The CSA’s contribution to making buildings work

CSA, Commissioning Specialists' Association, commissioning
Developing and improving the commissioning function — Andrew Watkin.

Everyone appreciates the important role of commissioning the services in a building, but the work of the Commissioning Specialists’ Association (CSA) is less well understood. Andrew Watkin, CSA chairman, explains the role of the association.

The Commissioning Specialists’ Association (CSA) is an association for the commissioning industry within the construction world. Its membership comprises companies in the commissioning industry, individual commissioning engineers and associated companies (such as equipment manufacturers, instrument suppliers etc.) with a vested interest in ensuring that the commissioning function in today's complex buildings is carried out to a uniformly high standard.

The association was formed in 1990 by number of the country's leading commissioning companies. Their prime objective was — and still is — to offer anyone who utilises the services of commissioning companies and engineers the guarantee of a professional service based on trained, qualified and experienced field personnel, backed up by a quality of service underpinned by adherence to the CSA's aims, objectives and its code of practice.

In addition, the CSA acts as the voice and ears of the commissioning world, putting forward the views of its members, whilst keeping its membership fully informed of developments in equipment, instrumentation and legislation which might affect how they operate.

The building-services commissioning function has developed over the past two decades, combining elements of design review, integration of electrical, mechanical and controls systems and trouble-shooting —along with the traditional balancing of air and water systems.

This organic development, however, has not been matched by parallel development in engineering standards, training systems and information dissemination — despite valiant efforts by bodies as CIBSE and BSRIA. The result is that the commissioning function has become discredited by a combination of lack of knowledge, poorly structured training and varying approaches to the ideas of business ethics and best commissioning practice.

The Commissioning Specialists’ Association was formed to redress this situation. It is aimed specifically at developing and improving the commissioning function in order to provide building users, consulting engineers, main contractors and installation companies with a professional, quality service carried out by trained and experienced staff.

The operation of the CSA is based around four different types of membership

1. Corporate membership is aimed at organisations whose main or only business is the commissioning of building-services systems.

2. Associate membership is aimed at organisations that are connected with the industry, but whose main business may be outside the pure commissioning activity — such as installation companies, equipment suppliers, instrumentation suppliers and consulting engineers.

3. Individual membership is aimed at field engineers who are actively involved in the commissioning process. They may be from the mechanical, electrical or controls fields.

4. Individual associate membership was formed in 2003 to accommodate individuals who are not commissioning in the UK but are affiliated to commissioning through other trades — such as electrical and mechanical engineers.

Membership is not graded, but a certificate of membership is issued and the association's benefits afforded as with other categories.

CSA, Commissioning Specialists' Association, commissioning

The association is run by a main committee, which delegates powers for the day-to-day affairs to a management sub-committee and the secretary. The members of the main committee are drawn from all four grades of membership to ensure that all parties have a voice in the running of the association. There are sub committees for training, technical matters and marketing.

The training sub-committee deals with many areas — including Job descriptions, training courses, distance learning courses and examinations (i.e. field staff grading and development).

The technical sub-committee works towards the development of technical publications. They include ‘The commissioning engineers compendium’, technical memoranda and technical articles for the CSA newsletters (‘Index’) and other journals. It has also provided much input into the recent revision of CIBSE ‘Commissioning Code A: air distribution systems’.

The marketing sub-committee is charged with getting the CSA name known throughout the building-services industry, and beyond, as the first contact for all commissioning-related areas. It also develops ways in which the CSA can offer its members better services and greater benefits, such as discounted rates on public liability insurance.

The CSA office is run by the secretary, who operates on a full-time basis administering all aspects of the association.

The CSA provides a range of services and informs members of key product developments. It also keeps members abreast of other developments, both within the commissioning arena and the wider construction industry as a whole, while disseminating the views of its members to other interested parties.

The CSA also provides assistance to other bodies whose actions may affect the commissioning industry, such as the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and the Building Services Research & Information Association (BSRIA). It also provides technical help and assistance to all members.

A full training and career development framework is available, with detailed job descriptions, training courses and examinations designed to progress field engineers from first-entry level through to commissioning manager. These activities are all in pursuit of the objectives of the CSA as defined in its constitution and which are designed to help corporate members attain and deliver the highest levels of service, with properly trained staff.

Andrew Watkin is chairman of the Commissioning Specialists’ Association.


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