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Andrew Davis is the Tidewater Construction Manager for projects within the continental US. He has over 20 years management experience in the construction industry primarily working on contracts for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE).
Building commissioning is a critical component of any construction project as a way to mitigate risk. But until recently, the building construction phase was considered done and dusted once physical installation was completed. A successful project was determined not by an optimal indoor environment or reliable, efficient operations, but by a minimal number of change orders and a short punch list.
While the goals of building commissioning are to provide a safe and healthy facility, improve energy performance, and reduce operating costs, most existing buildings have never undergone a formal quality assurance process, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In many cases, building owners are unaware of deficiencies if the building is reasonably comfortable and occupant complaints are far and few between.
But building systems can easily become unreliable and inefficient through faulty design, ineffective maintenance and operations procedures, outdated technologies, and environmental changes.
The latest research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Building Commissioning Association (BCxA) shows that building commissioning remains a cost-effective way to improve building operations while lowering energy use and mitigating other risks associated with poor building performance, according to the DOE.
U.S. federal agencies are now required to ensure that building systems and equipment are commissioned in new construction and existing buildings, with the General Services Administration (GSA) overseeing these projects. The new, more stringent requirements have also been ramped up across the nation’s army and navy bases, where many facilities are undergoing major capital improvements.
Edison Energy has provided commissioning services at several of these facilities, including West Point, Fort Bragg, Walter Reed, and Fort Meade, among others. On many of these projects, Edison has partnered with Tidewater, Inc., an environmental and construction support services provider based in Elkridge, MD.
Founded as an environmental contractor for the federal government, Tidewater expanded into the construction sector in the mid-2000s.
“We were seeing a lot of medical and military facilities in need of mechanical upgrades,” said Andrew Davis, CONUS Construction Manager at Tidewater. “That put me in a spot where I needed somebody who knew the mechanical components, knew the types of projects. That’s what expanded our discussions with Edison Energy. As our construction division has grown, some of these projects have grown more technical in nature, and that’s really where the relationship stems from.”
The partnership between Edison and Tidewater has included projects that incorporate the full scope of commissioning services, encompassing HVAC, monitoring systems, metering, and lighting controls, among others.
“The partnership really started a while back with Edison’s Regional Director, Doug Millar,” Davis said. “I started working with him through various mechanical-related projects, and as we grew more into the commissioning field, we really started to understand that Doug had a broad knowledge base of what’s required. He was someone you could go to. That really brought us into Edison as they have grown their commissioning capabilities. At the same time, the government’s requirements for commissioning also expanded.”
According to Davis, the federal government’s renewed focus on the commissioning of buildings and systems was generated primarily from previous system challenges and failures.
“They haven’t really paid as much attention to the details on commissioning in the past, and over a number of years they’ve had a lot of failures on systems that were installed and tested,” he said. “The systems still wouldn’t perform, so they started broadening the scopes and specifications on commissioning. This has put a lot more ownership on the contractor to really get into detail on the testing and inspection requirements and have a third-party commissioning agent involved to review and document everything. In the end, they’re paying a lot more attention to it.”
Because each government base and building typically has a proprietary building management or controls system, the commissioning process requires an extensive knowledge of various types of systems and software.
“You need somebody like Doug, who has that broad knowledge of all these different kinds of systems and software,” Davis said. “That’s where Edison has really shown us that its capabilities are much stronger than a lot of the other commissioning agents around. Some of these places can be very tricky because there’s a proprietary system in place that ties back to another building that has a proprietary system. You need to understand how everything integrates in between the different control systems to effectively bridge networks. And understanding all these different software systems ties back to Edison having the knowledge base to sort through what the requirements are going to be during the commissioning process.”
Davis cited Edison and Tidewater’s partnership on a project at Walter Reed Medical Center, located in Bethesda, MD. The utility metering project involved installation and connection of electrical steam and chilled water meters, modification of existing meters and control system programming, and installation and modification of control panels.
“It sounds simple enough–you’re just putting a meter on a line and getting a readout,” he said. “But it’s a little bit more involved.”
Tidewater contacted Doug, who was able to immediately interpret the required scope of work.
“He told us what we needed to do, and we were able to package that into a proposal and execute the work very efficiently,” Davis said. “That was probably one of the easiest construction projects I’ve ever been involved with because of Edison’s expertise. Those types of projects that have come up have really helped us foster a relationship with Edison. When it comes to construction, we see Edison Energy as a company where if we don’t know what something is, we can contact them and they’ll either know and be able to do it, or they’ll point us in the right direction.”