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Commissioning Titles: Agent, Authority, or Provider – which one right?

commissioning titles correct authority provider agent

Commissioning has been around since the 1980’s, but has gained prominence with the requirements in LEED, energy codes, and even federal requirements. As the industry has evolved, so has the title for the people that do it. There are currently three titles: Commissioning Agent (CxA), Commissioning Authority (also CxA), and Commissioning Provider (CxP). I’ve also heard “Commissioner” and “Commissioning Lady,” but those are outliers.

Adding to the confusion, the industry continues to use all three terms. The International Code Council equated CxA and CxP in ICC 1000-42. The AABC Commissioning Group (ACG, the rival of the BCA) still uses the term Authority in reference to their certification, but uses both “Commissioning Provider” and “Commissioning Authority” in their commissioning guideline.  The Whole Building design guide uses “Commissioning Authority.”

So what if I use Agent or Authority?

“Agent” was dropped because of the legal implications. Agent is a person that acts on behalf of the Owner and can make decisions for them and assume the liability from that. The Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, 2nd ed, defines agent as “a business representative who handles contractual arrangements between the principal [owner] and third persons.” This could also tie commissioning providers into liability if the design or installation was deemed faulty (acts and omissions), even though they have no contractual authority to provide direction to the engineers of record or contractor.

“Authority” was dropped because of…. more legal implications. This time, it placed the CxP on par with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (i.e. AHJ, or the local building inspector). This would place the CxP in a role above a licensed engineer. Since licensure is not a prerequisite to being a CxP, this was deemed no-bueno!

Commissioning Provider is the current term that the Building Commissioning Association (BCA) prefers. (It is reinforced by their certification: Certified Commissioning Provider (CCP). The main reason is that we serve as a consultant to the Owner.  A consultant is a person that provides expert advice (in their area of expertise) that indemnifies their hiring party for acts and omissions (per the USLegal website).

What if you hired kW Engineering for commissioning? Do you care which term I use?

We take a practical approach – We care about getting the commissioning started because, let’s face it, we’re often hired too late. If it is casual conversation, we probably won’t correct you and might follow along with whatever term you’re using to avoid confusion. We can spend time discussing the nuances after you’ve seen how commissioning benefits your project.

However, if it is in writing, we will use “Commissioning Provider” because this is the industry standard and places the legal liabilities with the right party. In the end, if you want to appear knowledgeable, use the term “Commissioning Provider.”

How else can we help your commissioning effort?

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