Addressing Gaps in the Building Envelope Services Market
How foresight and innovation is helping Entuitive address an unmet need in the North American construction industry.
(6 minute read.)
In North America and around the world, we’re seeing more frequent extreme weather events due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and global warming. In response to these factors, legislators are issuing increasingly stringent building codes for thermal performance. Building envelope systems hold a key to meeting performance targets, reducing emissions, and adapting to extreme weather.
Improvements to envelope systems help owners achieve better thermal resilience and greater occupant comfort. By improving thermal resilience, owners also reduce the need to heat and cool their buildings and therefore reduce the operational GHG emissions from their assets. Improving envelope systems is a win-win.
Those improvements only matter, however, if they have been designed and constructed properly. To truly achieve the envelope benefits, the industry needs a verification and control mechanism to ensure the owner’s requirements are reflected in the design and construction of the finished asset.
This is where Building Envelope Commissioning comes in. This is the process of conducting testing and producing documentation to prove that the building envelope system achieves the requirements laid out by the owner at the onset of the project. This is similar to the M&E commissioning process that gained traction a few decades ago. The main idea is to prove that what was designed and built aligns with what was supposed to be designed and built.
The challenge now facing the industry is that qualified Building Commissioning Agents are hard to come by. The commissioning process is highly technical, and many consultants are unfamiliar with the requirements. Clients are demanding this service, but experienced practitioners for it are not easily found.
At Entuitive, Saphron Skinner-Willson foresaw this supply-demand imbalance and has proactively built Entuitive’s capabilities in this service offering. She developed robust document control mechanisms to meet the documentation demands of the commissioning process – from proposal stage to final execution. She has led all of Entuitive’s Building Envelope Commissioning projects and has educated clients in the process. She also supported five other Entuitive employees in their pursuit of BE Commissioning accreditation.
She has also educated the industry about these requirements. As one of the directors of the Building Commissioning Association’s Western Canada chapter, she has delivered talks about what Building Envelope Commissioning is and what is involved in the process. She believes that further industry education is required to increase adoption of this critical service.
For clients wondering whether they should pursue BE commissioning, it depends on the sustainability goals of the finished product. If a client is pursuing an advanced envelope system with high performance requirements, then it would make sense to obtain commissioning.
This is especially the case for public-facing clients, whereby a commissioning process generates all the documentation required to prove to end users that the finished asset meets its performance targets.
For private clients who want a performance guarantee but don’t need the formal verification and documentation, there is another option. These clients can work with building envelope consultants familiar with the commissioning requirements, and they can selectively choose performance tests tailored to their asset.
The key with this approach is to partner with consultants with proficiency in the commissioning space. Clients are always encouraged to ask for past experiences in the commissioning process to verify a consultant’s ability to select and perform the right testing mandates.
While this service will eventually be as mainstream as M&E commissioning, it’s currently in its early stages of growth. As such, clients may not understand all the nuances of the service, or even where to get started. Saphron encourages interested clients to reach out to her to learn more about how they can verify the performance of their assets at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the industry’s pursuit of delivering a more sustainable built environment, building envelope commissioning is a small but critical step in the right direction. Together, we can create a truly sustainable built environment.