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By Davis Reeves, Paladin, Inc.

This is the time of year when horror films start to pop up on TV networks, giving viewers who like the thrill of a scare the chance to get tuned up for Halloween. While most horror movie buffs prefer films with razor-fingered villains or phone calls coming from inside the house, Cx professionals are a little harder to scare because of the real-life nightmares they’ve seen on building projects. To get you in a Halloween mood, let’s revisit some classic horror titles and refresh them with a Cx twist, based on situations our team has actually encountered on projects over the years. 

I Know What You Did Last Summer (or, actually, DIDN’T DO): If you want to scare a building owner, tell her about the time we showed up to inspect a facility at the point when about half of the water source heat pumps had been installed. We got a scare during pre-functional checks when we discovered that all of the strainers and balancing valves had been installed backwards and the isolation valves were installed on the equipment side of the hose kits. Fortunately, we were able to recommend fixes before equipment was energized and saved the owner a big repair bill.

The Thing: the John Carpenter classic about a parasitic extraterrestrial terrorizing a team of researchers in the Antarctic came to mind when we discovered a coffee pot located next to a thermostat, which could have caused the room to freeze over the winter. If you think your energy bills are scary already, wait until a seemingly harmless setup like this crushes your budget.


Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: we’re not sure who decided to place these variable frequency drives well out of reach at about 8’ and 11’ above the floor, but it would have taken an employee of well-above-average size to actuate them without a boost. That or a risky human pyramid (and we all know how hard it is to get one of those together on a recurring basis.)

Freddy vs Jason: This movie not only marked the intersection of two popular franchises, it also features more “jump scares” (those quick cuts that startle you out of your seat) than almost any other horror film. Sometimes we get “jump scares” when we’re reviewing drawings, like the time we found a ¾” copper domestic water line routed through the elevator shaft at the level of the first-floor ceiling. Left undetected, that little trick would have treated the owner to an elevator good for just one trip and a flooded building. Fortunately, we found it before it was installed and no popcorn was spilled.

The Shining: Remember the scene in the Kubrick classic when the elevator doors opened and the floors ran red? Well, we happened upon a situation in which the painter had sprayed door frames while the HVAC system was running, leaving the return grilles crusted with red paint (and that was only what was visible to the naked eye). I suspect the contractor still has nightmares about replacing all the water source heat pumps along with the energy recovery wheel in the rooftop unit.

The Haunted Mansion: the sound of water dripping is eerie enough on its own, but it was truly terrifying when we heard it during functional testing on a building. Turned out the condensate sensors were either not installed correctly or left out all together. I still get chills when I think of that sound of water dripping from the chilled beams throughout the building, but it also reminds me to keep pursuing the full delivery of what the architect designed, the engineer drew and the contractor agreed to install. Anything short of that is a nightmare in the making.

While haunted houses and scary movies might scare the average Halloween Harry and Hannah, they won’t get much of a reaction from people like who us work in the commissioning (Cx) field – we’ve already seen much worse in real life. Fortunately, we’ve also helped get those nightmares fixed, guaranteeing a peaceful night’s sleep to countless building owners, architects, engineers and contractors across the country