Construction Term of the Month: Commissioning

Welcome to the newest addition to the Silverman CPM blog: Construction Term of the Week! Every industry has technical lingo that can feel like a foreign language to outsiders. We thought it would be helpful (and fun!) to explain common terms and their history.


Greystone SCPM Sign WebIn construction, the Commissioning (Cx) Industry is less than 30 years old and the first edition of BPA’s Building Cx Guideline was not published until 1989. As late as the mid-90’s, architecture, engineering and construction references books do not contain the term commissioning.

For as relatively new as the construction commissioning process and industry is, it is an imperative part of the construction life-cycle that confirms a building and its systems perform as intended. The term commissioning originally comes from shipbuilding. A “commissioned ship” is one whose materials, systems, and staff have successfully completed a thorough quality assurance process and is therefore deemed ready for service. Equipment is installed and tested, problems are identified and corrected, and the prospective crew is extensively trained.

New construction commissioning ensures that systems are designed, installed, functionally tested, and perform as the design intended. The commissioning process beings during design and continues through construction, occupancy, and operations. Initial building commissioning also includes preparing the building staff to operate and maintain its systems and equipment.

Retrocommissionsing applies the commissioning process to already existing buildings with the intention of improving the operations, equipment and systems function. This process can often resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, and/or address problems that developed during the building’s lifespan.

Recommissioning occurs when a building that has already been commissioned undergoes another commissioning process. A change in building use, ownership, the onset of operational problems, or some other need may trigger the recommissioning process.

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