Electrical Design Requirements for Commercial Buildings

In the previous topic, Electrical Design Philosophy for Major Types of Buildings,We talk about the different types of buildings and how the building type (function) influence its electrical design.

This was very clear in our previous discussions for the electrical design requirements of the industrial buildings which were included in the following topics:

Today, I will explain the second type of buildings which is Commercial buildings and clarify the electrical requirements of this type of buildings.

Commercial building definition:

A building with more than 50 percent of its floor space used for commercial activities.

Commercial buildings include, but are not limited to, office buildings, industrial property, medical centers, hotels, malls, retail stores, shopping centers, farm land, multifamily housing buildings, warehouses, and garages.

Commercial building Classifications:

The commercial buildings category include many types of buildings vary from traditional buildings like offices, Retail, Multi Family, self storage, etc. and Non-Traditional buildings like Auto Repair Shops, Hotels & Motels, Pharmacies, Daycare Centers, Outdoor Entertainment Centers, etc.

However, the commercial buildings can be classified to main five categories included in the following table:

hotels, public houses, restaurants, cafes, sports facilities
retail stores, malls, shopping centers, shops
office buildings, serviced offices
multifamily housing buildings
medical centers, hospitals, nursing homes

Commercial building types examples per category:

First: Leisure category

1- Hotel

Hotel applies to buildings that rent overnight accommodations on a room/suite basis typically including a bath/shower and other facilities in guest rooms.

Hotel properties typically have daily services available to guests including housekeeping /laundry and a front desk/concierge. The total gross floor area should include the following spaces:

  • all interior space, including guestrooms, halls, lobbies, atria, food preparation and restaurant space, conference and banquet space, health clubs/spas, indoor pool areas, and laundry facilities. 
  • as well as all space used for supporting functions such as elevator shafts, stairways, mechanical rooms, storage areas, employee break rooms, back-of-house offices, etc. 
 Hotel does not apply to properties where more than 50% of the floor area is occupied by fractional ownership units such as condominiums or vacation timeshares. Hotel properties should be majority-owned by a single entity and have rooms available on a nightly basis

2- Restaurant 

Restaurant is a commercial building where meals are prepared and served to customers, it typically include the following spaces:

  • Entry and Waiting Area.
  • Dining Room.
  • Bar or Lounge.
  • Walk-up Service or Take Out Counter.
  • Restrooms (ADA compliant).
  • Kitchen.
  • Hostess and Wait Stations.
  • Ample Aisle and Circulation Space.
  • Dry and Refrigerated Storage.
  • Office and Employee Amenities.

3- Sports Facilities

Are building where people can go to play many different types of sports.

Sports facilities typically include the following spaces:

Table Tennis
S-Lane, Track & Field Court/ Soccer
Parking Spaces
waiting area
long and Triple jump
Admin Office
High jump
Security Off
Manager's Office
Pole Vault
Canteen/s/ Food Court
Hummer throw
Sleeping areas
weight Training/ Fitness Gym
Discuss throw
Dining Areas

Javelin Throw
Souvenir Shops
Conference Room/s

Putting & Shot
Trophy Case/ Bulletin board
Ticket Area

Basketball Courts/s

Clinic/Emergency Facility

Volleyball Court/s


Baseball field

Storage Space

Lawn Tennis

50 meter/ 8 lane/s swimming pool

Diving (Spring Board Platform

Second: Retail Category


1- Retail Store

Retail Store applies to facility space used to conduct the retail sale of consumer product goods.

Stores must be at least 5,000 square feet and have an exterior entrance to the public. The total gross floor area should include All supporting functions such as kitchens and break rooms used by staff, storage areas, administrative areas, elevators, stairwells, etc.

Retail segments typically included under this definition are: Department Stores, Discount Stores, Supercenters, Warehouse Clubs, Drug Stores, Dollar Stores, Home Center/Hardware Stores, and Apparel/Hard Line Specialty Stores (e.g. books, clothing, office products, toys, home goods, and electronics).

Retail segments excluded under this definition are: Supermarkets (eligible to be benchmarked as Supermarket space), Convenience Stores, Automobile Dealerships, and Restaurants.

2- Supermarket

The Supermarket/Grocery Store space type applies to facility space used for the retail sale of food and beverage products. The total gross floor area should include all supporting functions such as kitchens and break rooms used by staff, storage areas (refrigerated and non-refrigerated), administrative areas, stairwells, atria, lobbies, etc.

