General Electrical Requirements for Healthcare Facilities

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) influences its electrical design.

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

1- Industrial buildings:

2- Commercial buildings:

Today, I will explain the third type of buildings which is Healthcare buildings although these type of buildings generally categorized under the commercial buildings but as they were important type of buildings, we will assign special topics for clarifying the electrical requirements of this type of buildings.

Health care facility definition:


Health or personal care facility refers to buildings or parts of buildings that contain, but are not limited to, hospitals, nursing homes, limited care facilities, clinics, medical and dental offices, and ambulatory care centers, whether permanent of movable and such other health care occupancies where patients who may be unable to provide for their own needs and safety without the assistance of another person are treated.

Health care facility famous types:

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/ clinic

Medical Office applies to facility space used to provide diagnosis and treatment for medical, dental, or psychiatric outpatient care where patients are not regularly kept as bed patients for twenty-four hours or more. 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.

3- "Nursing home," "nursing home unit" or "long-term care unit" 

It refers to buildings having a group of beds for the accommodation of patients who, because of chronic illness or physical infirmities, require skilled nursing care and related medical services but are not acutely ill and not in need of the highly technical or specialized services ordinarily a part of hospital care.

4- "Ambulatory surgical facility” or “Ambulatory Health Care Center”

It refers to a facility, not a part of a hospital, providing surgical treatment to patients not requiring inpatient care in a hospital.

Preliminary design phase (planning) for health care facilities 

During this phase, preliminary design data is gathered from administrators and staff of the health care facility, the local utility, and authorities having jurisdiction over electrical construction. All relevant national, state, and local codes, and facility design guidelines, should be reviewed.

Two national codes having a major affect on health care power distribution design are
  • The National Electrical Code (NEC) (NFPA 70-1996).
  • NFPA 99-1996, Health Care Facilities.

In addition, the architectural plans and existing site conditions should be examined from an electrical system perspective to determine potential problems and needs. The following issues should be addressed during the system planning phase of the design:

1- Reliability:

Alternative power systems may be authorized, but are limited to serving certain essential loads for critical, hospital, and other special facilities and loads as identified therein. The designer shall consider the location and space for essential electrical system components in order to limit interruptions caused by localized natural conditions, such as floods and earthquakes. Essential systems will be designed to function after seismic events occur. Non-essential systems may be inoperable, but components will be constrained to avoid personnel injury, or damage to other building components.

2- Durability:

Installed electrical systems and electrical equipment will have a minimum rating for continuous full design load, except where other criteria mandate greater, to meet the reliability requirements for the design life of the facility.

3- Maintainability

The design and construction for facilities will provide a means to remove and maintain equipment, and field installed wiring without interruption to mission critical loads.

4- Efficiency

The efficiency of the facility electrical system, measured at the utilization transformer secondary and the alternative power source, will have a power factor (PF) not less than 0.90 at nominal voltage for balanced three phase loading (phase unbalance will not exceed 5 percent between A, B, and C phase). Where required power factor correction shall be used to assure a minimum PF of 0.90.

5- Economy

Evaluate alternative system configurations, and component types and sizing for economic value, consistent with other criteria factors above.

Once the system planning phase is complete, the designer will have the necessary information to begin the actual design of the electrical distribution system for the health care facility.

Load requirements for healthcare facilities 

The major loads to be served by the electrical system in health care facilities will be divided into two types; lighting and power loads as follows:

1- Lighting loads
Lighting loads may be divided into the following broad categories

  • Internal lighting loads.
  • Special lighting loads.
  • Outdoor lighting loads.

2- Power loads
Power loads may be divided into the following broad categories:

1- Building equipment:
  • Heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R).
  • Transportation (elevators, escalators, trolleys).
  • Auxiliary pumps (fire, sump, clinical air and vacuum, pneumatic tube).

2- Functional equipment:
  • Kitchen.
  • Data processing.
  • Communication systems.
  • Business machines.
  • Laundry.

3- Medical equipment:
  • X-ray and imaging systems 
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Laboratory.
  • Surgery.
  • Intensive care, recovery, emergency.
  • Physical and occupational therapy.
  • Inhalation therapy.
  • Pharmacy.
  • Materials management.
  • Medical records.

NOTE: Major loads occur in the first two categories (building & functional equipment) and these loads are similar to those in other types of commercial buildings. The third category (medical equipment) is unique to health care.

In the next Topic, I will continue explaining the general electrical requirements for Healthcare facilities. So, please keep following. 

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