By David Howard, CCP, M.SAME  

In 2009, the Department of Defense (DOD) decided that the debilitated Marine Reserve Center located in Yakima, Washington could not provide Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (ATFP). Rehabilitation of the old structures to meet current building codes was deemed to be not cost effective. As part of the FY2011 appropriations, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest put out a design-build request for proposal to construct a new $13 million Marine Corps Reserve Center (MCRC) and Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) at the U.S Army’s Yakima Training Center, Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash. The new MCRC and VFM buildings are modern facilities and were built to ATFP standards and are LEED certified.

As part of Green Building Council’s LEED Certification, the design-build team hired a third-party Commissioning Authority (CxA). The CxA reported directly to NAVFAC NW and ensured that the project was commissioned in compliance with the Owner’s Project Requirements and the design team’s Basis of Design documents. The commissioned systems for the MCRC and VMF buildings included custom designed HVAC systems, domestic water systems, fire protection, fire alarm systems, lighting and lighting controls, solar array, emergency inverters, and state-of-the-art building automation control systems. The MCRC additionally has a hydronic heating water system with high efficiency boilers. The VMF has built-in specialty equipment, which includes a compressed air system, vehicle lube system, a vehicle exhaust system, and bridge crane with crane rails for maintaining the wheeled and tracked vehicles. The grey water reclamation system was scrapped by Marine Forces Reserve.

The construction phase was plagued by delays that extended the commissioning schedule from being completed by nearly a year and a half. This project was constructed in a high desert with extreme temperature swings throughout the year.

The Request for Proposal was sent out late May 2011 with the project being registered with LEED Online early November 2011. Substantial completion was to be in September 2012. Typical of federal projects, the prime contractor hired the commissioning firm directly. This caused difficulties with LEED Online at close out. The CxA, however, was experienced in performing LEED commissioning on DOD facilities and these difficulties were resolved easily.

It was established early on that the CxA was hired by the owner, via a pass-through contract by the prime contractor. This is critical along with all communications going to the owner, with design team being copied. Following this process ensures that once a federal LEED project gets into closeout phase, the design team can take the exception that LEED has for federal projects and can get the credit for enhanced commissioning.


The commissioning process began with reviews of the Owner’s Project Requirements and the Basis of Design documents and concluded with the 10-month warranty walk-through. Compliance with LEED-enhanced commissioning requirements and contract specifications were achieved by reviewing design and construction documents and providing comments. CxA wrote the Division 1, 22, and 26 commissioning specifications that were included in the final design documents along the Army Corps of Engineers’ Division 23 commissioning specifications.

The construction phase was plagued by delays that extended the commissioning schedule from being completed by nearly a year and a half. This project was constructed in a high desert with extreme temperature swings throughout the year. The most serious delay though was caused by the inadequate soil report. The buildings were designed to have concrete footings and slap-on-grade foundations, but the ground at the location has a thin layer of soil covering basalt. This could not be dug out by backhoe as originally planned. The QA/QC Manager developed a blast plan and submitted it to the owner for approval. The blast plan went through a series of submittal and resubmittal before being approved by Joint Base Lewis-McChord. There was a significant delay as winter conditions set in and the footings could not be poured.

The CxA, having been a project mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) superintendent before, was able to work with the subcontractors on their level. This greatly assisted in the commissioning testing process. A commissioning kickoff meeting was held in February 2013. Installation inspections were conducted on select systems prior to schedule pressure leak tests conducted by the QA/QC Manager. Photos were provided to the CxA along with the Authority Having Jurisdiction inspection reports. Select pressure leak tests were witnessed, such as the underground utilities piping, duct leak and hydronic pipe leak tests. All pressure leak test forms were included in the final commissioning report.

It was established early on that the CxA was hired by the owner, via a pass-through contract by the prime contractor.

The first major milestone of commissioning was the startup of the building equipment. The startup meeting was held two weeks prior to the first scheduled systems startup in November 2013. Startups were delayed for two-months by a delay in receiving the natural gas regulator from the local utility. Once the gas regulator was installed, the hydronic heating water system were started to ensure that the building had hot water running through the hydronic loops and coils so once the HVAC equipment were started the building did not freeze. Commissioning of the systems took place while elements of the building enclosure were not complete due to the schedule. Even with these problems the MEP subcontractors worked diligently to complete the commissioning tests and the HVAC and hydronic systems passed all tests.

The test and balance contractor was able to balance the wet and air side of the building systems once the final elements of the building envelope were installed and the building automation system went operational enough to set calibration of the sensors and control devices. Plumbing systems commissioning included the gas-fired tank-less domestic water heaters and mixing valves. The CxA checked to ensure design temperatures setpoints were delivered to the showers and sinks. After final commissioning tests for the LEED requirements on the mechanical and controls were completed, the building was put through the required building air purge.

Interior lighting and lighting controls were tested and then re-tested after bad ballasts were replaced. The lighting control panel was programmed to the owner’s schedule and CxA confirmed the proper schedule. The emergency power inverters were tested and operated within parameters, but the solar array was delayed until spring. The solar array system was commissioned during second season commissioning of the building systems. Yakima Training Center Maintenance personnel were trained on all the new equipment and the training was videotaped for reference and training of new staff.


LEED Enhanced Commissioning requires that the CxA review the Operation and Maintenance Support Information (OMSI) Manuals and provide a System Concept and Operation Manual. The production of the OMSI Manuals is very time consuming enterprise. The OMSI manuals went through both NAVFAC Northwest and Joint Base Lewis-McChord for approval. The Systems Concept and Operation Manual was written after reviewing the OMSI’s and submitted to LEED Online. The final item submitted to LEED Online was the building air flush-out report. This report was produced by putting data loggers throughout the two buildings and using the trending ability of the building automation system controls to capture daily outside air. This data was provided to LEED in a written report summarizing the purge.

LEED data shows that this project received 63 out of 110 possible points. The project is considered “green” based on four major categories. In Energy and Atmosphere, the project has a 30 percent improvement on the baseline building performance rating and 11 percent onsite renewable energy. In Indoor Environmental Quality, the project has 75 percent of occupied spaces with daylighting and 90 percent have quality views. In Water Efficiency, the project has 50 percent reduction in potable water use, 40 percent reduction in baseline indoor water use, and 50 percent reduction in wastewater generation.

All of these factors are directly attributed to the Commissioning Team consisting of the Design Team, the QA/QC Manager, and the subcontractors with commissioned equipment.


The commissioning of P060 Marine Corps Reserve Center was a challenge of perseverance and dedication by tradesmen and consultants to see the project through without cutting corners.

One of the lessons to take away from this project is that a clear chain of authority needs to be established early if there is to be multiple DOD agencies involved. Another lesson is to ensure that all the design-build teams are familiar with the area in which the DOD facility is being built, the climate, and that a thorough soil report is done early in design.

Most important, when hiring a CxA, make sure that the individual is experience and performs hands-on-commissioning.

David Howard, CCP, M.SAME, is Senior Commissioning Agent, P2S Engineering;