Professionals working in building commissioning are required to have a broad range of knowledge. They are responsible for confirming the proper functioning of plumbing systems, electrical systems, lighting, and wastewater. They must determine if a building meets fire and general safety codes. Not only must building commissioning professionals make sure a building meets the standards of its owner, he must also know about every aspect of a building’s construction so as to confirm overall structural integrity. Because of the range and serious nature of these responsibilities, it is in the best interest of a building commissioning professional to become certified.
It is not necessary to take the Certified Commissioning Professional exam to work in building commissioning. There are a number of reasons it would benefit you to take the exam, however, if you are in this line of work and are not yet certified. You would have more job opportunities available to you, and you would probably qualify for job advancement in the position you already have. You could qualify for a raise in salary. Perhaps most importantly, becoming certified would demonstrate to clients, other professionals, and yourself that you are capable of carrying out your job as safely as possible.
The CCP exam is a computer-based test made up of 125 multiple-choice questions. Some of these questions may test your general knowledge of information relevant to your field, and other questions may pose hypothetical situations that require you to think creatively for a solution. 5 major areas of content will be represented on the exam. These are pre-design, which will account for 4% of the exam content, design, which will constitute 18% of the exam, construction, which will constitute 53% of the exam, occupancy and operations, which will make up 13% of the exam, and additional commissioning related content, which will make up 12% of the exam. The time limit for the exam is 2 hours.
You will need to make sure you meet all eligibility requirements before you apply for the CCP exam. You’ll then fill out the exam application, which can be found at the website for the Building Commissioning Association (BCA) and submit it, applicable fees, and all other application materials by mail or fax. If you are approved for a testing seat, you will receive notification via email. This notification of approval will come with a username and password that you will need to log into your computer on the day of the exam. You must have a copy of this notification with you when you take the exam. After getting a notification of approval, you will continue on to the website for ISO-Quality Testing, which is a partner with the BCA in the administration of the exam. At this website you can register for a particular date and time to take the CCP exam. There are more than 200 official testing locations throughout the United States and internationally that you can choose from.
After being approved to take the exam you will have 6 months to register for and take it. If this period elapses without your doing so, you will have to start over with the application process, which will require the submission of all relevant fees again. If you are not approved for a testing seat, you will receive information from the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB) telling you additional information you can submit within 24 months in order to reapply without having to totally start the application process over from scratch.
If you pass the CCP exam, you will be notified by mail. You will not actually be given a score; you will just be told that you have passed. If you fail, on the other hand, you will receive notice of this by mail along with your overall score and your score in each individual area. Note that CCP credentials must be renewed every 3 years.
CCP Exam: Eligibility and the Application Process
Once you decide to take the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) exam you must determine whether or not you are eligible and then, if you do qualify, complete and submit all application materials. The eligibility requirements fall into 3 categories. These are education level, employment history, and project experience. You will have to provide appropriate documentation verifying your eligibility along with your application.
Education is the first category of the prerequisites you must satisfy. There are several ways you can satisfy this requirement, and depending on the educational route you take, the requirements for your employment history will change slightly. The minimum requirements for project experience are the same no matter what your level of education. It is possible for you to qualify for the CCP exam on the level of education with a bachelor’s degree or higher with your focus being building sciences. If you have attained this level of education, your employment history requirements are at least 3 years employed as a commissioning provider in the lead role. The 3 years of employment must be consecutive, and they must fall within the 5 year time period prior to applying for the exam.
If you do not have a bachelor’s in building sciences, it is possible to qualify in the education category by having a bachelor’s degree or higher in a field that is not directly related to building sciences, by having an associate’s degree in building sciences, or by successfully finishing an apprenticeship program related to the building sciences. If you meet these requirements, there will be a little bit more required of you in your employment history. You must have been employed as a commissioning provider in a lead role for at least 3 years. These 3 years must be consecutive, and they must have passed within the 5 years prior to applying for the exam. You must also have at least 5 years of experience directly dealing with the construction of buildings.
The third way you can meet education requirements is by having an associate’s degree in a field that is not directly related to building sciences or a high school diploma or GED. As in the case of the other two educational routes, you will be required to have worked at least 3 consecutive years within the last 5 years before applying for the CCP exam as a commissioning provider in a lead role. You also will be required to have accumulated 12 years of experience directly dealing with the construction of buildings.
These are the 3 ways to qualify for the CCP exam in terms of education and employment history. No matter which of these routes you take to qualify, you will have the same requirements for project experience. You must have completed 3 projects as the commissioning provider in the lead role. You must be an active participant in these projects in every step, from design to construction.
If you meet eligibility requirements, you can proceed with your application. You can find the application at the website for the Building Commissioning Association (BCA). You will fill out the application as directed by the instructions and send it in to the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB). You can send it in by mail, email, or fax, and contact information for each of these methods can be found in the Candidate Bulletin of Information. Along with your application, you will also be required to submit project experience forms, student transcripts, and references from former clients. These will be considered sufficient verification of your eligibility. Send in the appropriate application fee, which is indicated on the application form, with all other application materials. The typical waiting time for approval is 2-4 weeks after the submission of your application materials. You should receive both an email and a letter permitting you to register for the exam or telling you to reapply later.
CCP Exam: Study Strategies
The Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) exam covers a broad range of material drawn from all phases of a commissioning project, from pre-design to post-occupation considerations. Given the amount of information you must learn for this exam, it would be wise to try to implement several different strategies as you are studying. Different approaches to material may facilitate your overall absorption and retention of information, and it may foster the kind of creativity necessary for successfully answering questions that are based in hypothetical situations.
The most obvious study strategy is setting out a schedule with the appropriate study material. As obvious as this may be, it is also one of the strategies that is most taken for granted in preparing for exams. Plan to start studying several months before the exam. Ideally, you should start studying as soon as you decide to apply. If you are working or have other obligations throughout the week, you will need to plan your study around these activities. It is best that you schedule a 2 hour study session every morning or every evening. If you can study in the morning and the evening, that’s even better.
At the beginning of each week schedule a specific time for each day to study and plan how much material you should get through by the end of each day and by the end of the week. Not only will this keep you regular with your studies, it will help you set goals, the completion of which will motivate you and illustrate your progress. Make sure that your daily study is always in a quiet place free from distractions. It is best to always study in the same place rather than moving around. Being in the same environment everyday will help solidify your routine.
Make sure you have the appropriate material for your studies. If you have taken a degree in the building sciences, use old textbooks and notebooks. There is also a list of reference books that might be of use during study in the Candidate Bulletin of Information. Look to the summary of content areas on the CCP exam for guidance as to which topics you should study the most.
As you are studying, try using different methods to spark memorization. As you are reading, highlight anything that stands out to you as important, and review everything you’ve highlighted at the end of each study session. Make flashcards for any terminology or other succinct pieces of information. Review flashcards before you start studying and after you finish every day, always incorporating the new ones you make. Whenever you finish reading material on a specific subject, try writing a brief summary of what you just read. You will most likely come up with the most important points, and writing things out will help really ingrain the information in your mind.
If you know other people who are taking the exam, you should form a study group. In your group, divide up all of the content areas, pre-design, design, construction, occupancy and operations, and additional commissioning related content, among group members and teach the rest of the group the most important information associated with your content area. You can identify problem areas and break out into one-on-one pairings with a person who is strong in an area you are weak in and vice versa. One-on-one discussion will give you a chance to really see different topics from another person’s perspective, which can be helpful if you are experiencing confusion.
A final strategy you should take when studying is talking to someone who has already taken and passed the CCP exam. You’ll be able to find out about the conditions you’ll be taking the exam under, which will help decrease your nervousness. You’ll get insight into different types of problems, the best ways to approach them, and which areas you should spend the most time studying.
CCP Exam Content: Area 1-2
The Certified Commissioning Professional exam covers 5 areas of content. These are pre-design, design, construction, occupancy and operations, and additional commissioning related content. These categories are not presented as sections specifically. Questions drawn from each category will be presented at random on the test. Each of these categories is broad and can be divided into numerous subsections of tasks and information. In order to best prepare for the exam, you should look at each of these areas of content and the information that falls under them individually.
The first area of content on the CCP exam is pre-design. This area constitutes 4% of the test, which comes out to 5 questions. This section may hold the least weight of all those covered on the exam, but you should still give it sufficient attention during your study and preparation. There are two major tasks that fall into the pre-design phase. These are the writing of the Design Intent Document (DID) and the formation of a preliminary commissioning plan. You may receive questions on the execution of either of these tasks.
In writing up a DID, you will conduct interviews with the owner of the building, your design team, and the operation and maintenance staff to determine what the design objectives are for the building and how those objectives fit in with the actual function the building is being constructed for. Then there is the actual drafting of the DID and the evaluation and modification of it if necessary.
In forming a preliminary commissioning plan, you will assign specific duties to each member of your design team and determine the equipment and systems you’ll use in construction. Whatever equipment you decide to use must meet safety standards. You will work out a commissioning plan that meets all of the criteria detailed in the Design Intent Document and then review your plan with your design team and the building owner to determine if the plan is feasible in terms of finances and the owner’s vision for the building.
The second area of content on the exam is design, which makes up 18% of the total CCP exam and comes out to 23 questions. There are 5 general tasks that fit into this area. These are the assessment of design development documents, the formation of commissioning specifications, the final assessment of all design and construction documents, attendance of the pre-bid meeting, and the creation of a checklist for the contractor. Reviewing plans is imperative in a commissioning project and must be done time and time again. In the assessment of design development documents, you will essentially take another look at the design plans you have already made, the desires expressed by the owner, and the best ways to carry out a design while ensuring that structural integrity will be maintained. In the formation of commissioning specifications, you will use the preliminary commissioning plan to write out all of the specifications in your commissioning project. These may include the final roles for all of your design team members, the contractor’s roles, expected goals, avenues of communication, conditions denoting the acceptable completion of the building, and training prerequisites necessary for any staff members. This is essentially the working out of the final draft of the commissioning plan you began with preliminarily. The final assessment of all design and construction documents is basically another stage of review where you determine how things are progressing and whether or not your commissioning plan needs to be modified. When you attend the pre-bid meeting, you will detail the progress your commissioning team is making and answer questions. Your final task in the design phase will be making a checklist for the contractor. This may cover the delivery and installation of equipment, the testing of equipment, or the testing of ducting, wiring, and piping. Questions will cover individual aspects of these tasks.
CCP Exam Content: Area III
The first two areas of content on the Certified Commissioning Professional CCP exam cover pre-design and design. The third area focuses on construction. This area makes up 53% of the entire exam, coming out to 66 questions. Because this is the section that holds the most weight, you should devote a proportionally larger amount of time studying for this section than you do for others. Construction is one of the most important parts of a commissioning project, and there are numerous tasks and skills in this category. All questions in the construction category will relate to some aspect of the tasks required in this phase of commissioning.
Construction starts with reviewing submittals. After the building has been bid on, you, the commissioning provider, will look over the submittals of the winning contractors to ensure that they are in accordance with safety regulations and the expressed wishes of the building owner. The next step is creating a definitive list of all equipment and systems that will be needed in the project. You’ll then write up a final draft of the commissioning plan. As with other steps in the design phase of commissioning, you will once again assign duties to your design team and determine equipment and systems that will be needed. The only difference this time is that you’ll be taking into account the progress you have made and any problems, conflicts, or discrepancies that have arisen.
You will be responsible for heading up a preliminary commissioning coordination meeting to be held at the construction site. Here you will explain the process of building commissioning in layman’s terms, detail your specific commissioning plan for the building, and outline how it is progressing so far. You’ll introduce the members of your team and explain the duties they individually have in the project. You’ll also detail the avenues of communication used by all parties involved in the commissioning of the building, give an official timeline for construction, and answer any of the contractor’s questions.
After the preliminary commissioning coordination meeting, you will be responsible for writing up functional performance documents to test whether the execution of designs is matching those on paper and whether structural integrity is being maintained or not. You’ll then evaluate the start-up and testing procedures of the contractor. This will involve making sure the contractor is running appropriate tests prior to the installation of different systems to ensure safety, making sure start-up procedures are in compliance with the commissioning plan, and reporting your findings to the building owner.
As the lead commissioning provider you will be responsible for heading up regular commissioning coordination meetings to monitor the progress of construction from start to finish. You’ll perform tests designed to verify whether or not equipment has been installed correctly and safely. You will assess and submit a balancing report to the owner of the building and then verify that report to ensure that any problems illuminated by it were fixed. You will be responsible for functional performance tests of equipment and systems throughout the building. It is your responsibility to make sure any problems that are brought to light during these tests are resolved. Your other duties may include studying operation and maintenance manuals and any documents produced by the contractor, identifying training requirements for staff through studying operation and maintenance manuals, making a plan for staff training, and providing a training program for the operation and maintenance staff. On the basis of your work on a building, you will be responsible for helping in the formation of operation, maintenance, and energy manuals for the owner and operation and maintenance staff. Your last duty will be creating a re-commissioning management manual, which will be necessary for the eventual re-commissioning of the building.
These are the duties that fall to the commissioning provider in the construction phase. Expect questions dealing with any of these tasks.
CCP Exam Content: Areas IV & V
The first three areas of content covered on the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) exam are pre-design, design, and construction. The final two areas are occupancy and operations and additional commissioning related content. None of these areas are presented as actual individual sections on the test. Questions from each area will appear at random on the exam. The main purpose of giving these areas of content is to provide you, the test taker, with an idea of the general topics you need to study and how much you need to study them based on the weight each area is given on the exam.
The occupancy and operations area makes up 13% of the CCP exam. There are 16 questions that come from this category. Each of these questions will relate in some way to a specific task associated with this phase of commissioning. Questions may require you to demonstrate your knowledge of a piece of information related to one of these tasks, or they may present a hypothetical situation dealing with one of these tasks and ask you to choose the appropriate action on the part of the commissioning provider. The tasks that come under the occupancy and operations category are creating a final report, performing functional tests on a regular basis into the future, performing necessary tests as the warranty comes to its end, and assessing the condition of the building after it has been occupied. Creating a final report signals the closing of regular work on a commissioning project. You, the contract provider, will put together a report that consists of all documents related to the commissioning project, from the beginning pre-design phase up until the end, and a summation of the project identifying any outstanding problems that have not yet been fixed or making recommendations for the future of the building. You’ll also include a document covering all systems in the building in the final report. This should include a summary of why certain decisions were made, the installation process, and any issues that have arisen with various systems since their installation. You’ll then be responsible for putting the final report on a flash drive or CD.
After the commissioning project is over, there will still be some tasks you will have to continue with. You will perform functional tests on a regular basis into the future after the building is finished. Functional testing will involve your checking all systems and equipment to ensure they are working properly. You will most likely make these checks once per season when that season is at its most extreme in weather. For example, in winter, testing will be done when it is coldest, and in summer, testing will be done when it is hottest. You will perform similar necessary tests as the warranty comes to its end. You’ll make sure all equipment and systems are working properly and talk to operation and maintenance staff members to assess any problems that are not immediately recognizable through testing. Finally, you will assess the condition of the building after it has been occupied. You may perform a one-on-one interview with occupants for insight into any problems they have experienced with the building, or you may present them with a survey to fill out so they are not put on the spot.
The fifth area of content on the CCP exam is additional commissioning related content, which constitutes 12% of the exam and comes out to 15 questions. Essentially, any content that is not directly related to tasks performed during the commissioning project will fall into this category. Topics may include the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines, the Building Commissioning Association (BCA) Essential Attributes, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, or procedures associated with the development of construction documents, such as RFI, submission, protocol, and shop drawings.