The best way to reduce a building’s carbon footprint is to make an old building better. Buildings are designed and built with intended efficient energy use and performance, offering comfort whilst being readily maintained. However, over time equipment performance degrades, maintenance issues, costs rise and occupants experience discomfort. Buildings that are architecturally pleasing should be rehabbed to an improved state so that it becomes a better member of society, this is key to a sustainable and resilient future.

Retro-Commissioning provides a structured process to assess a building’s performance against a design standard when first constructed or required when not performing as intended, having equipment failures before the end of their expected operating life, or providing poor occupant comfort. The process assesses what level of design modification is required to achieve optimum energy savings. This process entails a full evaluation of a building through DMA’s certified commissioning expertise before any equipment is specified or installed.

Why Do Buildings Need Retro-Commissioning?

Old buildings that have seen their uses change over many years need to have retro-commissioning performed to reassess if the mechanical systems are still adequate for what they are serving. Lighting can usually be upgraded to be more pleasing and be more efficient, and the envelope can almost always be improved to reduce air leakage. Energy and operational savings always follow a retro-commissioning process as the building is put back to a condition that allows it to function at its highest level for its design.

What is Retro-Commissioning?

Retro-commissioning occurs when a building owner wants to upgrade the building to modern codes while maintaining the historical value of the property. A commissioning consultant will catalog and document the control sequence of operations for the current heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC), plumbing, and lighting systems as well as the building envelope and any other system that is integral to the function of the building. In this way, stakeholders understand the building’s story as it is in current form and how it interacts with its original design.

A secondary goal of retro-commissioning is to reduce a building’s carbon footprint by making an old building better. Commissioning experts achieve this by assessing energy use and performance while taking into account occupant comfort.

Retro-commissioning provides a structured process to assess a building’s performance against a design standard when it was first constructed. It also takes into account systems not performing as intended, having equipment failures before the end of their expected operating life, or providing poor occupant comfort. The process assesses what level of design modification is required to achieve optimum energy savings.

When buildings are originally designed and built, there is intended use and configuration. Over time, this use and configuration can change.
The process develops a strategic plan for the building systems including evaluating renewables as well as energy conservation measures. This plan provides the building owner with a plan for immediate and future rollout while managing risk over the coming decades.

Armed with a strategic energy plan, the building owner can schedule and secure the funding necessary to implement immediate deficiencies and future energy conservation measures. Having a life cycle analysis of the energy conservation measures to be implemented ensures a sound decision has been made to secure the proper financing if necessary. The building owner is not in the position of having to make a choice once a piece of equipment breaks down because re- commissioning removes all outdated equipment and replaces it with modern, energy-efficient alternatives.

We Love Bringing Older Buildings Up To Speed

  • Building owners see reduced OPeX
  • Building resilience into older buildings is important for code compliance
  • Better equipment performance and reduced maintenance costs
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality and temperature comfort
  • Reduction in energy consumption


Projects and Case Studies 

CPACE Case Study

This case study covers how Energy Conservation Measures (ECM) coupled with Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) can make buildings better members of society! 

County Line

HVAC and Controls Upgrades with Commissioning

Project Description:

Two medical office buildings, an 80,000 square foot and a 40,000 square foot space, were long overdue for mechanical upgrades. The majority of the fan coils were performing less than optimal due to lack of maintenance, the heating and cooling plant were not optimized, and the ducting was not configured properly to the tenant spaces.

With limited drawings of the building, it was required that the buildings be surveyed after business hours and on weekends. Through site surveys, we developed a complete set of accurate architectural and mechanical drawings that we then used to re-engineer the entire building’s mechanical systems.

Our deliverable was a complete set of mechanical drawings that were used to get competitive bids and ultimately upgrade the system.

#2 Inverness

HVAC and Controls Upgrades with Commissioning

Project Description:

This 50,000 square foot office building, split equally into two levels, was built in the late ’70s and still had the original heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. The rooftop units were starting to have compressor failures and used a refrigerant that was being phased out of use. The building owners were looking at a significant capital outlay and determined that the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program would give them access to the capital needed to replace the rooftop units while also implementing additional energy conservation measures.

In addition to the required ASHRAE, Level III Energy Audit for C-PACE we participated with the building owners in deciphering five energy conservation measures that could be configured into multiple energy conservation scenarios. Our participation included producing a written report outlining the results of the energy audit, a preliminary budget, and a comprehensive payback analysis. The report contained charts and graphs breaking down the information into a readable and understandable format for non-industry building owners. We met with the owners, went through the report, and then assisted them in deciding on the energy conservation measures to be implemented.

860 Potomac

HVAC and Control Upgrades

Project Description:

DMA participated in a 100,000 square foot medical office building controls and HVAV upgrade. The deliverable was a report proposing three energy conservation measures. Based on capital expenditures and reduced operating costs, the client chose a measure that fit their needs and also achieved energy efficiency. The client was able to obtain CPACE financing to assist with the initial financial costs of this project.

DMA was able to provide the unique advantage of participating in a team environment working with a mechanical contractor and financial investment firm to determine the proper mix of expenditure and savings to create a viable end solution. This project entailed updating HVAC and control upgrades. Our cost estimates were vital for our clients selection process for selecting their final solution.

AAA Headquarters

HVAC and Controls Upgrade

Since its original construction in 1995, this building has undergone three additions. The original HVAC system was in desperate need of a replacement for quality assurance reasons. 

DMA performed an energy analysis of the building and determined that the cooling load could be reduced from 40 tons to 30 tons. Through detailed design, we were able to design a new HVAC system using a split DX system (this allowed us to use outside air as the heat sink) alongside with a high-efficiency boiler system.