Martin McGrath is an experienced engineer with a strong construction engineering and contracting background. He is the lead engineer for our mission critical sector and oversees all of our projects across the Asia Pacific.

Throughout his career, Martin has designed and managed projects in many sectors, with experience ranging from small modifications and additions to existing facilities, managing annual IST’s through to large scale greenfield new construction projects.

His extensive knowledge base and experience make his contribution to any project invaluable. More to this, Martin has a reputation as a hard taskmaster. This is derived from his clear ambition to deliver best outcomes for his clients.

Read more about what drove Martin to become a commissioning specialist and why it’s essential to keep mission critical facilities running smoothly.

What inspired you to choose commissioning as a career path?

I had roles on builders, electrical contractors and design teams and saw a gap in the commissioning team that could bring these different roles together to make a more cohesive outcome, as design engineers were spending less time on site during the construction and commissioning phases.

What is good commissioning management?

Good commissioning management is the combination of the following:

  • Understanding the design end outcomes and requirements of a project and using our experience to provide guidance where we perceive potential issues.
  • Developing a plan on all activities of all services elements that need quality control processes to be carried out to ensure the project quality needs are fulfilled.
  • Working with the installing services contractors to ensure they are undertaking all of the testing and commissioning procedures and are recording these results to verify compliance.
  • Working with the installing contractors to ensure they coordinate with one another where their works overlap.
  • Undertaking witnessing to verify that project outcomes are met.

What’s your career highlight project? Please give brief details on scope and what the client’s project goal was.

My career highlight is NEXTDC S2. A $300 m, 830 MW storey colocation data centre project with 8,700 m2 of IT space that was constructed and fully fitted out over 2 years in 12 stages.

Tell us about the commissioning on this project, and include an initiative, feature and/or design challenge overcome.

Due to NEXTDC’s success in securing tenants, this project had several challenging elements and initiatives:

  • Full power stream skids were built off site and effectively plugged into the building as it progressed.
  • Completion of the initial 5 stages with online data halls before construction of the building superstructure was complete.
  • Formulation of a National Commissioning Plan for NEXTDC to outline the commission processes and requirements not only for this project but for their future sites.
  • Completion of multiple stages during COVID restrictions.
  • Successful implementation of stages with no interruptions to previously completed stages and operational data halls.

What innovative new approaches are you seeing when it comes to commissioning?

Some innovative new approaches I’m seeing are:

  • New software tools to assist and manage large commissioning records to be produced.
  • Pre-commissioning of offsite manufactured modular elements.

When do you believe an independent commissioning agent should be engaged on a project?

An ICA should be engaged at design stage, after concept design has been completed.

What is the difference between an independent commissioning agent (Green Star) and commissioning management?

In theory there should be little difference, however, Green Star has allowed for more activities to be undertaken by contractors without the guidance of an experienced commissioning manager.

If you’ve worked across regions or countries, and/or across operating units, can you tell us about the key similarities and differences you’ve encountered when it comes to commissioning and your projects?

The main differences between countries in APAC is the difference in skill base of services contractors and the need to comply with mandatory regulations. In less developed countries with a lower skill base, there is more of a need to focus on the fundamental commissioning activities as these form the bedrock of the more complex commissioning activities.

Where do you see the future of commissioning heading?

Hopefully seeing the commissioning process becoming more prevalent by seeing the cost, time and quality benefits of bringing together the design and construction elements of a project in a more cohesive fashion to deliver the required project outcomes.

How does diversity of background and thought influence how you deliver your projects?

With diversity comes potentially different experiences and perspectives that can help improve ingrained processes.

Tell us a bit about good commissioning management for data centres for mission critical projects. What are the key considerations?

In any mission critical project, whether it be data centres or any other type of mission critical building, there is a strong need for the building and its internal functions to operate continuously without disruption or interruption.

Accordingly, the key outcomes in the construction and commissioning of these buildings so they are ready for operation are:

  • Certainty that all equipment and systems operate correctly.
  • Certainty that the building can continue to operate at its required output when there is a maintenance activity or an unplanned failure of a piece of equipment.

From the above, the main drivers in the commissioning are:

  • Meticulous, planned and verified commissioning processes from fundamental activities to overall functional and performance validation.
  • Rigorous validation of potential failure scenarios and the automatic adjustment of building systems to cater for these events, including the impacts of one building service to another.
  • Zero defect or issue target so the building can be operational as soon as possible after handover and not require shutdowns to fix issues unresolved during commissioning.