Skip to main content Skip to main content

The Commissioning Process: In Search of a Universal Definition and Application

Deb Pereira, Brock Graham, and P. Martin Sharpless, Gilbane


Commissioning definitions and applications vary widely across our industry, with the "line of demarcation" between commissioning and validation often blurred or misunderstood. While most research organizations embrace the benefits associated with commissionin- 8-10% reduction in operating costs, greater end-user comfort and satisfaction, etc.—their application of commissioning practices and requirements are not uniform, nor are their expectations or results.

The first and most important challenge is actually defining commissioning. To define commissioning we will look at the commissioning "spectrum" that encompasses code compliance at one end through true validation at the other, incorporating definition elements from ASHRAE, NIBS and others. We will look at how one of Gilbane's largest research clients has outlined the commissioning process—defining the "team", its roles, and its budget, process and documentation requirements. Finally we will look specifically at the commissioning process instituted on one of this client's most visible projects - Building 220 - a $160M, 585,000 SF new research facility that included lab, administrative and animal space. The engineer responsible for leading the commissioning process will explore the team's application of commissioning, their results and lessons learned.


P. Martin Sharpless is a Senior Manager with Gilbane, the fifth largest U.S. domestic builder, focused on Higher Education in the Mid-Atlantic Region. His clients include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, the University of Maryland System, Frostburg State University, George Washington University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia and Northern Virginia Community College. Gilbane is the largest builder of higher education facilities in the US, according to ENR Magazine in 2001, with projects at over 50 campuses nationally.

Mr. Sharpless was previously with Kling-Lindquist, a major Architectural/Engineering firm in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC. In addition, Mr. Sharpless has experience in real estate development, and with Ballinger, another major A/E based in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Sharpless is a registered Architect in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania, and graduated from Penn State University.

Professional Associations include:

  • Society of College and University Planners (SCUP)
  • US Green Building Council (USGBC)
  • Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Washington Chapter
  • Society of American Military Engineers, (SAME) Washington Chapter
  • Construction Owners of America Association (COAA) Greater Baltimore / Washington, DC Chapter
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)

EPA Home | OARM Home | DOE Home | FEMP Home

This page is no longer updated.
EPA gave I2SL permission to house this page as a historic record of the Labs21 Annual Conference.