ASHRAE, a global nonprofit membership organization with more than 57,000 members in more than 130 countries worldwide, has been leading the engineering and development of facility standards and guidelines for 120-plus years. It is an ANSI-accredited standards development organization (SDO), and some ASHRAE standards get adopted into building codes, such as ANSI/ASHRAE standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

ASHRAE has been actively supporting the mission critical industry for decades in various ways through its  technical committees; research efforts; books, white papers, and presentations; and standards and guidelines. 

Most critical facilities professionals are familiar with ASHRAE technical committee TC 9.9 — Mission Critical Facilities, Data Centers, Technology Spaces, and Electronic Equipment — and its “Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments” publication, which was originally published in 2004 and is now on its fourth edition.

Additionally, the organization recently developed and published standard 90.4, Energy Standard for Data Centers, which is being adopted into various state building codes.  ASHRAE has also been a leader in developing and promoting formal building commissioning best practices through various standards and guideline committees and their resulting publications, including ANSI/ASHRAE standard 202-2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, and ASHRAE Guideline 0-2019, The Commissioning Process.

Guideline 0-2019 describes a generic process that can be applied to the commissioning of almost any facility from commercial office buildings to auditoriums to data centers. It is considered by many to be the most comprehensive and user-friendly commissioning guideline available.

ASHRAE has another technical committee — TC 7.9, Building Commissioning — which is the cognizant technical committee for various ASHRAE commissioning-related efforts.  The overarching commissioning committee for TC 7.9 is SSPC-300.  Each standard or guideline is managed and updated by a standard project committee (SPC) or guideline project committee (GPC), including the following: 

  • Standard 202-2018, Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems;
  • Guideline 0-2019, The Commissioning Process;
  • Guideline 0.2-2015, Commissioning Process for Existing Systems & Assemblies;
  • Guideline 1.1-2007, HVAC&R Technical Requirements for the Commissioning Process;
  • Guideline 1.2-2019, Technical Requirements for the Commissioning Process for Existing HVAC&R Systems and Assemblies;
  • Guideline 1.3-2018, Building Operations & Maintenance Training for the HVAC&R Commissioning Process;
  • Guideline 1.4-2019, Procedures for Preparing Facility Systems Manuals; and
  • Guideline 1.5-2017, The Commissioning Process for Smoke Control Systems.

In 2017, ASHRAE approved the development of a new commissioning guideline specific to data centers, and GPC-1.6, Commissioning of Data Centers, was formed. The new title, purpose, and scope were approved, and, in 2018, work began in earnest on developing this guideline. Current membership includes representatives from many well-known engineering and commissioning firms from both domestic and international locations.

ASHRAE considers “standards” to be minimum requirements for meeting a performance goal, such as energy efficiency.  Standard 90.4 establishes the minimum energy efficiency a data center design must meet in order to be compliant. 

Guidelines, on the other hand, should establish industry best practices and are not intended to be adopted into code and enforced by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  As such, the proposed guideline 1.6 will establish industry best practices for commissioning data centers.

SSPC-300 has directed GPC-1.6 to develop the new guideline to be complementary and consistent with guideline 0-2019 and standard 202-2018. The approved purpose is to provide “technical support for the application of the commissioning process to data centers” and is intended to be used in conjunction with guideline 0-2019 versus as a standalone document. 

The scope of the guideline is intended for use with new construction and ongoing commissioning efforts. It provides assistance in the application of Guideline 0 and/or ASHRAE Standard 202 to data centers, addresses commissioning process issues particular to data centers, provides technical support for the commissioning of data centers, and applies to data center support infrastructure — not to data equipment and networks.

GPC-1.6 has also established formal liaisons with other ASHRAE committees, including TC 9.9 and SSPC-90.4, as well as non-ASHRAE entities, such as the Building Commissioning Association (BCA), to ensure the final guideline reflects the industry consensus on what constitutes best practices. 

The proposed guideline will be submitted for public review and comment before being finalized and approved by the ASHRAE board of directors. The actual development of the guideline content is being performed by various subcommittees addressing specific aspects of the guideline. 

The guideline will include the following sections: forward, purpose, and scope; definitions; utilization; initiating the commissioning process; owners project requirements (OPR); commissioning plan; basis-of-design (BoD); commissioning process documentation; design review and commissioning specifications; submittal reviews; factory witness testing; load bank plan; construction observations; testing; systems manuals; training; post occupancy; and final commissioning report.

Most, if not all, ASHRAE committee work is performed by volunteers except for the actual ASHRAE staff who manage the processes and bureaucracy but otherwise leave the technical work to the committee members. 

The development of standards must follow a very rigid protocol that is compliant with the ANSI standards development process. 

The development of guidelines is somewhat less rigid but is still a vendor-neutral, transparent, and public process. 

Committee meetings are generally open to the public, and those scheduled during the semi-annual national conferences are posted on the ASHRAE website and technical programs. 

ASHRAE GPC-1.6 has made significant progress, but there is still a lot of work left to be done — even after it has been completed and approved for publication.  The guideline will need to be updated and maintained over time.

SSPC-300 has already indicated it may eventually be separated into two guidelines — one for new construction, and one for existing facilities. 

The more people who volunteer, the faster the guideline will get completed. If you are interested, there are multiple ways to help. Find out how you can get involved now by contacting ASHRAE at