29 Mar, 2017

Commissioning can be defined as the process of confirming that a complex system built or constructed is ready for active use. Commissioning at water facilities is essential due to their critical nature. Any water facility that treats, pumps or otherwise handles water is a vital element of a community’s critical infrastructure that must be functioning as designed.

What is Commissioning?

Commissioning is a systematic quality assurance process for planning, delivering, and operating buildings to ensure they work as intended. It is a collaborative approach that verifies building systems perform according to their design intent and operational requirements of owners and occupants. Commissioning also ensures equipment and systems are installed according to manufacturer’s recommendations, industry standards, and best practices. Environmental concerns, industry guidelines, and complex building systems are just a few of the market conditions encouraging smart building owners to reexamine how they design and construct building projects and integrate commissioning.

What Water Facility Commissioning Accomplishes

A well planned commissioning vets an entire facility’s process. Verifying the functionality of all components, from small sump pumps to large storm water pumps, requires proof of operating as designed and intended. Individual manufacturers may verify that a specific widget supplied functions individually, but facility commissioning goes a step further and verifies that the assemblage of widgets function as a complete system.

Commissioning is important because if, for example, the level transmitter components do not accurately relay the present level to the control system, the critical storm water pump may not activate when necessary. A typical water facility only has a visual inspection by an inspector that will only verify items that can be physically observed. This type of inspection, while important, is inadequate to definitively determine that a facility is working as designed. The entire commissioning process is a set of several process linked together allowing for a complete verification of a facility.

The Water Facility Commissioning Process

The commissioning process can be broken down into multiple phases. The phases of commissioning are as follows:

  • Manufacturer Startups
  • Physical Observational Inspections
  • Pre-Commissioning Checks
  • Final Commissioning

The manufacturer startups are when a manufacturer’s technician runs through a set of standard startup procedures for their respective piece of equipment. This includes tasks such as verifying power to control panels, assessing grease in pump bearings, or load banking generators.

The physical inspections check to confirm all equipment is bolted down, supported appropriately and installed correct per plans and specifications. Pre-commissioning checks are then performed after equipment has been started and properly configured by the manufacturers.

Pre-commissioning is when the motor soft starts, main breaker, automatic transfer switch and similar device settings are verified.

The final commissioning phase is executed when the system components are ready to operate in unison. This final phase of commissioning simulates design functionality, and can be executed in a variety of ways, depending on the particular system being tested. For example, if the system contains a supervisory control and data acquisition system, the programmable logic controller will be used to assist in the commissioning tests. Once all phases of commissioning are completed, a report will be issued identifying any issues that need to be corrected in order to validate system compliance with design plans and specifications.

Shrader Engineering Solutions

Shrader Engineering provides a complete approach to systems commissioning. From checklists to flowcharts, commissioning plans are tailor made for each project, budget and owner. Through the combined experience of personnel at Shrader Engineering, the commissioning plan is completely vetted through planning and execution.

At modern water facilities, programmable controllers are the norm, and Shrader’s programming team has developed programs that assist in the commissioning process.  The programming team utilizes advanced technology to support the commissioning process in testing, recording and verifying the functionality of equipment.


Commissioning, when complete, provides the owner and operator confidence that the facility will perform as it is designed and intended. Depending on the facility, commissioning may be repeated throughout its lifetime as determined by the owner, or recommended by the manufacturer. The re-commissioning of a facility provides direct evidence that the system is either still operating correctly, or whether preventative modifications and repairs may be necessary.

Shrader Engineering provides a thoughtful and practical approach to all our engineering and consulting services. In business for over 20 years, our firm provides electrical, communications, technology, automation/instrumentation, and security design for critical infrastructure and public works projects. Shrader Engineering specializes in providing technical excellence, integrated services, and leadership to owners, architects, and construction managers.

Unique Advantages of working with Shrader:

  • Expertise
  • Strong Partnership
  • Experience
  • Multi-disciplinary Team



Author: Jason Burleson, PE, PMP, has worked for Shrader Engineering for more than six years developing automation solutions, performing the necessary commissioning and training activities to demonstrate system performance, and managing a multitude of water/wastewater facility and critical infrastructure projects. His experience has given him exceptional strengths working in a team environment and providing unparalleled project documentation and delivery. Jason studied at the University of Houston, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, is a TXBPE licensed Professional Engineer (PE), and is Project Manager Professional (PMP) certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI).


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