Lessons Learned From New and Retrofit Data Driven Commissioning Projects Part 1: Engineer of Record and Owners

Chris Hughes, Taylor Engineering
Seth Fink, California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) designs, builds, and operates sustainable labs by focusing on repeatable and proven processes that deliver best in class design and construction that is then validated with Data Driven Commissioning. Over the past nine years, Caltech partnered with Taylor Engineering to deliver the best-in-class HVAC and controls design for these sustainable labs.

Throughout numerous projects, key lessons have been learned in how that design is developed and delivered, which provides ongoing critical feedback for the current project as well as the next. By providing well-defined drawings and specifications, the Engineer of Record can set up the Commissioning Team for more successes than failures. Through the feedback from Data Driven Commissioning, the Engineer of Record can understand how well their design is working and exactly what needs to change to improve its operation. By actively participating in the commissioning process from design through project handoff, Caltech provides an important piece of the puzzle for a successful project delivery. And through the use of cloud based collaboration, Caltech ensures every team member is on the same page with the same information as the project develops. The end results are sustainable, safe, and cost-effective labs for Caltech's world-class researchers.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the importance of well defined specifications from the Engineer of Record to support the start-up and continuous commissioning of labs for contractors and operators;
  • Explain the key organizational, content, and accessibility factors that contribute to a useful specification;
  • Identify the importance of owner involvement in the design and commissioning process from the beginning to the end of the project; and
  • Explain the keys to overcome common challenges for effective owner involvement in the implementation phase and commissioning process.


Chris Hughes is a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Taylor Engineering and Vice President of the I2SL Northern California Chapter. He has provided HVAC designs as a consulting engineer for numerous new and retrofit laboratory projects in California, and especially at Caltech, with the goal of providing reliable, safe, and sustainable best-in-class laboratories. He lives in Oakland, California, and earned a BS of Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Seth manages Energy and Utility Services in the Facilities and Planning Department at The California Institute of Technology. He works on monitoring and reducing natural gas, electricity, and water consumption at Caltech by working on campus demand-side management, central plant and distributed energy production, and efficiency projects. He has an MS from Stanford University and BS from George Washington University, both in Civil and Environmental Engineering.


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