One project, 10 buildings, 20 companies, 90 systems, 1,500 pieces of equipment, and 1,500 tests — that’s what Environmental Systems Design Inc. (ESD) managed during the commissioning (Cx) of a 28-MW mission critical project for a Fortune 500 client. By utilizing a cloud-based web application to create a database of equipment linking the project’s related systems, spaces, and buildings, ESD maintained a vast amount of information in real time. There are many benefits of digital Cx software, but here are the top eight reasons ESD utilizes a web application to increase Cx project value.

1. Improved design review, collaboration, and organization.

Design reviews involve multiple parties commenting on drawings or Excel logs and sending them to the engineer of record (EOR) and owner. Any successive responses can generate multiple versions of Excel logs or marked-up drawings. With digitization, stakeholders can collaborate  through a single platform on an issue-by-issue basis rather than waiting to receive all comments at once.

Example: ESD created a design review master log in the digital software that the commissioning authority (CxA) and all reviewing stakeholders could access. This helped the client collate design review comments from multiple parties and led to a more organized comment/response procedure. Additionally, during this project, the team review of ESD-produced functional performance test scripts (FPTs) was performed using the design review capability, which allowed the client, EOR, and CxA to collaborate and efficiently finalize testing procedures.

2. Easy-to-use installation verification checklists.

Completing installation verification checklists (IVCs) can be tedious for contractors, but ensuring equipment is properly installed and started up prior to testing and turnover is a pivotal part of the Cx process.

Example: Intstead of creating one IVC for each piece of equipment with lines/sections assigned to multiple installing contractors, ESD utilized the software to break down checklists into separate sub-IVCs for each installing contractor, so only the lines pertaining to them were assigned. This allowed contractors to concentrate on their assignments without wasting time searching through hundreds of checklist lines. Additionally, contractors could group and filter those checklists by similar equipment types to enhance efficiency.

3. Efficient search and sort for deficiencies.

With large, fast-paced projects, it is common for there to be over 100 deficiencies to manage and multiple functional tests to be executed at any point in time. The digital issues log used in conjunction with a linked equipment-system-locations database (Figure 1) can be a game changer for the project team, as it allows any team member to search for issues based on the building, space, and/or discipline (trade) on which they needed to concentrate. Automatic email notifications are sent to the party responsible for issue closure and serve as an additional reminder to push a resolution forward.

Example: During the peak of construction, there were multiple teams working simultaneously — some executing functional tests, others verifying resolution of issues, and some reviewing closed-out issues to increase efficiency for future buildings. With over 1,000 total issues, the controls contractor and CxA could filter to only show controls issues in the area they were working.

4. Filtering deficiencies based on criticality.

There are instances where a handful of issues affect the ability to continue testing a piece of equipment or downstream systems. The “priorities” feature in various software programs identifies issues as “critical” or “high priority” so they can be escalated.

Example: When ESD’s recent project was in full swing, there were over 100 issues to be closed out. The project team prioritized the closeout of critical and high-priority issues, which allowed the project to continue moving forward and gave a sense of relief to the client.

5. Filtering deficiencies based on status.

During the construction phase, it is common to identify issues that require special follow-up. The web application allows the CxA to track such issues.

Example: There were instances where it was concluded that the sequence of operations needed to be modified in order for the system to perform/control better. ESD documented these and assigned custom “Track for As-Built Update”  statuses to them. This allowed the EOR to ensure in-field changes were captured in final turnover documentation.

6. Multiple workflows for each building.

For large projects with buildings in different phases of construction at a single point in time, it is important to track progress accurately in each activity. Cx software utilizes multiple workflows to report the progress of different phases of construction in different buildings separately.

Example: During the middle of the project, there were different activities going on in different buildings — Level 1 equipment installation in one building, Level 3 International Electrical Testing Association (NETA) testing in another, and Level 4 functional testing in yet another. To track issues for each type of construction activity separately and accurately, the Cx team created different workflows for each building. This also provided the client with access to a report detailing the project’s progress.

7. Easy communication and follow-up on dormant deficiencies.

The key to closing out issues observed during functional testing is constant communication and follow-up with each stakeholder. Digitization enables the Cx team to do this in a smarter way.

Example: With the ability to sort and filter issues based on the number of days since the issue was identified, and integrating the filters for responsible parties and equipment system locations, ESD could send specific stakeholders a link to the issues that had been open for more than 10 days and follow up with them to accelerate the issue closure process.

8. Equipment-based reporting.

After turnover, operators may need to create a method of procedure to operate a piece of equipment. Having a history of issues observed during startup and Cx can be very helpful in the troubleshooting process. With the equipment-based reporting structure for Level 1 to Level 5 documentation and the deficiencies log, all the project’s FPTs and related documentation, deficiencies log, etc., can be easily searched/accessed in the software.

Example: ESD tracked design and construction issues and the resolutions for each piece of equipment using an equipment-based reporting structure. This report was also developed so that it could be sorted on a per-building basis. This gave facility managament an excellent reference for future maintenance or troubleshooting, ultimately leading to decreased downtime.

On large-scale mission critical projects with quick turnover of spaces/buildings, it is imperative for all stakeholders to seamlessly collaborate in an effort to achieve the highest level of efficiency and accuracy throughout the entire life cycle. With the architecture, engineering, and construction industry already relying heavily on cloud-based design and construction platforms, digitizing the Cx process can make this goal a reality.