Introduced as an “exciting new way to do commissioning”, Darren Draper, PE, CxA, explained to the owners and contractors on some recent commissioning projects that they can now test 100% of HVAC terminal units, rather than 30%, for the same cost.

Draper, Principal and Director of Commissioning at Epsten Group, was preparing to deploy “OTTO“, a new technology that automates the execution of Functional Performance Test (FPT) scripts on HVAC equipment, through a connection to the BAS. This means big time savings for both the contractor and the commissioning agent. OTTO can even work on nights and weekends if that’s the best time to test. For a project that has 100 VAV boxes, FPT scripts can require a commissioning agent to answer over 2,000 pass/fail questions and record the same number of BAS values – OTTO eliminates this tedious and repetitive manual effort. Draper emphasized, “we can now spend more time troubleshooting and less time box checking.”

OTTO is a creation of EMA Associate Member HP Buildings, which was launched in 2020 by Derek McGarry, PE, after years of development. From talking with both commissioning agents and HVAC controls contractors around the country, McGarry realized that the process of executing functional performance testing was ripe for automation. OTTO connects to the BAS network, automatically executes overrides to force systems into various modes of operation, collects trend data, answers functional questions, identifies faults, and presents the results in various electronic formats.

Epsten Group recently used OTTO to run a 12-hour long testing procedure at the new ASHRAE Headquarters in Atlanta, against 75 radiant cooling and heating zones. Another OTTO gateway is on its way to the new Anthem Office Tower II in Atlanta, where OTTO will run testing on 14 Self-Contained HVAC systems and a bunch of core and shell terminal units. As floors get upfitted for tenants, OTTO will automatically test any new terminal units as they get connected to the BAS.

Mazzetti, also a corporate member of ACG, is the Commissioning Authority on a new 7-story patient tower at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Hamot location in Erie, Pennsylvania. While the contractors are working hard to complete the tower so it can be open for COVID purposes, OTTO quietly works at night to systematically test (and retest) 220 terminal units, most with supplemental radiant heating panels. John Dombrowski, PE, CCP, the national Cx discipline lead for Mazzetti, says, “OTTO has enabled me to see things I would have missed. I can focus my efforts on solving problems rather than finding them. There are so many other things we have to do to help make a project successful, so it’s great being able to automate such a large chunk of the testing.”

Brian Barnes, ACP, MEP Commissioning Manager at Epsten Group, added that, “I’m excited to have OTTO on my team, and so is everyone else! A lot of functional performance testing activities are tedious and time consuming. I think automated FPT could transform the commissioning industry.”