A Guide to Electrical Design for Commercial Buildings

From multi-storey office blocks to converted old properties, each and every commercial building has its own special construction requirements. As a working space, they need careful consideration – especially when it comes to the electrics. So what electrics does a commercial building actually need? And where should you even begin with your electrical design?

To start, you need to determine whether your building is defined as ‘commercial’ in the first place. If 50% or more of its floor space is used for commercial purposes – whether retail, manufacturing or a head office for example – it will fall into the commercial category. This is then split into further sub-categories – such as A1 for shops, or B1 for business.

The electrical design of your commercial building will, in part, be dictated by its intended use. A hospital, for example, will have a very different requirement to a private office or shopping centre. But there are some uniting factors for all commercial properties falling into five categories; safety, voltage, security, logistics and ambience.

1. Safety

Whether your building is used by staff, clients, or members of the public, you have a responsibility to uphold health and safety requirements. Electrics do carry a great deal of risk, which is why it’s important to get your electrical design spot-on in the first place. That means:

  • Providing sufficient levels of lighting for safe working: low lighting may cause eye problems
  • Lighting particularly dark areas and stairwells, to mitigate the risk of falls and injury
  • Ensuring a backup emergency lighting system is in place, in case of a mains outage
  • Maintaining basic electrical safety, including plug sockets and cabling
  • Safety systems in case of a fire; including smoke and fire alarms, as well as a sprinkler system
  • PAT-tested appliances – including toasters, kettles and refrigerators as well as office equipment
  • Lightning protection

2. Voltage

This next point goes hand-in-hand with safety. You need to understand the voltage class and the requirements of your building, because different sizes and types will require varying treatment. A simple residential building will usually be supplied by a low voltage of under 1000 Volts, directly from the National Grid. But a bigger commercial building with higher electrical needs may require a medium voltage class of up to 20,000 Volts (20KV), which may be supplied by a substation.

3. Security

Once the safety aspect is covered, it’s time to turn to security. A commercial building must be secure, or risk serious repercussions: especially if a business has high-value products, expensive equipment or sensitive, confidential information on site. Security systems include CCTV, burglar alarms and an electronic access system. With these in place, the risk of break-ins or internal security breaches will be diminished.

4. Logistics

Logistics is the next concern. Your electrical design should ensure the property is actually usable. How will staff or customers reach the top floor? How will they communicate with each other? To answer these questions, you will need to incorporate:

  • An efficient communications system, including external and internal telephone systems, teleconferencing facilities, broadband and WiFi
  • Audiovisual systems
  • A means for getting from A to B; whether that’s lifts, escalators, or even dumbwaiters for food

5. Ambiance

The next consideration for your electrical design is ambience. Heating, air conditioning and ventilation fall into the must-have category. But once the ‘essential’ boxes are ticked, you can turn to the decorative touches to achieve maximum enjoyment and comfort. Elegant lamps; wall-mounted HD televisions; exquisite coffee at the touch of a button. These are the final touches that will turn your commercial property into a first-rate business facility to be enjoyed by all.

Remember: don’t neglect the specifics

There is no boiler-plate guide to electrical design for commercial buildings. Before you conclude your electrical planning, make sure you investigate the specifics of your property and its intended usage. There may be rules and regulations to bear in mind, and it is best to be made aware of these as soon as possible, so you can build in sufficient time and budget.

To ensure you are on the right tracks, the best course of action is to consult an experienced and qualified commercial electrician. They will be in a position to confirm your electrical design needs, and provide advice and resource to get the job done. Without this insight, you may fall short of your electrical requirements: with the potential for problems further down the line.

Call in the Experts

If you are concerned about the electrics in your commercial building or would like some advice, we can help at Spark Squad. Our UK team of electricians is fully-qualified, NICEIC, NAPIT and City & Guilds approved – ensuring they are able to deliver our high standards and unrivalled level of customer service. For more information, take a look at our professional commercial electrical services or call on 01395-350-125 today.