Commercial Construction Considerations: Electrical Systems

This article discusses some of the components of electrical systems that you will find in commercial facilities.

These rooms naturally attract water because of their location and after several years, underground conduits develop leaks that allow ground water to travel into the room through the conduits. Therefore, firefighters need to be aware of panels missing covers exposing their live buss bars and conductors. You do not need to be in contact with a live piece of electrical equipment for you to receive a shock. If you encounter a situation were there is a panel without a cover or exposed conductors, stay away until the power has been disconnected by the utility company, or a licensed electrician can assist.

Generators Are Now Common
Generators are a key piece of electrical equipment that we all need to be aware of. For many years, generators were only found on buildings that served a critical purpose such as hospitals, police, and fire stations. However, there has been a large increase in the number of buildings that have generators. You can find a generator in almost any facility including homes.

There are a few issues we need to consider with generators. The first is pretty basic. There are combustion engines using diesel fuel, propane, or natural gas to operate. The second is generators that are located indoors. Because they are combustion engines, they produce products of combustion that may not be exhausting properly.

The combustion concern in no different than the concern from HVAC equipment. The last concern in regard to generators is the automatic transfer switch. Many facilities utilize these switches so that downtime during a power failure is minimized. Just as their name implies, these transfer switches are automatic, so when utility power is lost the generator starts to run. The problem is you may think you are shutting off the power, and while you are disconnecting the utility power the generator is starting and feeding the system. Therefore, it is important that the power is disconnected by the utility and the generator is disconnected to be sure there is no power in the building.

So we have discussed some of the components of electrical systems that you will find in commercial facilities. As we all know, electricity kills and we need to make sure we remain safe. We have now discussed the all of the main building systems.

In the future, look for more information on utilities, gas, electric, water, and sewer and some of the key features of these systems.

As always, spend some time getting to know the facilities in your response area. It could be the difference between life and death.

MATTHEW STIENE, a Contributing Editor, is a project manger for the Mecklenburg County Real Estate Services Department, and a firefighter with Robinson Volunteer Fire and Rescue, in Charlotte, NC. He is a licensed professional engineer in North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania, and is a certified facility management professional. To read Matthew's complete biography and his archived articles, click here. You can reach Matthew by e-mail at