Pull Template Changes – Customer Appreciation Summer Week 4

This week we’ve got something really great – a major expansion of the Push Changes feature we rolled out late last year.

Push Changes allows you make edits to a template, such as adding lines or editing questions, and then “push” those changes to the checklists or tests that were created from that template.

With this release you can now also “pull” changes, meaning you can bring a checklist or test up to date with its associated template directly from the checklist or test. You can even select multiple checklists or tests in a list and “pull” changes to all of them.

Even better, we now show information about the associated template directly on the checklist and test page. This makes it easy to know when a checklist or test differs from the template it was created from and also provides a convenient link to that template.

You can now easily see whether a checklist or test differs from its associated template.

Prior to this release we also expanded push changes to allow pushing from account templates. The sum of these releases is a complete picture for pushing and pulling changes, allowing a checklist or test to be brought up to date with its associated template, regardless of whether it’s a project or account template and whether you are starting from the template or the checklist or test.

We hope you like this feature. See you next week!

One note: pushing and pulling changes are limited to upgraded accounts.

The Business of Commissioning Webinar Questions and Answers

As part of our webinar series Steve Alschuler, principal at Bath Commissioning, gave a fantastic presentation on best practices for managing a profitable and successful commissioning business. If you didn’t catch it, watch it on-demand on our resources page.

A good presentation generates a lot of questions and unfortunately we did not have time to answer all of the questions during the webinar. Steve graciously agreed to answer them after the fact and they are presented here.

Rules of Thumb

Q: How many folks are typically on a Cx team for a project?

Steve: One main project manager/technician does 90% of the work, if there are design reviews our senior Mechanical and Electrical Engineers do the reviews which is a very small part of the project, and then 5% of the project for me as the principal to supervise, review contracts, billings, collections, etc.

Q: Do you have any rules of thumb for commissioning fee estimating for owners? Per square foot? Percentage of construction cost?

Steve: Yes, I tell people for projects from 20,000 sq. ft. to 100,000 sq. ft. Cx should cost between $1/sq. ft. (low boundary) and 1% construction cost (high boundary).

Q: What industries are you seeing the highest need for Cx? Data Centers? Healthcare?

Steve: Higher Ed and Healthcare consistently seem to be our biggest and best proejcts.

Functional Performance Testing

Q: How much emphasis do you put on gaining remote access to a projects BAS? If this is something that your firm does regularly, how beneficial is it?

Steve: Not much, we always perform functional testing “on site” with the controls contractor present at the end of construction. There is risk in manipulating the control system by yourself without the BAS contractor present, if something goes wrong you would be responsible.

Q: When it comes to Functional Performance Testing in a retro-commissioning project, do you request the BAS contractor to execute the tests while you observe or do you commandeer the BAS and peform the testing yourselves?

Steve: For us it depends more on which staff we are using and how comfortable they are manipulating the controls. Generally speaking, it is a hybrid where the BAS gives us access and “shows us how to manipulate things” and then we do 80% of the work without them, and maybe 20% of the work with them.

Q: Healthcare requires confidence testing and compliance documentation that every device has been tested. How does commissioning interface with this requirement?

Steve: We test 100% of the systems we commission (generally) which is all documented in our Functional Tests which is provided to our client as an appendix to our final report at the end of the project.

Q: How often do you perform FPT before vs. after building handover? Only re-testing?

Steve: I would guess half the time before and half the time after they take occupancy. I don’t think we ever fully wrap up all testing prior to occupancy, although that would be ideal.

Q: In respect to getting paid for retesting (due to false promises, poor contractor coordination, pencil-whipped checklists, equipment failures, etc.) have you ever worked it into the Cx specs so it is the contractors liability and not the Owner’s? This goes back to your federal example.

Steve: Yes, our specs do say “the responsible contractor will be backcharged for additional testing…”

Q: Are functional tests in CxAlloy generic? Are the functional test extracted from the controls submittal?

