Remote commissioning uncovered

Is Remote Commissioning really a great innovation that could change our future and make possible the long wish list for improving and sustaining the efficient operation of buildings. Martin Lowe of Marflow Hydronics shares his thoughts.

As with many new ideas, the remote commissioning of piped-services systems was developed as a solution to a problem. Often the last job completed in a project, the commissioning of water systems is known for its issues. A time-consuming and not always accurate task, it would be better completed after a building has been occupied— but this has never been a realistic option. That is, until now.

Remote commissioning allows the actuator on a rotary pressure-independent control valve (PICV) to be linked electronically via BACnet to a BMS controller and the building’s commissioning package. This connection allows adjustment of the PICV from a remote PC without the need for physical presence in the building, thereby avoiding the lengthy and obtrusive work on site in ceiling voids previously associated with manual balancing systems.

Issues

Commissioning has, up until now, been considered a ‘one-off’ process, completed when the building is signed off. It has traditionally been tainted with numerous issues, such as the fact that the commissioning data collected over many weeks is often lost or not easily accessed or understood. The handover period often consists of a few days of training with the maintenance team who might have never seen a PICV before, and the building-management system installed to oversee the operating and running of the building may display limited information for fault finding. The end user is reliant upon a well commissioned system to ensure maximum efficiency, but an energy-management system can only be as good as the number of meters installed and historical information being reported.

Remote commissioning immediately opens up the process. Without the task having to be completed manually, it can be done at any time, data can be easily saved and accessed, and training can be done over a longer period of time — ensuring that those who need to understand it are fully up to speed. And all of this can be done without any interference to the occupants of the building.

Efficient commissioning

For a building to be working at its best, the commissioning process should be one that is given more prominence than it currently is. As a starting point, if the commissioning plan is written early on in the construction process there would immediately be a better chance of it providing greater efficiency in a building.

Seasonal commissioning is also important. If a system is set up correctly, it should already be very efficient, but to enable a system to reach its full potential, seasonal commissioning must take place. A building that uses heating and cooling devices cannot possibly work the same way throughout the year, so if a system is optimised accordingly it will give the best results.

commissioning, BACnet, Marflow Hydronics
The networked orange actuators in this valve assembly are the key to being able to set PICVs remotely from a PC.

In addition, continuous commissioning can be highly beneficial in buildings with a large occupancy rate, where changes tend to be frequent. Systems need to work with the buildings to ensure they remain effective, and continuous commissioning is the best way to achieve this.

It is becoming more important than ever that systems work effectively within actual building conditions. It is less desirable now to commission a building in a simulated state before occupation, instead commissioning should take place during the building’s working life.

BSRIA’s Soft Landing Framework has played a significant part in changing the thought process. The Soft Landing Framework is a method of graduated handover in which the project team stay engaged with a building for up to three years after completion to fine tune it and improve performance.

Remote commissioning

Because of its many features, remote commissioning has become an ideal tool to help those who need to commission after building occupation. It provides the ability to measure, check and alter settings, even while the office space is a working environment. All original design settings and adjustments are made through and stored in the software, the ‘on-coil’ and ‘off-coil’ temperatures can be measured and valves opened and closed from any PC. System performance can be checked as and when needed. If the flow rate needs to be modified due to changes in area usage or complete floor duties need to be adjusted then this can be simply done without the need to physically enter ceiling spaces.

To take energy efficiency seriously, a building needs to be set up correctly in the first place. There then needs to be a constant track of usage, which needs to be supported by the ability to react to issues as and when they arise, using a trouble-free process.

Remote commissioning was set up to solve the known problems of traditional commissioning. In reality it has the potential to eliminate existing issues, enabling users to maintain effective control of their building maintenance for a lifetime.

Martin Lowe is business-development director of Marflow Hydronics.

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