Third: Office Category


1- Office buildings

Office applies to facility spaces used for general office, professional, and administrative purposes. The total gross floor area should include all supporting functions such as kitchens used by staff, lobbies, atria, conference rooms and auditoria, fitness areas for staff, storage areas, stairways, elevator shafts, etc. The following information is required for an Office Space

Forth: Residential Category

1- Multifamily Housing

The Multifamily space type as a residential building equal to or larger than 3 units which is either rented, leased, let or hired out, to be occupied, or is occupied, as the residence or home of three or more families living independently of each other. Multifamily space types include all square footage in the residential units, common areas, and unconditioned space (boiler room). Occupants of Multifamily housing can include tenants, cooperators, and/or individual owners

2- Single Family Housing

A single-family house is contained within walls extending from the basement (or the ground floor, if there is no basement) to the roof.

Fifth: Healthcare Category

1- Hospital (General Medical and Surgical)

Hospitals are Buildings used as diagnostic and treatment facilities for inpatient care. it applies to a general medical and surgical hospital that is either a stand-alone building or a campus of buildings.

These facilities provide acute care services including emergency medical care, physician's office services, diagnostic care, ambulatory care, surgical care, and limited specialty services such as rehabilitation and cancer care.

The definition of Hospital accounts for all space types that are located within the Hospital building/campus, such as medical offices, administrative offices, and skilled nursing. The total floor area should include the aggregate floor area of all buildings on the campus as well as all supporting functions such as: stairways, connecting corridors between buildings, medical offices, exam rooms, laboratories, lobbies, atria, cafeterias, storage areas, elevator shafts, and any space affiliated with emergency medical care, or diagnostic care.

2- Medical Office

Medical Office applies to facility space used to provide diagnosis and treatment for medical, dental, or psychiatric outpatient care. The total gross floor area should include all supporting functions such as kitchens used by staff, laboratories, lobbies, atria, conference rooms and auditoria, fitness areas for staff, storage areas, stairways, elevator shafts, etc.

General Electrical System requirements for Commercial buildings:

The fundamental objective of commercial building design is to provide a safe, comfortable, energy-efficient, and attractive environment for living, working, and enjoyment. The electrical design must satisfy these criteria if it is to be successful.

Today’s commercial buildings, because of their increasing size and complexity, have become more and more dependent upon adequate and reliable electric systems.

One can better understand the complex nature of modern commercial buildings by examining the Electrical System requirements systems.

The systems, equipment, and facilities that must be provided to satisfy functional requirements will vary with the type of facility, but will generally include some or all of the following:

  1. Building electric service.
  2. Power distribution system.
  3. Lighting Interior and exterior, both utilitarian and decorative; task and general lighting. 
  4. Communications Telephone, facsimile, telegraph, satellite link, building-to-building communications (including microwave, computer link, radio, closed-circuit television, code call, public address, paging, fiber optic and electronic intercommunication, pneumatic tube, doctors’ and nurses’ call, teleconferencing), and a variety of other signal systems. 
  5. Fire alarm systems Fire pumps and sprinklers, smoke and Fire detection, alarm systems, and emergency public address systems. 
  6. Transportation: Elevators, moving stairways, dumbwaiters, and moving walkways. 
  7. Space conditioning: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. 
  8. Sanitation: Garbage and rubbish storage, recycling, compaction, and removal; incinerators; sewage handling; and document shredders and pulpers. 
  9. Plumbing: Hot and cold water systems and water treatment facilities. 
  10. Security watchmen, burglar alarms, electronic access systems, and closed-circuit surveillance television.
  11. Business machines: Typewriters, computers, calculators, reproduction machines, and word processors. 
  12. Refrigeration equipment.
  13. Food handling, catering, dining facilities, and food preparation facilities.
  14. Maintenance facilities.
  15. Lightning protection.
  16. Automated building control systems.
  17. Entertainment facilities and specialized audiovisual systems.
  18. Medical facilities.
  19. Recreational facilities.
  20. Legally required and optional standby/emergency power and peak-shaving systems.
  21. Signing, signaling, and traffic control systems; parking control systems including automated parking systems.

Commercial buildings voltage classifications:

commercial buildings are primarily people- and public-oriented and because of their different sizes and types, they can need electrical supply with different voltage classes , for examples simple residential building will need an electrical supply with low voltage class (under 1000 V) from public Low Voltage grid while a commercial building used as health care facilities will need an electrical supply with medium voltage class (UP to 20KV) Via public or in-house MV substations, for more information about different voltage classes , please review the following links:

For more information about Electrical System Configurations press on the link.

In the next topic, I will explain the specific electrical design requirements for commercial buildings. So, please keep following.

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