University Laboratory Retro-Commissioning: University of Pittsburgh Benedum Hall

Jeff Steffensen, Affiliated Engineers, Inc.
Al Agostinelli, University of Pittsburgh

Benedum Hall is a 13-story, 474,000-square-foot building serving the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. It contains wet labs, dry labs, classrooms, offices, library, and a cafe. The core function of the building makes it a target for energy optimization that realizes energy reduction. This presentation will share lessons and recommendations in retro-commissioning and commissioning in an active university laboratory building, with various laboratory types that can be applied any large scale laboratory including the following:

  • The identification of the facility for retro-commissioning: How do projects like this originate? Large building and scope-plan accordingly.
  • Expect the unexpected: During the first phase of the project, COVID changed the focus to ensure the HVAC systems were ready for enhanced ventilation procedures. As the scope of the project included the air systems, the team was able to re-prioritize our focus. Timeliness and delivery of results were key, and made possible through system understanding and resource allocation.
  • Working with the university and the lab users to effectively very equipment operation with minimal impact or downtime, including being familiar with the building systems, automation, and lab safety; tracking progress and issues; and maximizing time onsite.
  • Commissioning an air sampling system in a lab building of scale that can create a standard logic deployment for other facilities.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the importance of commissioning (including recommissioning and retro commissioning) laboratory facilities;
  • Understand how to prioritize retro-commissioning efforts when unexpected challenges occur (i.e., the onset of COVID 19);
  • Understand how to coordinate with facilities and users during occupied hours. Developing and maintaining contacts for the facility; and
  • Understand how to seek high impact outcomes in a large existing lab building.


Jeff Steffensen is a Sr. Commissioning Engineer and Office Leader in Affiliated Engineers Charlottesville office. Jeff specializes in the commissioning of laboratory and mission critical facilities.

Al Agostinelli is the Director of Building Systems & Commissioning in the Facilities Management Department of the University of Pittsburgh. As a member of the University of Pittsburgh Facilities Operations Department for 17 years, he is focused on improving MEP efficiency of the built environment on the campus.


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