Week 8 of our Customer Appreciation Summer adds the company and role of the author to comments, both on the web and in PDFs.
You’ll also see this information in the next release of the iOS app later this week. That update also features the “Include Asset Name” option when creating checklists and tests that we first rolled out on the web last week.
In addition, we’ve improved the presentation of field observation comments in the PDF to make it clearer which comment photos belong to.
As a reminder, all of these features are based on feature requests at feedback.cxalloy.com. Although we focus on smaller features during the Customer Appreciation Summer, we are also working on many of the bigger requests. If you’ve added a request, made a comment, or just voted on the ones you want, thank you – your input there has been incredibly valuable to us.
We hope you like these updates and we’ll see you next week!
Week 7 of our Customer Appreciation Summer is all about checklists and tests. First, we’ve added a new option when creating checklists and tests: “Include Asset Name”. By unchecking this option you can create checklists and tests without their associated asset name, which was not possible before.
We’ve also made two other improvements to the options step – you can now change a name right away without having to click “Customize” first, and we show an example of the name the checklists or tests will be given.
In another improvement to checklists and tests you can now see the percentage of Yes, No, and N/A answers in the PDFs right next to the colored progress bar.
We hope you like these updates. See you next week!
The latest Customer Appreciation Summer release adds project deletion. You can now finally get rid of that project you renamed “ZZZZ Don’t Use”! 😀
Deleting a project is as simple as clicking the “Delete” button on an account’s Projects page. It’s also available as an option in the “Actions” dropdown on the Overview page and on the General tab of the Project Settings page.
A project must be archived before it can be deleted, and only account admins can delete a project. Like most actions in CxAlloy TQ that modify data, you can undo a project deletion immediately after deleting it. If it takes you a day or two to realize that a project should not have been deleted, you can contact support and we can restore it for you.
Now your project list can look just a little cleaner. We hope you like it. See you next week!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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?”.
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 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 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:
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!
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.