Standard vs. Mission Critical: Know Your HVAC System Needs When Choosing a Contractor

Cleanroom temperature and humidity were fluctuating wildly during system commissioning on a recent laboratory construction project, and the installing contractor’sefforts to correct the problems only seemed to compound them. Costs were piling up, and it soon became obvious that the project had gone completely off the rails. MSC was called in to fix the issues caused by the contractor and get the commissioning process back on track, which we accomplished over the course of five days (including a few double shifts).

It should have been obvious from the get-go that the contractor was underqualified for the mission-critical project at hand, but the owners had failed to budget based on their building’s specific HVAC system needs and this particular company came at a bargain basement price. It all boiled down to a classic mistake: the client didn’t fully understand their own system requirements and had done their shopping in all the wrong places. Now they were paying a high price and had to hire a new HVAC contractor to replace the original one.

Don’t assume they’d learned their lesson, however, because the replacement company hadn’t been properly vetted, either, and wasn’t much better than the first. Issues that cropped up when commissioning resumed snowballed, progress ground to a halt once again, and MSC was called back for the second time in less than a month to fix a whole new set of problems that could have been avoided.

Here’s the lesson. Construction budgets are what they are, but building owners must understand that there are significant differences between a standard HVAC system and one that serves a mission-critical environment. Likewise, all mechanical contractors are not the same, and complex projects demand installers of a higher caliber. Budget accordingly and compare apples to apples when choosing between contractors, or expect to pay dearly in time, money, and headaches.

Think of it this way: if you own a Ford or a Honda and it needs service, Pep Boys might be a perfectly acceptable choice. But would you entrust them with your German luxury car, or vintage Thunderbird, or Lamborghini? Of course not. Building owners taking on a major construction project need to figure out whether their HVAC system is a Ford, a Lamborghini, or something in between and apply these standards when narrowing down their mechanical contractor choices.