The Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer gives me another chance to write a blog post about Star Wars and Building Commissioning!

The first trailer for the upcoming Star Wars movie has me really fired up. Star Wars Episode IV is far and away my favorite all time movie. So I’m really excited for the new movie release, but good grief we have to wait until December 2015! The new trailer got me thinking about my previous blog post on Star Wars, the Death Star, and Building Commissioning.
My thoughts eventually took me to Episode VI, where Luke Skywalker and his friends once again face long odds. At the start of the movie, Luke Skywalker is supposedly a Jedi Knight (although we don’t really see him do anything cool), Han Solo is frozen in carbonite (since he was in carbonite, does that mean there’s an online backup of Han Solo somewhere?), and everyone else is hanging around Jabba the Hutt’s house. Since this is a family blog, we’ll skip discussion of Princess Leia’s garb during the start of the movie, arguably the only positive at that point.
On the other side – the Emperor and Darth Vader. The Emperor is nearly all powerful in the Force – I mean, the guy can shoot lightning out of his fingertips, and even Darth Vader is scared of him. And there’s Darth Vader, with the whole breathing thing, outfit, and deep voice. So we’re really supposed to believe the good guys are going to win against these two, plus all the stromtroopers and cool stuff the bad guys have?
The Emperor is building a new Death Star! Impossibly, the old guy is repeating his mistake from Episode IV – they design the thing with a vulnerability. The original Death Star design team probably got whacked at the end of Episode IV when the original Death Star blew up. So the new team of architects and engineers probably weren’t too worried about successful design and construction since the old guy was used to catastrophic building failure. And it turns out, the Emperor wasn’t doing so great – check out those wrinkles. He’s really worried about Luke Skywalker. So the bad guys have some issues too.
indignant designer meme

we don’t need building commissioning!

But the Emperor’s design team learned a lesson – they’ll use a shield to protect the new Death Star! The shield generator is in a secret location guarded by zillions of Imperial soldiers. Seems like a sound plan. Think of this shield as spray applied sealant or face sealed system as the only means to protect a building against water (situations where there’s no cladding drainage plane). Not a good idea in the movie, and not a good idea in real life. But that’s another discussion for a different day.
even the most powerful weapon in the universe is vulnerable without building commissioning

even the most powerful weapon in the universe is vulnerable without building commissioning

So, Luke and his cohorts set out to destroy the shield generator while the Rebel fleet gets ready to attack the new Death Star. However, a bunch of cute little teddy bears manage to capture Luke & friends and derail the plan. And Luke can’t Jedi mind trick them, flick them away with his hands, or anything else. You have to wonder what Yoda really taught Luke. It’s not looking good.
But Luke & friends make nice with the little guys and then proceed to attack the shield generator, only to face capture. Luke willingly turns himself in, thinking he’s going to change his Dad’s mind (see reference above to fear of guy who shoots lightning from fingers) and defeat the Emperor.
The Rebel fleet shows up, and discovers that “It’s a trap!!!”. Really? That’s it? I mean, why not head off into hyperspace and live to fight another day? Instead, the Rebel fleet sits there and gets decimated. You didn’t have to be James T. Kirk to realize, “hey, we better get outta range!”.
But the little woodland creatures save the day, the shield generator gets blown up, the Rebels attack, Luke Skywalker gets mad at Darth Vader and almost whacks him, and the Emperor, despite all his powers, gets thrown down a shaft WHILE STILL SHOOTING LIGHTNING OUT OF HIS FINGERS! And the Rebels blow up the Death Star.

The Emperor Should Have Chosen Building Commissioning!

I mean, the Emperor really could’ve used a Commissioning Agent – not once, but twice. Think of how the fate of the galaxy may have changed. Building Commissioning, applied to the first Death Star, and definitely the second, could’ve saved the old guy some headache. At the very least, the Commissioning Agent would’ve suggested putting a shield around the shield generator, thereby protecting the shield that really mattered. Although I bet a behind the scenes look would reveal the backup shield and generator was “value engineered” out of the job. Just go with me on this.

this guy skipped building commissioning – and got force choked

So if you’re a building owner, architect or engineer, contractor, or facility manager who’s faced repeated building system failures, consider building commissioning, and you may not get the shaft like the Emperor eventually did (sorry, just had to do it).


choking designer meme

Engaging a commissioning agent doesn’t guarantee project success, but building commissioning sure can help.

There are many reasons to consider Building Commissioning. Done successfully, Building Commissioning helps:
  • >Define the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), so everyone involved in the project understands what the Owner considers important for project success (what a concept, right?).
  • >The Design Team understand the OPR and effectively communicate the design and operational requirements to the Contractor.
  • >Contractors  understand the testing, measurement, and verification (along with training, warranty, etc.) requirements.
  • >Make sure there’s a smooth transition from the Contractor to the Owner’s operations personnel.
  • >Ensure success doesn’t just exist on paper–it provides real, measurable data that verifies successful project completion and performance.
  • >Reduce the overall cost for operating and maintaining a building.

Who does Building Commissioning?

You don’t have to be a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord to engage a building commissioning professional. We don’t use The Force. But it sure would be cool if we did!
Typically, the Owner engages an independent third party to facilitate commissioning. This person acts as the Owner’s representative in preparing building commissioning plans, communicating with Design Team members and Contractors, reviewing design documents, evaluating test results and reports, and training of Owner’s personnel in O&M procedures. This person checks as appropriate to make sure the commissioning plan is being executed, and in the end, prepares a report outlining results.
Not as exciting as using The Force, but this stuff is pretty important.
The Commissioning Agent (sometimes called the Commissioning Authority or Commissioning Professional) should have appropriate background and credentials in Building Commissioning. Love of Star Wars movies is recommended but not required.

May The Force be with you. Contact me for a free tip sheet on how to perform building commissioning without blowing up the Death Star. Or I can help you blow up the Death Star – did I mention we also provide demolition consulting services?

Chris White, P.E., LEED AP, CBCP has been helping clients solve problems for 20 years. He is the most interesting engineer in the world, and is a LEED Accredited Professional and Certified Building Commissioning Professional (CBCP). You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisWhitePE.