Category Archives: Management

ICA Role. Is this a Duplication of Resources?

Independent Commissioning Agent (ICA)

Green Star, among other ratings schemes offers points for the employ of an ICA. (Refer to Green Star documentation for details).

Here we go again, another ‘get out jail’ for the designer. Don’t get me wrong any commissioning and building tuning is greatly supported, by me.

Where did commissioning in design go? When did it go? Why did it go?

Multiple reasons I’m sure including:

  • Low Fees (must do a wordage search on how many times I see those words)
  • Buildings Built for Sale and not long term operation and ownership
  • Construction management style of building delivery
  • Loss of skills base (good engineers leaving the industry).

Note: Commissioning is not just commissioning the systems to work. It also should include building tuning. This will require the commissioning period to be extended into the defects liability or warranty period, and beyond, if required. The warranty period should become a period of tuning and checking to ensure that the systems are performing at their optimum efficiency during all climatic variations for the occupied building.

Designers Role

It’s absolutely the design engineers role to detail how the commissioning is to be undertaken, what and how it’s to be commissioned and incorporate in their designs  the; valves; dampers; straight lengths of ducts, meters, indication lights and everything else needed.

The designer documents should detail who can commission the systems, the qualifications and necessary experience required. This is, in many ways, a self-preservation act i.e. you need a good commissioning contractor to make your life easy.

It is not the designer’s role to actually commission any systems or set up a commissioning program and the like. However the consultant is responsible for reviewing said documents and final witnessing approval.

Client Role or Clients Representative Role

Clear instruction should be provided when seeking consultant fees. Note: Commissioning should be done regardless of Green Star points and sufficient time to commission should be allowed for in the building program.

Example Scope:

Provide integrated design and commissioning documents to enable the works to be tendered for complete installation and commissioning and building tuning.

Commissioning Works to include:

  • Description of each system to be commissioned
  • Detailed functional description, including full load, low load and partial load operational requirements.
  • BMS points list
  • For each system provide pre commissioning tests and commissioning tests required.
  • For each system detail the commissioning results to be achieved.
  • Include in the design all items required to be able to commissioning the system including:
    • Pitot traverse points
    • Valves
    • Dampers
    • Sensors
    • Gauges, Immersion Sensors, Test Points, Dosing pots etc.
  • Specify the requirements of the commissioning contractor including:
    • NEBB qualifications
    • Previous successfully commissioned similar buildings
    • Staff and staff experience
    • Commissioning program
    • Commissioning test reports


Commissioning and Building Tuning is always required and should be allowed for, regardless of Green Star points.

The designer and in particular the mechanical designer should document the commissioning requirements for the project.

An interesting overlap occurs between the designer and the ICA, if appointed for Green star points.

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 12/08/2014

Contact: e:, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI

D & C versus Full Design

Full Design or D&C?

This post discusses D&C vs Full documentation.

Should I fully document a project or go D&C?  

This question is normally answered by the Architect or the Project Manager at the very outset of a project. This is a fundamental decision point. The rest of the team have no input, indeed the project, or potential project is very often still under wraps.

If you’re going D&C, then the team should be involving D&C (design and construct) contractors (Builder, HVAC, Elec, Hydraulic and so on contractors) from the start.

If this is too hard (D&C contractors involved early), then your heading for the Full Design approach with usual consultant input or the half-way house, where the team (including Architect and Consultants), get the project to say 30% and then start the D&C process (The hope is that the 30% work is not abortive).

Basically it comes down to hard dollars (again) and trust. The hard dollars (will I get a cheaper price if I fully document and go to competitive tender) and the trust (can I trust a D&C contractor not to rip me off).

My Views

I’ve been asked this question so many times over the years (D&C vs Full documentation).

There is no clear best way to document a project. It always comes down to the individuals, either on the consulting team or the D&C team. See also my post on competitions.

I have seen a trend towards the D&C approach.

The typical pros are:

  • It’s cheaper (cuts out the consultant)
  • Full responsibility lies with the contractor and it was always going to.

