During my workshop last weekend, I posed the question above for discussion. Here was an intense reaction, which I took verbatim from the tape...
The energy modeler, when hired as a consultant to the design team, provides information to the design professionals in their decision making process toward achieving a highly efficient building. The energy modeler can only make recommendations based on the models. The designers select the options or recommendations that fit within the parameters of the project, most notably the owner's budget. When the modeler (as an independent firm) is contracted by the architect, or other member of the design team, they are not an employee of the design firm. The modeler also is not an employee or contracted through the contractor or construction manager. The modeler should then, under this scenario, be able to serve as the commissioning authority if they meet the qualification requirements. (satisfies the requirement that he/she must not be an employee of the design firm, though may be contracted through them). If the energy modeler is contracted directly by the owner, then this should satisfy the commissioning authority requirement.
The gray area occurs with the requirement that the individual serving as the CxA must be independent of the work of design and construction. The CxA is expected to be active in the work of the design and construction. The CxA is responsible for reviewing construction documents and ensuring that the design meets the owner's requirements. They are also active in the work of construction through review and inspection. The CxA who conducts "hands on" functional testing, that which goes beyond the witnessing of functional tests, may also be considered to be within the scope of construction. The CxA is encouraged to make recommendations that improve the design and function of the facility. They are often asked (and sometimes required) to identify ways to make the building more energy efficient, particularly with respect to the commissioned systems. These usually are not identified as deficiencies. These suggestions or recommendations, much like those of the energy modeler, may be accepted or rejected by the designers and/or contractor.
LEED has created obstacles for firms providing services on projects, particularly small projects in areas with a limited number qualified providers. In some cases this has resulted in higher costs which force the owner to move away from LEED. LEED 2009 appears to allow the energy modeler to be the CxA for fundamental commissioning for projects less than 50,000 sf. In the past a simple letter identifying any potential conflict of interest sent to the owner was sufficient to allow the energy modeler and commissioning authority to be the same entity. For enhanced commissioning, LEED should allow the energy modeler and CxA to be the same entity on small (
Christopher SchaffnerCEO & Founder
The Green Engineer
963 thumbs up
February 22, 2010 - 3:38 pm
I have been on many projects where the Commissioning Agent is also the energy modeler, as you describe. I have never seen this raised as an issue by the reviewers.
Joshua RadoffRenewable and Sustainable Energy Specialization Lead, MENV
University of Colorado Boulder
45 thumbs up
February 22, 2010 - 10:59 pm
I agree with Chris. It's not perceived as a conflict by reviewers and it's been done a bunch of times on our projects. And I would agree that it still preserves the integrity of an independent Cx authority.
261 thumbs up
February 23, 2010 - 9:18 am
Ditto. The energy modeler serves as a support function to the design team. At the end of the day it is the designer that has final say on the contruction and systems that are applied to the project. I see no conflict with the CxA.
The CxA can have an impact on efficiency but that is primarily through the review and verification of system functionality (more of an operational issue). The only areas of overlap between the energy modeler's recommendations and the CxA activities would be the confirmation of dynamic energy savings strategies (demand controlled ventilation, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting controls, etc) that may have been "suggested" by the modeler. Even in that case, the designer is the proffesional that determines if the system is included and how it should operate.