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Aren’t They All the Same Thing?


In the old timey tune “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” a couple finds understanding even though they can’t reconcile their pronunciations of simple words like tomato or potato. When it comes to getting a building designed and built, equating two very different roles can cause big problems for a building owner. To put it simply the differences between a Building Enclosure Consultant (BEC) and a Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional (BECxP) are much, much more than a matter of pronunciation.

If you’re familiar with construction contracts, you’ll know there are big differences between project roles like general contractors and construction managers. Sure, there is some overlap on their responsibilities, but clear separation on their contractual abilities. The same applies to building enclosure consultants and commissioning professionals in that they have overlapping objectives but follow different pathways to achieve these objectives.

Recognizing the Difference

Let’s quickly review the objectives of these two roles: in short to review design and/or installation methods to improve the quality of the building systems being turned-over to the owner. They both use their knowledge of architectural design and construction methods to identify areas of improvement for the Project Team.

A Building Enclosure Consultant is someone who is hired for a specific knowledgebase. They provide insight into the systems much like an advisor. Most specifically, the role is not bound by a particular process in order to fulfill the contract and the main objective is situational based on the project need and the area of advisement.

In contrast, a Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional’s pathway is bound by the commissioning process in order to achieve a range of objectives, which include but are not limited to:

• Managing quality assurance of the project through reviews, observations, and testing;
• Documenting the processes and resolutions that were developed during Design and Construction;
• Observing and verifying the quality control processes of the Construction Team;
• Ensuring proper owner training on the building enclosure systems; and
• Completing final turnover of a systems manual that captures all of the previously mentioned commissioning objectives.

In a nutshell, the Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional is bound by the commissioning process whereas the Building Enclosure Consultant is tasked with technical advisement on the system in question.

Common Areas of Confusion

So why are they so frequently lumped together? Two reasons leap to mind.

First, there are Building Enclosure Consultants who can perform the related commissioning services, and commissioning professionals who consult on building enclosures.

The second reason involves one of issues resolution support. The Building Enclosure Consultant is squarely tasked with recommendations and support to aid the project’s design and construction success. Comparatively, the Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional becomes part of the debate about what level of resolution support the commissioning process should encompass. One side of the debate argues that the commissioning professional’s role is documentation only while the other side suggests the commissioning professional is obligated to provide resolution support. The inclusion of issues resolution support therefore lends itself to the gray space between consultant and commissioning professional roles and responsibilities. In my work, I tend to hold that providing insight and suggesting potential resolutions make the Commissioning Process more collaborative and effective.

Making the Right Choice for Your Project

Now that we have identified the characteristics that separate a Building Enclosure Consultant and Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional, how do you identify which one your project needs? First, you need to decide on the needed outcomes with a few simple questions:

Q: Do you need someone who can supplement your Architectural Firm? A specialist in a particular architectural system?

A: Then, you need a Building Enclosure Consultant for your project. Your RFP needs to be published during Schematic Design or earlier so you can take full advantage of the consultant’s knowledgeable input on system design. It may also avoid significant rework of developed designs. Ensure that the scope is specific with the services required throughout design, construction, and/or acceptance/warranty.

Q: Do you need a Professional that will not only focus on the operational performance of the entire building but also manage final turnover?

A: Then, you need a Building Enclosure Commissioning Professional. For this service, it is ideal to enable selection as early as possible so that the process can help establish important enclosure performance metrics (allowable air loss for example). These metrics will then become the foundation of good, outcomes based architectural design. Later procurement is possible although the return on investments for the service diminishes with delayed procurement.

It is clear, then, that Building Enclosure Consultants and Building Enclosure Commissioning Professionals are not the same thing because of their differing scopes and respective delivery methods. The sort of confusion that can be caused by their overlapping nature can be resolved with a well-formed RFP rooted in your definition of a successful project and understanding of the functions you want performed on the project.

In the old song mentioned at the start, the confusion over pronunciations caused them to contemplate “calling the whole thing off” but your newfound clarity on the differences between the disciplines can empower you to turn the whole thing on and get the building you want when you want it.

If you’re ready to sing that little ditty of success, give your friends at Paladin a call and we’ll get the conversation started.