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On Target: a Building Systems Commissioning Program at Sandia National Laboratories

Ralph Wrons, Sandia National Laboratories


Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico site, is committed to making building systems commissioning a standard and effective business practice. Since Sandia is in the midst of the largest building boom in its existence, which includes several complex laboratory facilities, employing rigorous building systems commissioning is essential to assuring that project requirements are met. Project requirements include the capacity, functionality, and efficiencies, on time and on budget.

Sandia has been making strides to include commissioning (Cx) in many projects since about 1994, but only recently has it been made a top priority. This presentation will touch on elements of this timeline and specific commissioning efforts at Facilities in the last few years will be highlighted. The lessons learned from trying to employ Cx and current objectives to formalize a comprehensive program will be discussed.


Sandia has three large projects with commissioning requirements:

  • One is an office/laboratory building in construction, scheduled for completion coincident with the October 2003 Labs 21 conference. A commissioning authority (CxA) is on contract to Sandia for this project.
  • Another is the Labs 21 pilot partner MESA project that is expected to begin construction by June 2003. A Test Engineer working for the Construction Contractor will carry out the requirements of the Commissioning Specification.
  • The third is the CINT project, which is beginning the Construction Documents phase of design. A commissioning plan was started in the schematic design phase and has been improved upon since, to the point it is setting the stage for how commissioning plans will be developed at Sandia.

In parallel with these projects, Sandia is evaluating proposals for a scope of work to provide commissioning services on a task order basis (recall: "largest building boom in its existence"). It is expected that the contracted Commissioning firm will provide design phase commissioning for the CINT project and assist with commissioning on a number of other projects of varying size and complexity. The CxA firm will assist Sandia in developing its commissioning program.

Findings from these various projects will be summarized and presented. Also expected are the development of benchmarks, such as reduced punch lists, reduced change orders, reduced customer complaints, to measure the effect of comprehensive commissioning.

Labs21 Connection:

Sandia is trying to follow many of the tenets of the Labs 21 approach in most of its large building projects. This includes setting goals and performance metrics to guide the design. Building systems commissioning is another of the tenets, employed to assure that energy and water efficiency targets are met. Commissioning will be essential to achieve the following in the MESA project: advanced energy metering, advanced energy efficiency of the hot water and chilled water systems of the Central Utility Building, the advanced water efficiency of the ultrapure water system. Along the way, efforts will be made to measure systems performance and compare to the performance metrics that were set in the design criteria phase.


Ralph Wrons has worked in Facilities Engineering at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico for 13 years. Until recently, he served as the Facilities Energy Manager for seven years. Since January 2003, he is in the Construction Inspection and Acceptance department and leading the Facilities effort to develop a formalized commissioning program for a range of project sizes, from design —› construction —› occupancy phase. Ralph has a B.S. in Energy Engineering from the University of Arizona and earned his P.E. license in New Mexico in 1997.

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