improving an O&M Program. The single most important element that will ensure that an O&M Program will succeed is long term commitment by the owner. Without the commitment, an O&M Program will be ineffective if it exists at all.
  • Commissioning will also not necessarily guarantee the highest level of efficiency. often fine tuning of the building through and O&M Program can further reduce operating costs based upon actual parameters not design assumptions.

    An effective O&M Program results in measurable improvements to tenant comfort, reliability, reduced future capital costs and reduced operating costs. A well executed commissioning process provides the tools to allow an O&M Program to be implemented. However, unless the owner has long-term commitment, the effectiveness of the O&M Program will suffer, tenant complaints will increase, equipment will fail prematurely and operating costs will go through the roof.

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