Steve: Our functional tests are almost never generic, we write them project-specific based on the “approved” controls submittal.

[Editor’s Note: CxAlloy TQ provides ~15 test templates for common equipment such as AHUs, chillers, boilers, etc. but most customers quickly outgrow those and create or import their own tests.]

Responsibilities and Roles

Q: As subcontractors, do we have leverage if the Engineer approves a controls submittal, but the approved submittal deviates from the sequence of operation in the spec?

Steve: My opinion is that the last item approved takes precedence, so if the engineer approves a controls contractor’s submittal, that occurs after the plans and specs are issued for construction and the submittal supersedes the information in the project plans and specs, and that is how I believe it should be.

Q: You said it’s unnecessary for the commissioning professional to be present at startup. My experience in NYC is that attending them can be beneficial for different reasons: 1. Expose young engineers to what is done in the field and how it is supposed to be done. 2. Make sure that installers are not cutting corners. Some teams might falsify the results of the pressure testing or evacuation testing for VRF systems – if a CxA is present during the procedure, I think it can add to the quality assurance process that Cx is.

Steve: I agree, it can be beneficial, and we often have staff attend, but it is not a “requirement” of the CxA to be there.

Q: Many times the startup day is the only time that a startup technician will be on site. After that it becomes very challenging to get them back on site. Sometimes the CxA is able to run some functional tests but there are other tests that the manufacturer’s rep is best prepared for it and the tests are crucial to confirm the proper operation of a system. How do you handle that if you aren’t present for startup?

Steve: Yep, that’s why it is important to get good commissioning specs included in the project REQUIRING the Start-Up technician to be available whenever you need him. If he is only on site one day, you are going to waste a lot of time sitting around while he fixes things. He needs to spend a day getting it working, and the COME BACK to demonstrate that it is working.

Q: If the Engineer does not address the Cx concern should that item be marked as a closed item?

Steve: No, make the engineer address it by telling the owner not to pay him or her until it is at least acknowledged. The engineer does not have to take the Cx Provider recommendations, but we require that they at least “acknowledge” the comments we provide.

Q: The question of contractors never seeing any design issues came up. In my experience another reason is the designers never want the dirty laundry shown.

Steve: CxAlloy separated the design “dirty laundry” from the construction “dirty laundry” so the contractors do not know the dialog that has taken place among the owner/Cx Provider/Design Team.

[Editor’s Note: CxAlloy TQ projects have two separate issue logs, Design and Construction. Viewing permissions can be set on each independently and often contractors are not given view access to the design issues log.]

Q: What are your biggest heartaches dealing with the GC/EC/MC?

Steve:
• Number 1, Getting Checklists Completed.
• Number 2, Getting Checklists Completed.
• Number 3, Getting Checklists Completed

Leveraging CxAlloy TQ

Q: Do you use static verification forms to verify the peformance data of each piece of equipment (make, model, serial#, capacity, etc.)?

Steve: This information is gathered by the contractor as part of our construction checklist.

[Editor’s Note: CxAlloy TQ provides a lot of functionality targeted at exactly this, including the ability to scan equipment labels for serial number, model number, etc.]

Q: Do you have checklists that you follow for O&M reviews, TAB reviews, etc. in CxAlloy?

Steve: No we do not, probably should though – good idea.

Q: Does your Cx Final Report typically contain a Systems Manual?

Steve: They used to be separate documents for the longest time, but recently we converged them into a single document. We always do a final report, we don’t always do a Systems Manual, depends if it was listed in the original scope of work for Cx.

Q: We use this software for commissioning, as well as for annual inspections. Is this common practice?

Steve: Yes, we do too.

Q: Please address your experience of CxAlloy for owners use. Is CxAlloy used for retro-commissioning?

Steve: CxAlloy has a monthly cost and I think that might not be ideal for most owners unless they are large and well-funded. We use CxAlloy for both commissioning and retro-commissioning projects but it is designed and optimized for new construction commissioning more than retro.

