Retro-commissioning is the first stage in the building upgrade process. The staged approach accounts for the interactions among all the energy flows in a building and produces a systematic method for planning upgrades that increases energy savings. When the staged approach is adopted and performed sequentially, each stage includes changes that will affect the upgrades performed in subsequent stages, thus setting up the overall process for the greatest possible energy and cost savings. In this staged approach, retro-commissioning comes first because it provides an understanding of how closely the building comes to operating as intended. It also helps to identify improper equipment performance, what equipment or systems need to be replaced, opportunities for saving energy and money, and strategies for improving performance of the various building systems.

Re-commissioning is the term for applying the commissioning process to a building that has been commissioned previously (either during construction or as an existing building); it is normally done every three to five years to maintain top levels of building performance and/or after other stages of the upgrade process to identify new opportunities for improvement.