As an owner’s quality assurance program, commissioning verifies and documents that a new data center, including all of its systems and assemblies, meets project requirements. More often than not, the owner’s requirements include improving availability, enhancing safety, boosting efficiency, and cutting operational costs, all while keeping the data center build project on time and budget.

It’s a tall order. As a result, commissioning needs to be a thorough and comprehensive process ranging from key activities such as specification planning and design oversight to integrated systems testing and warranty review. Acceptance testing, preferably performed by NETA-certified technicians, is another activity that is critical to the commissioning process. In fact, acceptance testing is one of the most essential components for ensuring a commissioning project delivers the outcomes the owner expects.

Importance of acceptance testing

As part of the commissioning process, acceptance testing of electrical power systems serves to ensure that individual components or pieces of equipment are installed properly; that they will operate according to the manufacturer’s specifications, industry standards, and design intent; and that all equipment operates efficiently as an integrated system.

Essentially, acceptance testing helps to identify the key culprits behind data center failures and outages so that they can be corrected before initial energization. These issues include improper coordination and calibration of protective devices, wiring errors, design errors, and human error.Obviously, acceptance testing has a significant and direct impact on data center availability, but it also impacts the overall cost and timeline of the data center project.

Traditionally, acceptance testing occurs during the construction or acceptance phase of a project, prior to data center occupancy. However, as an experienced industry leader in acceptance testing and commissioning Emerson Network Power’s Electrical Reliability Services advocates a fundamental change to the design and execution of data center commissioning projects—bringing acceptance testing to the forefront of the data center planning process.

Benefits of prioritizing acceptance testing

Such a change in the commissioning lineup promises a host of significant benefits for data center owners, not least of which is the opportunity for owners to give input into the critical acceptance testing process. Considering acceptance testing in the early stages of a project also amplifies the benefits afforded by testing and by the commissioning process overall.

Customized testing improves availability

Owners are generally more involved during the earliest phases of data center commissioning, and later on, may give the majority of project oversight to a contractor or third party. When acceptance testing discussions happen early in the planning process, owners can weigh in on testing priorities and requirements. This allows the commissioning authority (CxA) and the electrical testing team to better tailor service specifications to the size, complexity, and criticality of each data center, ensuring the right test and verification activities are performed at the right time to meet project requirements. Ultimately, this translates into a higher level of system availability after turn over.

Improved speed to market

Beyond ensuring an operational and optimized data center system, proactively planning for acceptance testing activities streamlines the entire commissioning process making the design/build effort as efficient as possible. Planning the appropriate tests at appropriate points in the project also minimizes re-work, change orders, and delays—keeping the project on schedule and accelerating speed to market.

Cost savings

The increased project efficiencies that result from prioritizing acceptance testing can also deliver significant cost savings of up to 10 percent on the combined cost of commissioning and acceptance testing services on a typical project. What’s more, when acceptance testing is well planned and properly executed, it serves to lower operation and maintenance costs and decrease utility bills once the data center is operational.

Data centers looking to invest in the commissioning process understand the role it plays in ensuring systems function safely and meet operational needs. Thanks to a new commissioning model that prioritizes acceptance testing and moves it the forefront of the planning process, data center and facility managers can expect even greater gains in project efficiency and operational reliability—saving them money during the project and beyond.