This year, resolve to Commission all of your projects

I hope your 2015 is off to a great start. Instead of asking you about your personal to-do list for 2015 (or worse, share mine), I thought I’d share an idea for a New Year’s Resolution that can help your projects move along. Project commissioning can help improve project performance.
You may have seen past blog posts on how Building Commissioning can help project teams successfully execute projects. Building Commissioning can keep costs down (over the long haul), reduce overall project time, improve communication, and in general make the Owner or Client happier than they may otherwise have been, since Building Commissioning projects involve the novel concept of defining the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR).
Ok, fine. But what if you’re not involved in Building Commissioning projects? I respectfully submit that if you’re involved in any kind of design, construction, renovation, demolition, or environmental sampling project, Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) matter a great deal. Or if you’d like, change OPR to Client’s Project Requirements (CPR). It’s extremely important to define success on every project – no matter the size.
Start by asking the person who’s paying the bill for exactly what they want. I’m not a mind reader, and plowing ahead on a project without defining the client’s project goals can punch you in the mouth. Ask me how I know. Even if you do everything you said you would, you may end up with an unhappy client. Once you discover your client is unhappy, you’ll try to fix the situation, but you may wind up unhappy, even if the client winds up satisfied. For you Owners out there, do you want unhappy consultants, design professionals, and contractors? I doubt it.
Before I go further, I want to be clear on one thing – I’m not finding fault with design professionals, contractors, or Owners/Clients here. We all have a part to play in good (or hopefully not, bad) communication. And sometimes not communicating, even if no one’s to blame, can lead to unhappiness for some or all of the project team. Not good.
project commissioning can help you avoid being Force choked

project commissioning can help you avoid being Force choked by your client, or your boss

Let me lay out a common scenario that plays out at our office: a contractor calls up asking for exposure monitoring for asbestos or lead. After asking for air sampling for the particular analyte, they usually stop talking. That’s when my vast experience kicks in, and I start asking a bunch of questions to find out where and when the work will happen, how many samples we need to collect, reporting requirements – all the information I need to do my job. Hopefully, this results in my delivering a comprehensive proposal, I win the project, we do a good job, and the client gets what they need and are happy. And they hire us again. But what if I don’t ask something important, and I wind up not taking enough samples, or delivering the final report after the client wants it? This is bad enough on a one-day sampling job, but if this happens on a large, long duration project, this could be bad for all involved.
Even though this may not seem to apply to you, I bet you see how this can apply to any project. I hope you consider Commissioning all of your projects – regardless of type, and you develop and implement a process that allows you to define the OPR or CPR (whatever you wind up calling it). I mean, the U.S. Navy commissions ships and submarines, even though they’ve built a ton of vessels. If it’s good enough for the U.S. Navy, it’s probably good for our projects too, right?
Are you or your project team currently involved in Building Commissioning projects, or do you have a process for Commissioning projects, regardless of type? Please share your story in the comments section.
Stay resolved, my friends.
Contact me for a free tip sheet with ideas for Building Commissioning, or for ideas on developing a Commissioning procedure for your projects.

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.