Understanding Building Envelope Commissioning: A Guide to LEED and WELL Compliance

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Creating sustainable, high-performance buildings requires an in-depth look at various aspects, including the building envelope. This structure, which separates the interior of a building from the exterior, plays a vital role in a building’s performance, affecting energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality. To ensure that the building envelope performs as designed, it is necessary to commission it, a process known as Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx).

This article will walk you through the steps of BECx and discuss the compliance requirements according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and WELL (WELL Building Standard), two leading green building certification systems.

Building Envelope Commissioning Steps

Here are the key steps involved in Building Envelope Commissioning:

Pre-Design PhaseDefine the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) and Basis of Design (BOD) specific to the building envelope.
Design PhaseDevelop BECx plan and specifications, review design concepts and documents, and provide recommendations.
Construction PhaseImplement a quality assurance plan, observe envelope installations, conduct performance testing, and rectify non-conformance.
Post-Construction PhaseVerify system performance, review operation and maintenance documents, and train the building’s facilities team.
Occupancy and Operations PhaseConduct seasonal testing and provide ongoing commissioning to ensure the envelope’s long-term performance.

Building Envelope Commissioning Compliance Requirements

LEED and WELL both recognize the importance of BECx but approach it from different perspectives. While LEED focuses more on energy efficiency and environmental impact, WELL emphasizes occupant health and comfort.

Here are the key requirements under each standard:

LEEDUnder LEED v4.1, Building Envelope Commissioning is part of the Enhanced Commissioning credit. This process begins in the pre-design phase and continues through the initial 10 months of operation. It includes a review of the design intent, assembly performance testing, and on-site inspections to verify proper installation. The BECx process is aimed at improving the building’s energy performance, reducing maintenance and repair costs, and preventing operational problems.
WELLWhile WELL v2 does not explicitly require Building Envelope Commissioning, it addresses several related aspects. For instance, under the Air and Thermal Comfort features, WELL sets requirements for air infiltration management, moisture control, and thermal comfort, all of which are influenced by the building envelope’s performance. Therefore, conducting a BECx process can indirectly contribute to compliance with several WELL features.

Building Envelope Commissioning is a comprehensive process that not only enhances the overall performance of a building but also assists in meeting the compliance requirements of green building certification systems like LEED and WELL.

By adhering to these standards and investing in BECx, building owners and managers can ensure that their buildings deliver on their promises of energy efficiency, comfort, and sustainability, leading to significant long-term benefits.

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