Q: The project you showed had 4,711 questions for the contractors on the pre-functional checklist! How big was the project?

Steve: It was an elementary school, approximately 60,000 square feet.

[Editor’s Note: The 4,711 questions was the total number of questions across all checklists.]

Q: How can we get help with those CxAlloy customizations?

Steve: I can provide independent consulting services to help set you up with CxAlloy in a way that mimics our process.

Contact Info:
Steve Alschuler PE CCP
Principal
salschuler@bathgroup.com
CO: 8506 Rogers Loop Arvada, CO 80007
NM: 5345 Wyoming Blvd NE Suite 201 Albuquerque, NM 87109
TX: 4110 Rio Bravo Suite 102 El Paso, Texas 79902
(303) 955-5616 or (505) 362-9311 or (915) 313-7200
www.bathgroup.com

[Editor’s Note: For technical help on how to customize project settings you can watch our training videos, visit our support documentation, or email support@cxalloy.com]

Filter Project Activity by Date – Customer Appreciation Summer Week 3

This week’s release in our Customer Appreciation Summer I’m personally excited about, as it makes the Project Activity page a lot more useful – you can now filter by date range! As part of that, we have also changed how the activity page works so that it no longer requires you to navigate day-by-day.

Filtering activity to a date range

Previously the project activity page could only show one day’s activity at a time. This approach made it tedious to use the activity page to answer common questions like “When did this user last make changes?” and even “What’s happened recently?”.

Now Project Activity works more like a newsfeed, showing you the most recent activity regardless of when that activity occurred. You can page through activity to see older actions. Using the new Date filter, you can filter activity to specific time periods. Combine date filtering with the other filters to answer detailed questions such as “What issue comments did this user create last month?”.

We hope you like it. See you next week!

Phone Numbers – Customer Appreciation Summer Week 2

This week’s release for Customer Appreciation Summer is a simple but useful improvement: we’ve added a phone number field throughout the application. Technically this field was always there (you could set it on your profile page) but we didn’t show it in many places.

The “Phone Number” field is now available when adding users

The phone number field is now available where you would expect:

  • When adding a new user to a project or account
  • When viewing a user in a project or account
  • When editing a user in a project or account
  • When exporting account or project users
  • When adding a person to a Meeting distribution list
  • When viewing a Meeting distribution list
  • When exporting or PDF’ing a Meeting distribution list

As a bonus, we also updated the date for Meetings to include the year. A tiny feature but highly requested!

The year: small but important

See you next week!

A New Feature Every Week – Customer Appreciation Summer

The 3rd Annual Customer Appreciation Summer starts this week! Just like in past years, we’ll be releasing new features all summer long. In fact, we will be releasing one new feature every week for twelve weeks. That’s twelve new features in three months. Perhaps more importantly, these features have been sourced entirely from customer requests and include some of our most requested features.

Many of these features are the relatively small improvements that make the day-to-day experience of using the software more pleasant. Don’t worry, though – there’s a few bigger ones in there, too. Here’s just a few of the features that will be coming:

  • Deleting projects
  • Attaching files to progress reports
  • Showing users’ role and company next to their comments.

The First Weekly Feature – Editing Names and Titles

We are kicking off with one of the more highly requested features, available today – the ability to edit a user’s name after you have invited them. Now any time prior to the user accepting your invite you’ll be able to edit their name to correct any misspellings or other issues you discover. While we were doing this we also added an optional “Title” field to a user’s profile which will be shown if set.

More To Come

When a customer makes the decision to use CxAlloy TQ they are not only investing in the CxAlloy TQ of today but also what it will be in the future. We hope we are living up to that investment and are grateful for your trust and confidence in us. See you next week!

Capture Equipment Data without Typing a Single Letter

Today we have an incredible new feature for you – the ability to scan equipment labels and record equipment data, without typing a single character. Simply take a photo of equipment labels with your iPhone or iPad camera, then tap the recognized text to record instant, accurate data.

