First PECI Commissioning Lab a Great Success

I’m just back from conducting PECI’s first hands-on commissioning lab, and couldn’t be more pleased with the result! The facility we used is the Mechanical/Electrical Technology Department at Sacramento City College (SCC) where HVAC technicians are trained. It’s a playground of central plants, packaged units, deconstructed equipment and classrooms, ideally comingled for easy access. The central plant was designed for technology demonstration and includes multiple types of systems – a water-cooled chiller, ice storage system, plate and frame heat exchanger, primary-secondary pumping, steam boiler, hot water boiler and two built-up air-handling units. The classroom adjacent to the central plant areas has about 20 workstations which are all directly tied to the Direct Digital Controls (DDC) for the plant equipment. The perfect environment for a commissioning lab.

The course was developed by senior engineering staff from PECI, and was led by me with assistance from the Mechanical/Electrical Technology Department chair at SCC and their controls contractor. The lab participants were all pretty savvy – all but one were active commissioning authorities who work for leading energy consulting and commissioning firms across the country.


We used the facility itself as the basis of our activities – the building’s equipment along with the design drawings, specifications, equipment submittals, Basis of Design (BOD) and Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). The activities were a mix – some geared toward new construction and others applicable to existing buildings, some classroom and some hands-on. Overall we had a good blend, and the students seemed to really enjoy the hands-on equipment testing; design and submittal review, installation checklist verification, functional test development and execution, sensor validation, data logging, pump testing activities- sounds like a real commissioning job!

We’re already thinking about ways to tweak the lab to make it better. First priority – less homework. Students documented class activities including an issues log, functional test forms and results, and a variety of memos documenting calculations and analyses. We will allocate additional time for the students to complete the assignments during the week.

We will also add more hands-on testing and measurements. This round, we had a little extra time on the last day and added exercises related to hydronic balancing and a variety of air flow measurement strategies. Although these are typically outside the realm of the new construction CxA, familiarity with the tools and their applications is helpful. It fills a gap for many engineers and can be directly utilized on some existing building projects. Using state-of-the-art tools can be intimidating until you do it, then you pick it up fast. Working with students who are experienced CxA’s in this lab made us realize this course applies to both novice and mid-level providers. Everyone has more to learn.

Learn more and register for CxA training program at

If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.

408.374.7292 or [email protected]

By Published On: September 28, 2014

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