The majority of institutional facilities' building systems aren't fully functional before occupancy, according to a study by SCO Engineering, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based consulting engineering and surveying firm. About 80% of the firm's 2003 Project Completion Survey respondents reported that systems work wasn't completed before the move-in date. By verifying the commissioning process at the end of a project, planning ahead, and hiring a commissioning agent, firms can prevent this problem from occurring, according to the report. Firms involved with the design of correctional and K-12 facilities identified the following issues with commissioning:

  • Temperature controls, telephone/data systems, and fire alarms/security are the most difficult building systems to commission.

  • Contractors are often held responsible when commissioning issues arise. Contractors (46%) were the party most frequently held responsible for correcting commissioning problems, followed by architects (15%), engineers (8%), and owners (8%).

  • The lack of fully functional systems has led to litigation. One-fifth of respondents said that one of the parties on their projects has experienced litigation or mediation resulting from commissioning problems over the last five years. More than two-thirds of the respondents said they aren't concerned by litigation from commissioning.

  • To prevent commissioning problems, designers should provide detailed criteria for system acceptance, according to half of the respondents. The others reported that the best solution would be an owner/architect/engineer field observation of the commissioning or an improved system design.