Smart Labs Toolkit

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's Ongoing Commissioning Approach to Generate Significant, Persistent, Savings in Building Operations

At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the sustainable Berkeley lab (SBL) team is making a big impact! The SBL team focuses on reducing the climate, waste, and water footprint of lab, improving operations, and enabling sustainable solutions sitewide.

One approach the SBL team uses to accomplish these goals is an ongoing commissioning (OCx) process. This approach to building operations management focuses on reducing a building's energy and water consumption while improving facility reliability.

The team's OCx approach is cross-functional, engaging staff from facilities, sustainability, as well as external contractors. To prioritize its activities, the team continuously identifies potential opportunities that are tracked in a backlog, then strategically selects tasks from the backlog to fix within a four-week cycle. This cycle, or sprint, allows the team to execute work within a set timeframe, then document and verify the project's energy and water savings and operational successes.

Throughout the process, daily 10- to 20-minute team video chats are held to help the team strategize and work toward reaching their project timeline. During these check-ins, each person answers the following questions: What did you do yesterday, what will you do today, and do you need help with anything?

Along with these daily check-ins, regular feedback is given so that the group can continuously improve their work. At the completion of the four-week sprint, the team reviews the sprint savings and accomplishments. While doing this, the group also discusses what went well, and what could be done better next time.

To maintain savings and enable Smart Lab optimization, the SBL team uses SkySpark, a building analytics software to collect, store, and analyze data. Additionally, SBL uses ISO 50001 Ready to support their OCx process by ensuring that energy management activities are strategic, effective and result in continual energy and water savings across LBNL's campus. Through this approach, LBNL has realized savings of $410,000-plus in annual utility cost and saved 5.7 million kWh of energy and 18.9 million gallons of water annually. You can view a graph showing LBNL's OCx savings by measure (the chart is updated monthly).

OCx Benefits to Smart Labs

  • Restores operations of existing buildings to prepare buildings for potential implementation of ventilation optimization.
  • Allows for active management of ventilation at the fume hoods, room/lab, and building system level.
  • Provides tools for continuous monitoring of lab environment (SkySpark).
  • Involves the commissioning team in new construction for smooth transition to effective operations.

Interested in implementing an ongoing commissioning process?

  • Form a cross-functional, dedicated team—Engage staff from facilities (operations and engineering), sustainability office and external contractors/staff
  • Create a cycle to execute work, select opportunities, and verify savings
  • Hold daily team check-ins
  • Provide regular feedback for continual improvement
  • Utilize tools and develop a process to maintain savings and enable Smart Lab optimization
    • SkySpark and other analytics platforms (Niagara, Copper Tree, etc.)
      • Data collection, warehousing, and analysis
      • Highly customizable information management platform
      • Analytics deployed to protect energy savings
    • ISO 50001
      • An institutional process to ensure that our energy management activities are strategic, effective and persistent.

The OCx approach is inspired by SCRUM—a project management process originally developed for software development (see SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland).