The Benefits of Near End of Warranty Reviews

Most people that have been in the construction industry are familiar with the phrase “taillight warranty.”  The phrase is used to describe how the only warranty service at the end of a construction project was watching the taillight of your contractors as they drove away, never to return.  Although this is mostly used in jest, many owners do struggle to get contractors to return to projects to help identify and correct warranty issues.  One solution for this is the near end of warranty review.

We recently completed the near end of warranty review meeting for large school construction project in New England.  This five-hour meeting resulted in a documented list of items that the occupants and facility staff had discovered that relate to possible warranty issues.  We then turned this list over to the construction team to begin addressing and correcting these items before the end of the 12-month warranty. This gave the owner confidence that the building would operate properly without issues related to the original construction.

This review meeting and the process leading up to it is typically part of enhanced commissioning services for high-performance building certification. This project was not seeking any certifications, however the client recognized the benefit of having such a review, given the size and duration of this construction project.  This project was approximately 260,000 square feet and included the programming of both a middle school and high school. The construction duration was approximately 24 months, and the scope of commissioning services included the building envelope and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems.

It is highly advantageous to have a near end of warranty review performed for projects of this size and complexity.  This is in part because it takes the facility staff time to learn about the building systems and gain experience running them.  During this learning period, the staff is focused on understanding how to operate the systems and their nuances.  In the later stages of this learning period, the staff will have enough experience to confidently identify issues.   They may not have enough experience to know the root cause, particularly if it involves complicated HVAC systems or the building management system, but they do have enough experience to spot the symptoms.

In the months leading up to this meeting, SES met with the Facilities Director to help her prepare the staff for the types of issues we were seeking to capture. This gave the staff time to think of the relevant items that they may have already experienced and give them the guidance to be on the lookout for new issues that may pop up before the meeting.   The meeting was scheduled well in advance to take place at approximately 10 months into the 12-month warranty period. All the project team members were invited, which included the design team, construction manager, trade contractors, building automation system contractors, facilities staff and Superintendent of schools.  As the commissioning agent, we lead the team through an outline that included all the systems and equipment within the commissioning scope, cataloging every item raised.  After the meeting, the entire team walked the project to visually observe every issue discussed.  During the walkthrough, the team confirmed if the issue is related to a warranty , and if so, identified the corrective actions required.

The walkthrough allowed the contractors to firmly grasp the issues and put the information provided by the facility staff in context with absolute clarity. As a result, each responsible party knew exactly what needed to be done and how to go about fixing it. The Facility Director and Construction Manager established timelines to have the corrections completed, and the Commissioning Authority and Facility Director tracked progress as each item was addressed.

As you can see, this process provides a very smooth transition from warranty to post warranty, alleviating the owner’s concerns about issues not being addressed within the warranty period. This provides peace of mind to the owner and stakeholders, knowing that the result leads to a successfully completed project for the entire project team.

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Ernest Lawas

About the Author:

Ernest Lawas is the co-founder and a Managing Principal at Sustainable Engineering Solutions. He has over 25 years of experience providing Commissioning services nationwide. Ernie is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. He is also a Certified Commissioning Professional through the Building Commissioning Association, a Certified Energy Manager and Certified Energy Auditor through AEE, and a LEED Accredited Professional.