Project startup and commissioning is the process of assuring that all systems and components of a building or industrial plant are designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained according to the operational requirements of the owner.

Commissioning activities, in the broader sense, apply to phases of the project, from the basic and detailed design, procurement, construction, and assembly, until the final turnover of the unit to the owner.

Getting a project to substantial completion then through commissioning is a tremendous, yet often undervalued, challenge during the building of a project.  This process involves thousands of actions performed by hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals from all facets of the construction chain including manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, contractors, construction managers, consultants, allied professionals, project managers, developers, owners, government, end users, etc.

While the obligations of each are often detailed in the project documents and various contracts, they are not always coordinated as well as they could be which can lead to costly and delays in achieving total owner startup.

The majority of failures occur because very little planning goes into the last 10% of the project when it should.  At the beginning of the project, everyone is focused on getting the design done and getting boots on the ground in the field.  “Why should we talk about the startup, when we haven’t even put a shovel in the ground?” can be heard.

Despite best practices being available, problems arise from the fragmented nature of the many organizations who need to collaborate in a constantly changing work environment.  Priorities are ever changing, and the focus usually remains on the design and construction of the project.  Even though best practices exist through organizations like the Building Commissioning Association, the focus remains on getting the structure up, not what is going to be done with it, once it is up.

To change the commissioning process to a positive process, CCS developed a Startup/Commissioning application to leverage the principals put forth in a paper written by Timothy D. Blackburn.  He describes his InVEST approach that applies to all projects big and small, simple or complex and is paraphrased below.

In – Integrate commissioning with all required documentation whether it is regulated or not.  Incorporate commissioning activities in vendor’s/subcontractor’s scope of work and design documents.

Verify that every system and associated equipment will work, through the quality process used in designing and constructing the facility.

Ensure that the commissioning effort is sufficiently scoped to ensure that the testing and inspection activities will result in successful operation the first time.

A sensible approach to the level necessary, do enough but don’t overdo it.

Traceable documentation is an absolute.  Remember the saying, “If you don’t document it, you didn’t do it.

Your commissioning team could be made up of just a couple people, or an entire team of hundreds of people.  Regardless, the criteria of the following protocol is an acceptable standard throughout the industry for those that are successful in this aspect of the project.  This approach is another key in the foundation for the CCS best practice questions.




Post construction

Capital Construction Solutions is proud to release it’s sixth risk management module for Startup Commissioning to help the industry improve productivity, provide relevant questions at the point of impact and help train a workforce where fewer workers are joining the trades. While construction is inherently a risky industry, we strongly believe that a standardized process to identify and manage specific friction points within construction will increase company profits and win more work.

Together, we can all collectively transform construction to eliminate negative productivity and schedule delays that have dogged down the industry for years.