CASE STUDY REVISIT:
Better Late Than Never: Commissioning was initially truncated due to schedule constraints, but facility managers are back on the case.
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In our original coverage of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Headquarters expansion, we noted that, a year into occupancy, the facility managers were still working kinks out of the systems. With two large buildings plus underground parking all sharing a common mechanical system, and lots of high-tech design strategies intended to save energy and increase comfort, those systems were perhaps overly ambitious for the minimally coordinated stream of separate contractors who installed them in a process dictated by public bidding laws.
In 2010, five years after occupancy, facility managers were still working to unravel the tangle of control sequences and sensors that were never fully tested or calibrated upon completion, despite the fact that the project earned a LEED Gold rating with a point for enhanced commissioning. “Better commissioning at the outset would have been a great benefit,” notes James Croft, sustainable operations program coordinator for CalPERS Facilities Management Section.
A summary of the energy bills from the past three years shows that electricity use, dominated by an on-site data center, is finally in line with projections made during design. Natural gas use continues to be much higher than predicted, however.
Croft has only been involved at the facility since 2009, but the facilities management firm, Colliers International, “has been working since 2006 without a full commissioning report or systems manual,” he reports. Various pieces of the puzzle are now falling into place. A grant from the California Building Commission has funded work on the zoning of daylighting circuits, according to Croft.
A full retrocommissioning process is in the works, informed by CalPERS’ success achieving LEED for Existing Buildings Silver certification for the older Lincoln Plaza North complex in 2009. The amount of documentation needed for that process “made us realize how important it is to maintain documents in the new building,” notes Croft.
In the meantime, sensors on the air-handling units have been calibrated, resolving a situation in which different units serving a common plenum were fighting each other, with some in heating mode and the others in cooling mode. And demand-control sensors for the parking garage exhaust fans have been replaced, to stop the fans from running continuously. It has taken a while, but the project is finally getting the attention it needs to achieve its potential.