Building Commissioning Costs and Savings Across Three Decades and 1,500 North American Buildings
Building commissioning (Cx) is a process for assuring efficient building operations that can be applied to new construction and existing buildings, resulting in energy and non-energy benefits. Quantifying the benefits of commissioning is challenging, but a 2009 study of 643 commercial buildings provided a solid initial data set to which we added 839 additional buildings for a significantly expanded and updated meta-analysis representing 34.7 million square meters (373 million square feet) of floor area. Since 2009 the commissioning industry has continued to grow, driven by building codes, utility programs, and rising awareness of commissioning benefits. In parallel, building controls have become more sophisticated, and analytics software has emerged to assist with commissioning. We find that delivery mechanism and market segment are key determinants of outcomes, although significant and cost-effective savings are found across the spectrum. Median primary energy savings for Cx projects in existing buildings ranged from 5 percent for those conducted under utility programs, 9 percent for monitoring-based commissioning utility programs (i.e., augmented with submetering and diagnostics), and 14 percent for Cx projects outside of utility programs. Across all project types, median savings ranged from 3 percent for the lodging market segment to 16 percent for public order and safety facilities. Outcomes did not vary significantly by building size or by market segment. Energy savings are rarely estimated for new construction commissioning. We found that the median costs of Cx were lower for the 2018 sample than for the 2009 sample—$2.85 per square meter ($0.26 per square foot) for existing buildings (a 33 percent reduction) and $8.78 per square meter ($0.82 per square foot) for new construction (a reduction of almost 50 percent). The median simple payback time for existing buildings was 1.7 years, with a 25th–75th percentile range of 0.8–3.5 years. This article summarizes these and other key findings, and discusses how the 2018 data reflects shifts in commissioning practice and outcomes.