The average size of commercial buildings built after the year 2000 hovers at around 18,000 square feet. That’s due to the increase in hospitals, retail stores, and lodging spaces.

If you’re working on a project for a new commercial space, you’re going to need to think about electrical design. This ensures that the occupants of the building have enough power to operate safely.

Do you want to learn more about electrical design and how to make it work for commercial environments? Read this guide to learn the basics of electrical design.

What Is Electrical Design?

Electric design involves planning and creating a workflow for electrical currents to run. Electrical design is actually a broad field because it covers many different applications.

Electric designers can work on a computing project to get electricity to power a motherboard. There are electrical designers who specialize in aircraft electrical design.

It can also involve designing a light switch to power a light or a ceiling fan. In commercial building projects, electric design involves the planning of every aspect of power in the building.

Think about the possibilities if the power failed in a hospital. The results could be fatal in some cases. For other businesses, they could see a significant loss of revenue because of a failure.

Who’s responsible for planning the electric design in a commercial building? That’s usually up to an electrical design engineer or commercial electrician.

In both cases, they have to have the experience and qualifications to do the work. An electrical design engineer is likely to have a degree in electrical engineering. They may also have taken design courses to understand the different applications of electrical design.

Electrical contractors are certified by the state contractor’s board. They have to have a combination of experience and education before they can sit for a certification exam.

Top Considerations for Commercial Electric Design

There are severe consequences if an electrical design isn’t done properly. How can you make sure that you have a flawless electrical design no matter how the commercial building gets used?

The first thing to do is to look at the application of the building. You may be dealing with a mixed-use development, where there are retail stores and offices underneath residential apartments or condos. You could be designing a restaurant or a warehouse.

Each type of business will have specific needs for power, safety, and mood. Let’s take a closer look at some of these considerations.

Safety Regulations

Electrical fires are a big concern for property owners because they are responsible for any electrical issues or errors. In places that are open to the public, you need to put health and safety first in your design.

There may be local and state regulations that you need to follow, as well as specific industry safety rules. For example, in a hospital or warehouse, you need to make sure that there is enough light to work.

You also can’t have random cables running through the building like a wired jungle. That will be a liability issue should someone trip and fall.

You’ll also need to take safety equipment and backup power equipment into account. Fire sprinklers and smoke alarms will be a part of the electrical design.

Backup power and emergency lighting will be needed in commercial buildings to ensure the safety of all occupants in the event of an outage.

Voltage Requirements

The voltage class is a big part of commercial building safety. If you use the wrong voltage class, an equipment failure or fire will happen.

Take into account the feeder, main circuits, and service loads to calculate the voltage requirements for the building. You can turn to electrical design software that will assist with these calculations.

You’ll also know how the power is supplied. That amount of power isn’t likely to come from the main grid like a residential building. The commercial building is likely to be powered by a nearby substation. You’ll need to check with the local power company to make sure they provide the necessary power to the building.


There is a connection between lighting and mood. Your electrical design plans will have to create the mood of the establishment.

A romantic restaurant may have a dark dining area while the kitchen is bright for working. An office is usually bright and cheery to enhance productivity.

Communications Protocols

For large buildings, employees will need to communicate with one another. How will the executive on one of the top floors communicate with someone on the first floor?

Draw up plans for internal phone systems, internet connections, server rooms, and elevators.

Your communications protocols should incorporate security needs. You’ll have to design where the security cameras will be placed along with security alarms.


There is a greater demand for commercial buildings to have a small carbon footprint. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the standard for sustainable buildings.

Buildings are given points based on a set of criteria to attain LEED certification. Electrical designers play a significant role in proving the building was created using sustainable principles. You’re responsible for the total energy consumption of the building and the lighting efficiency.

Electrical Design in New Commercial Buildings

A new commercial building is a complex project. The electrical design of the project is one of the most complex aspects. The design needs to adhere to safety standards and regulations while taking the function of the building into consideration.

Some of the basic considerations for a safe design include sustainability, regulations, security, and the purpose of the building. You have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders to get it right.

Ready for more design tips? Visit the Buildings section of this site for more commercial design articles.

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