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Project Programming and Commissioning as a Risk Mitigation and Threat Analysis Tool

Michael Wiess, WorkingBuildings, LLC

As a quality process, commissioning has been successfully used in the design, construction, and validation phases for over a decade with valuable results. Owners of high risk and complex projects are now starting to use the commissioning model beyond traditional disciplines including the documentation of risk/threat analysis and mitigation programs.

Every organization has a unique threat profile defined by factors including location, operational activities, public profile, internal procedures, and others. A threat analysis and risk mitigation program identifies which vulnerabilities can be mitigated by a specific countermeasure and helps owners implement the appropriate policies for each system and/or building.

The purpose of implementing a risk mitigation plan is to accurately identify countermeasures and their relationship to project and facility vulnerabilities. A thorough risk management program offers security and continuity planning against a terrorist attack or other catastrophic event. A risk mitigation program provides practical risk management solutions to close potential security gaps, optimize emergency response capability, ensure operational continuity, and significantly lower risk and liability in the event of an emergency. Together these two elements combined with an overall quality assurance program must be taken into account in our standard design and construction practices. By combining the elements of risk, threat, and mitigation into a quality assurance program such as commissioning, the building owner can be confident that all aspects of risk and threat are being tracked throughout the process.

Today's projects frequently engage an army of consultants. While the needs of the owner are being met by this large group, widespread duplications, improper use of resources, and lack of a unified quality assurance program leads to disarray, improper use of resources, and cost and schedule burdens. These factors and inconsistencies tend to increase project cost, without necessarily adding value. The evolution of the role of the commissioning authority with risk and threat experience is to recommend project-specific procedures to ensure facility security, and to coordinate with owners to implement recommendations and oversee the integration of security protocols and training programs. These include security systems and processes, operational systems, emergency protocols, personnel training programs, continuity planning, asset mapping, vulnerabilities, threat analysis, and implementation of a risk mitigation plan.

This new commissioning model coordinates communication protocols, establishes checks and balances, and delivers a well-documented validation protocol.

Labs21 Connection:

WorkingBuildings has employed this expanded approach to commissioning on several mission critical laboratories including the New Jersey Public Health Animal and Environment Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and New Mexico Tri-Services Public Health Laboratory with positive results. Early project indicators have documented increases in the efficiency and productivity of the programming team, while at the same time reducing potential project cost from omissions and errors that typically occur in security parameters in this phase of the project. With respect to Labs21's goal of reducing inefficiencies both environmentally and fiscally, this new expanded approach to commissioning has proven its effectiveness in managing the projects from both an owner's and safety perspective.


Michael Weiss has been the driving force behind WorkingBuildings since its inception. Under his direction the firm has expanded its original mechanical commissioning capabilities, becoming one of the few firms that specializes in total building commissioning for complex biological, chemical and nuclear facilities. After four years of service, Michael recently stepped down as president of the Building Commissioning Association, recognized internationally as the voice of the commissioning industry. Michael serves on the National Institute for Building Sciences Commissioning Task Force, as well as chairs the U.S. General Services Administration Whole Building Design Guide commissioning committee. Michael is one of the leading laboratory commissioning authorities in the country. He teaches classes and frequently speaks on commissioning and construction at national and international conferences. For the last 12 years he has concentrated on developing improved operations and maintenance, decontamination procedures, and building commissioning procedures for laboratories, high performance, and complex facilities. He has developed a disciplined and comprehensive approach to total building commissioning in laboratories and research facilities. Michael specializes in commissioning BSL-3, BSL-3E, and BSL-3AG facilities.

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