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Melissa Dowland, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Plan Early for LEED Commissioning

Oct. 1, 2004
Lessons learned from a recent LEED commissioning audit

Part and parcel of winning a U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification is the auditing of submittal materials to ensure compliance with certification requirements. Unlike an IRS audit, this doesn’t have to be a heartache.

Certification is evaluated on a point system based on a total of 69 possible points and seven mandatory prerequisites. The owner and design team can choose the strategies they want to include in the building to achieve the points required for certification (26 points minimum). The LEED reference guide requires documentation to be submitted as proof that the green techniques were used.

The “audit” consists of a request for, and review of, information above and beyond the minimum required in the LEED reference guide. The LEED review process consists of an initial 30-day review and a final three week review; credits are marked for auditing during the initial 30-day review. Many projects contain credits from both v2.0 and v2.1 of the LEED programs.

Dome-Tech Commissioning recently completed work on the Mark Twain Education and Visitors Center in Hartford Conn., the first LEED-NC (new construction) certified building in the state. GreenStreet Construction of New York City was the LEED filing consultant and Robert Politzer was the project manager. The project was filed with a combination of v2.0 and v2.1 credits. In total, out of 35 total points attempted: 17 were provisionally accepted at the preliminary review; 5 were audited; 11 more were flagged as requiring additional information; and 2 points were rejected outright on the basis of misinterpreted or inapplicable credit requirements. By the final review, 10 of the 16 points either audited or requiring additional information were granted and the building was certified with 27 points.

Our company’s part of the certification process was basic commissioning (Prerequisite 1). Our commissioning submittal, consisting of the letter template, was accepted and marked for auditing as part of the initial 30-day review. The additional information requested was the commissioning report, which contained eight sections of material, including the DI, Cx Plan, IC sheets, FC sheets, issues database, and summary. We submitted the final report and it was accepted as sufficient supplementary information to satisfy the audit.

When performing LEED commissioning, our advice is to make sure the report includes the requirements listed in the LEED Reference Guides. These requirements are basic and should be part of any professional commissioning process. They are easy to assemble in the course of the project, but much harder to put together at the end. If the project is audited, supplying the required information is a slam dunk, if you were assembling it from the beginning.

The other advice is to start the LEED process early. Although this is a mantra that has been repeated many times, this project had some real life consequences as a result of starting the process when the design was complete. Credits for Carbon Dioxide Monitoring (Credit 1), Thermal Comfort, Compliance with ASHRAE 55-1992 (Credit 7.1), and Thermal Comfort, Permanent Monitoring System (Credit 7.2), were flagged as requiring additional information in the preliminary review. The project narrative included the control sequences, but they were unclear. Additional information was submitted, including drawings, but they were reported as “not highlighted and difficult to read.” Energy models and specification sections were submitted, but lacked information. As a result of this lack of clarity, these valuable points were denied. This happened because the job deadline was critical and there was no time to refine the documents. It is unfortunate that these points were denied. But even worse, because the bid documents contained information relating to the points, the customer might have ended up paying for some of the cost, anyway, as part of the overall bid.

A member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board, Ronald J. Wilkinson, PE, is vice president of operations for Dome-Tech Commissioning Services. Michael D’Aquila is the project executive for Dome- Tech Commissioning Services. He is a registered engineer in the state of New Jersey.

Related Articles:
Becoming a LEED-Accredited Professional
10th Global Engineering Conference Held
Using Standard 90.1 for Energy Savings and LEED Credits

About the Author


The founding principal of Seattle-based Wilkinson Commissioning Management, Ron Wilkinson, PE, LEED AP, CPMP, is the author of the first commissioning training program for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for New Construction and Major Renovations Green Building Rating System and the founding recording secretary for ASHRAE Guideline Project Committee 0.2/1.2, The Commissioning Process for Existing Building Systems and Assemblies/The Commissioning Process for Existing HVAC&R Systems. An ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer and an American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Lecturer, he has spoken on commissioning practices internationally. He is a longtime member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board.