The typical conns are:

  • A perception you will be ripped off
  • D&C design isn’t as good.
  • Full documentation means there are ‘no variations’.
  • The building may be too far down the track when the D&C contractor is appointed.

Are Consultants Creating the D&C approach?

My call is yes. There is a definite move to providing less in consultant documentation. Two classic examples are shown below.

E.g. 1: Its easier (Time wise, PI insurance etc) to not show balancing dampers on a drawing or commissioning valves and so on. Just put a note on the drawing or in the specification and let the contractor work it out.

Eg. 2: Co-ordination, will it fit? Let the contractor work it out attitude often pervades.

So, if the consultant is providing a concept design and in reality a schematic layout, you can see why industry groups think “I might as well just use the contractor”.

In the consultants defence a client fees may be so low, that all you can do is dust off the last similar project and regurgitate it.

If you’re a services contractor

If you’re a contractor with the willingness to employ great staff and undertake projects in a fair and reasonable manner, then absolutely the opportunity to excel and win work without consultant input is there.

Main D&C Contractors

The large and good D&C contractors are generally forgotten in the process. They are often frustrated having to tender on documentation, which is consultant derived and can be considered useless. Wrong Concept employed, not representing best value to the client, un coordinated drawings (that just can’t work) etc are the comments you hear on that side of the fence.

What Should Consultants Be Doing

I’ve been a consultant for most of my career, so forgive me for my slight bias.

A consultant should be offering more than great drawings.  And clients should be using consultants to do more than just ‘great drawings’.

What a consultant should be doing:

  • Ascertaining what the client wants
  • Ascertain what the Architect wants
  • Ascertain what the site will allow
  • Review the world wide market and report to the team the options available, with life expectancy, power and water consumption etc. (LCC). So the client can make the best and most informed decision.
  • Concept design, spatial planning
  • Setting minimum standards.

Summary: Providing the smarts

At this point the consultant can be moved to a watching brief role or if they have the skill set move to a ‘documentation consulting’ role. For the Architects reading, this is all similar to the ‘Concept Architect’ and ‘Documenting Architect’ roles.

If a consultant provides all the services above in a watered-down fashion (due to low fees shall we say), they will not be thanked and push more work the D&C route.


I’ve sat on the fence a bit on this one, but hopefully covered off the main topic items. I have not covered PI insurance on purpose. Your feedback and experiences would be appreciated…write a comment.

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 12/08/2014

Contact: e:, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI

Competitions and More Competitions

Competitions and More Competitions?

This post promotes the use of engineering competitions for buildings. Given the total cost of ownership of a building, the services solution(s), is nearly as important as the Architectural solution.

Many clients hold competitions to get the best Architectural design. They recognise there are many brilliant Architects out there and a competition allows for the idea and not the company to shine.

Why doesn’t this occur for the engineering services for a building?

It’s a given the Architectural solution has the biggest impact on all of us, in a community and place of work or home sense.

Once the Architect is on board the rest of the design team seems to be selected on the usual grounds…fees and the usual due diligence and sometimes just the usual ‘friendlies’.

Each building has its uniqueness and opportunities and at any given time there are individuals and companies who will have the right and best solution.

Benefits and Losses

Bare with me if you’re a visual only person…. from a buildings operational point of view, occupant comfort and cost of building ownership, the services engineer has a massive impact. The right engineer with the right system will bring untold benefits to the project.

Usual Benefits include:

  • Services design works
  • Life expectancy of services in line with building type
  • Running costs of building
  • Health and well-being of occupants
  • Thermal comfort
  • Visual comfort
  • And so on

Not so usual benefits include:

  • Winning edge to a team’s bid
  • Ability to enter and win awards
  • Low energy consuming building (happy everyone)
  • Reduced spatial needs
  • Adaptability
  • Free energy systems
  • Adoption of cutting edge technology and remaining ahead of the curve


Going to competition on services will ensure the best solution is put to the client, for that building.

A competition will in effect act as design development by the market place and removes design development by an engineering company, with fee constraints leading to a formulaic solution.

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 11/08/2014

Contact: e:, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI