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Successful Commissioning Strategies for Research Buildings

Peter Lotz, AIA, Watkins Hamilton Ross Architects
David Duthu, PE, ccrd partners


Comprehensive commissioning has become an important part of the project delivery system for complex technologically advanced research buildings.

In this presentation, Watkins Hamilton Ross/ccrd partners will describe how to integrate a research building's components and systems into a project Commissioning Plan, identify procedures and protocols for testing and verifying systems, resolve failure to operate provisions when encountered, and outline techniques for selecting a Commissioning Agent (CA). The University of Texas at Austin Biological Science—Wet Lab Building, currently under construction with a detailed commissioning plan, will be used to demonstrate the process, procedures and protocols, and provide examples of documents that should be used for a state-of-the-art research facility.


The Methodology of Commissioning
Commissioning is a systematic, comprehensive and dynamic process of ensuring that all building systems perform interactively according to the design intent and the client's project requirements and operational needs.

The commissioning services process follows a logical sequence of testing, verifying and documenting the installation and proving of components, equipment and ultimately integrated structural, architectural, electrical and mechanical systems to ensure design intent and operational requirements are met. Forms and other documents will be used to illustrate the process.

How to Select a Commissioning Agent
During the presentation we will discuss the Who, What, When and How of selecting a CA.
WHO - We will discuss the different approaches as to who should be selected as the CA.
WHAT - We will present suggestions on the different activities the CA should be expected to participate.
WHEN - We will present ideas as to when the CA should become involved in the process.
HOW - We will share some approaches to soliciting and selecting the appropriate CA for their project. Several approaches will be considered including the Independent, Designer, Contractor, Owner and Multi-party Commissioning Agents.

The solicitation process will be discussed identifying the skills and experience needed by a CA. The success of a project depends on selecting the right team. The CA, in particular, plays a significant role in ensuring that all building systems perform interactively according to the design intent and the client's project requirements and operational needs. A systematic CA selection process is therefore of utmost importance.

Labs21 Connection:

After reviewing Labs21 Approach, "Incorporate a comprehensive, whole building commissioning process into new construction and retrofit projects" is most reflected in our presentation.

Participants will be guided through the commissioning process beginning with the establishment of protocols and procedures during the design phase and continuing through with implementation during construction, and the subsequent warranty period which typically is one year following occupancy.

During the design phase, specific and detailed checklists are created for the various systems to be commissioned. During the construction phase the Commissioning Team implements the plan and represents a partnership between the parties that will result in a fully documented facility that performs in accordance with design intent and the operational needs of the user and owner. A well-executed Commissioning Plan enables quality control to be performed throughout the construction phase which will result in a shorter project closeout period, allowing the user to occupy the facility sooner.

To provide a high level of service, it is extremely important that the personnel in the project team maintain continuing involvement from project inception, through project design, construction and project commissioning, project closeout and client occupancy. A great volume of data that has to be processed requires permanent attention.

Additional Comments or Materials:

The Biological Science - Wet Lab Building project will construct a new 170,000 gross square feet research facility on The University of Texas at Austin campus. The building will contain modular flexible laboratories, laboratory support, offices and meeting rooms. The research mission of this building will consist of molecular biology, neurobiology, and microbiology. The project supports this mission by providing urgently needed modern wet-bench laboratory space. Watkins Hamilton Ross Architects in association with Overland Partners have completed the Facility Program and commenced the Design of the facility. The construction phase including commissioning is in progress under the management of WHR. The building is a five-story structure with a central six-story element housing a heat recovery system for energy conservation. The building massing, setbacks and architectural appearance fully adhere to the campus master plan and architectural and landscape design guidelines. Provisions will be made for future expansion by incorporating two additional shell floors that will be completed at a later date.

This project was led by Peter Lotz, Project Manger of WHR. He collaborated efforts with David Duthu, Senior Mechanical Engineer of ccrd partners to develop the commissioning process for this project. Together they implemented their plan during the construction phase. It was a partnership between all parties involved (design team, construction manager and owner) and will result in a fully documented facility that performs in accordance with design intent and operational needs of the users and owner. They understand that a well-executed plan can enable the quality control process to be highly effective resulting in a shorter project closeout and often times provide a successful facility to the user much sooner.


Peter Lotz, AIA, specializes in multifaceted laboratory design and project management. Mr. Lotz has decades of extensive experience in laboratory programming, designing, and managing of chemical, biomedical, pharmaceutical and special purpose laboratories. He has provided design services for over two million sf of research facilities in the last five years. He has provided professional services for many federal and institutional clients. He worked as Project Manager for the USDA/Baylor Children's Nutritional Research Center. He has several other research laboratory projects for the USDA Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He served as Project Manager for the FDA Laboratory and Office Complex in Richardson, Texas and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Facility in Panama. He has served in this role for numerous projects with the Texas A&M University System including the Institute of Bioscience and Technology and the Harte Research Institute; as well as The University of Texas System such as the Biological Sciences Wet Lab Building which includes comprehensive commissioning services and the Biosciences Research Facility.

David Duthu, PE, is the Founding Principal of ccrd partners. He has over 28 years of continual experience in the fields of mechanical engineering design, computer technology, and project management. He specializes in the area of commissioning.

Mr. Duthu's career has primarily has focused on specialty use engineering systems for such facilities as research and develop facilities, high containment laboratory facilities, clean room facilities, critical care facilities, and vivarium facilities. Mr. Duthu has extensive experience in commissioning for these type of projects and has provided these services for a variety of federal and institutional clients. His approach to project management for difficult project design and renovation efforts include careful site investigation, detailed design review and client interface, to assure that cost budgets are maintained, as well as clients user requirements.

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