The feature may not always work perfectly, so we have initially released it as an “Experimental Feature”. To enable it, go to the Projects screen in the app, then tap the gear icon ⚙, then Advanced, then toggle on Experimental Features.

Once enabled you’ll see a new Label button at the top right when answering a checklist or test line with a linked attribute. There will also be a new Tag button in the search field that will let you quickly scan a nameplate or label for an equipment tag. We’ve prepared a short video that shows you how these features work.

More Powerful Import Tools for CxAlloy TQ

In our February 2020 release of CxAlloy TQ we made four key additions to the import capabilities of CxAlloy TQ. You can now:

  • Import issue and equipment status.
  • Import issue assignment and asset.
  • Import multiple systems for equipment and multiple zones for spaces.
  • Import areas served for equipment.

Status Importing

When importing equipment or issues you can now import status. Statuses have some unique considerations, including restricted and locked statuses, which we have been careful to address.

The import will automatically handle restricted statuses to prevent a user from setting statuses they are not authorized to set. For example, if you are trying to import issues with the status “Closed” and you don’t have permission to set the “Closed” status, the import will prompt you to select a different status to use in place of “Closed”.

Similarly, when updating existing issues or equipment you may not be authorized to change the status of certain items at all (see the status locking blog post for more). The import will automatically ignore status changes on those items and will notify you in the results page if any status changes were ignored.

Unlike some other fields, it is not possible to create new statuses through an import.

“Multi-Field” Fields – Asset and Assigned To

Issues in CxAlloy TQ have the fields “Asset” and “Assigned To” which can reference one of several types of items. This is different from most fields. For example, an issue’s asset could be a space, zone, floor, building, system, equipment type, or piece of equipment. Previously you couldn’t import into these “multi-field” fields, but now you can.

Unlike other fields, it is not possible to create new values during the import for these “multi-field” fields. For example, you cannot create new people, companies, or roles for the “Assigned To” field when importing issues. You must either select one of the existing options or leave it blank.

Multiple Value Fields – System and Zone

Previously it was impossible to specify multiple systems for a piece of equipment or multiple zones for a space. Now, it is possible to import multiple systems for equipment and multiple zones for spaces.

To do so, you separate your systems or zones by a custom delimiter: a space, a pipe, then a space ( | ). For example, to have a single piece of equipment belong to both the “HVAC” and “Chilled Water Loop” systems you would put “HVAC | Chilled Water Loop” as the system value in your spreadsheet.

CxAlloy TQ uses the same delimiter when exporting, so you can round-trip (export then import) equipment or spaces and all the systems or zones will be maintained.

As part of this feature we have changed how importing systems and zones into existing items works. Previously whatever system or zone you supplied would get added as an additional system or zone for the item. Now, the set of systems or zones (even if only one) in your spreadsheet replaces any existing systems or zones for that item.

Putting It Together: Area Served

I’m really happy that we can now offer the ability to import “Area Served” values for equipment. Area Served was challenging because it is both “multi-field” (it can be a space, floor, zone, or building) and multi-value, as one equipment can serve many areas.

With the additions we have made it is now possible to import Area Served. To specify multiple values, separate them by the space-pipe-space ( | ) delimiter. The import will automatically match the values against existing spaces, floors, zones, and buildings and suggest the closest match it can find. Please keep in mind that just like our other “multi-field” fields, you can only select from existing values for Area Served, and like our other multiple value fields, whatever you specify for Area Served will fully replace any existing served areas.

Whew! That’s a lot. We hope you like the improvements we’ve made. Please let us know any questions you have at support@cxalloy.com and give us suggestions for future improvements at feedback.cxalloy.com.

More Flexible Reports in CxAlloy TQ

As part of our February 2020 release we greatly expanded the filtering options in the report generator. Each section (issues, checklists, tests, etc.) now includes all or most of the same filters as that section’s list view. Even better, you can select multiple options for each of these filters, just like you can on the list page.

