Darren Draper, PE, CxA, Epsten Group published “Automated Functional Testing Has Arrived and Yes It Works” in the Haystack Connections Magazine, January 2022.
One thing that hasn’t changed much in the commissioning of building systems is functional testing. We test mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to ensure that they function as intended. One could argue that this is a Commissioning Provider’s highest priority. And we have done this manually (on the job site in front of the equipment) for decades. This was necessary, and continues to be so, for many systems we are hired to test. However, technological advances combined with standardized naming/identification of data points within building automation systems has opened a door to an automated approach to testing of repetitive, terminal-level systems.
As commissioning agents, we also spend a lot of our testing time on troubleshooting operational issues which extends to these terminal devices. Malfunction is not saved just for the more complex systems such as centralized air handling units, chiller plants and integrated lighting control systems. But, we are rarely able to account for this time when putting together proposals. Otherwise, our clients might think we are overcharging or believe they can get a better deal from another firm. This presents further opportunity for leveraging the technology at our fingertips to test repetitive, less sophisticated systems automatically and to do so at scale. Haystack tagging, for example, really helps to apply similar analytics across multiple projects by coding the analytics to look for specific tags. From a software development viewpoint, this is very powerful and lowers the cost of deploying automated testing and analytics. As a commissioning provider, we don’t have to really understand how tagging works; we simply see lower costs from our technology partner because of the benefits of Haystack data normalization.
Whereas the commissioning agent is typically sitting with a controls technician at some front-end connection and adjusting setpoints to manually check performance, automated functional testing removes this step. If we typically sample terminal units with manual testing, why can’t we test every terminal unit with automated functional testing? Now we can. And we have already done so on numerous projects at the end of construction, before owner occupancy.
Read full article on pages 42-46.