A full list of the filtering options for each section is included at the end of this post. Note that the Building filter is available for any section where it makes sense – one of the common requests we get is to better enable building-level reporting. The addition of these filters should make it easier than ever to report on a building-by-building basis.

Besides building reporting it’s also easier to do system-level reporting. The “System” filter for equipment along with the “Asset” filter for issues, checklists, and tests enables you to build a report specific to one or several systems on the project.

Table of Contents for a report broken down by system

Keep in mind that the same section can be added multiple times, with different filter options each time. In this way you could have a single report that was divided between systems, buildings, or other criteria. As an example, I could create a report that includes all issues, checklists, tests, and equipment for a system with a custom title page in front of it, then repeat that for each system.

Report configuration showing per-system filtering

With the addition of multiple report configurations this is really powerful.

Available Filters

Issues

  • Status
  • Priority
  • Source
  • Discipline
  • Location
  • Asset
  • Area Served

Tests

  • Status
  • Attempts
  • Discipline
  • Location
  • Asset
  • Area Served

Tasks

  • Status
  • Source

Equipment

  • Status
  • Discipline
  • Equipment Type
  • System
  • Location
  • Area Served

Reviews

  • Review Type
  • Review Remark

Equipment Types

  • Discipline

Spaces

  • Building

Zones

  • Building

Checklists

  • Status
  • Discipline
  • Checklist Type
  • Location
  • Asset
  • Area Served

Field Observations

  • Field Observation Type

Systems

  • Discipline
  • Building

Floors

  • Building

Batch Create Checklists and Tests in the Field

We are pleased to announce the latest release of the iOS app with a major new feature: batch creation of checklists and tests! This release also adds next/previous buttons for navigating between items in a list and a healthy dose of bug fixes.

Batch Create Checklists and Tests

In upgraded projects, tapping the “+” button above the checklist or test list will present a new batch create window. Just like the web, you’ll be able to select one or more assets, one or more templates, and then set options such as type and assignment before tapping “Create” to create the checklists or tests.

Easily create checklists and tests in the field with the new batch create

Batch creation is only available within upgraded projects, and only project templates are available currently. A future update will add account templates.

After you’ve created checklists or tests, why not try the recently added batch answer feature to efficiently answer them?

Next/Previous Buttons

You can now quickly step through your lists using our handy previous and next buttons. These are especially useful in the app’s full-screen mode.

New next and previous buttons allow navigation even when the list is hidden

Bug Fixes

This release also includes many bug fixes.

  • Fixed crashes that would sometimes occur when deleting items from a list.
  • Removed hard-coded stand-in numbers on the equipment list view.
  • Changing the sync interval no longer disables automatic syncing.
  • Window titles in App Exposé now properly reflect the window’s contents.
  • Using the app with Airplay Mirroring now responds properly.
  • Equipment list now properly sorts by status in the asset picker.
  • Fixed situation where some lists wouldn’t update their totals after deleting or adding new items.
  • Asset type switcher in the asset picker now scrolls smoothly.
  • Markups added to images using the iOS Markup are no longer removed when the image is added to the app.

We hope you enjoy these updates! As always, let us know how we can help you at support@cxalloy.com and let us know what other features we should be adding at feedback.cxalloy.com.

Webinar Series

We recently held the first of our new webinar series, Bringing Transparency and Effectiveness to the Whole Project Team. You can watch on demand right now at CxAlloy.com/media/20200211.

Join us for future webinars. Every month we will feature speakers from the commissioning and construction industry to share the ways they are using CxAlloy TQ to work faster and more effectively.

During the live event, we had a lot of great questions come in, but we didn’t have enough time to answer them all live. Afterwards, our speakers got together and wrote up answers to share below. If you have additional questions, contact us at support@cxalloy.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Continue reading “Webinar Series”