Designing health care facilities and medical campuses: Electrical, power and lighting

Hospitals, clinics, and similar facilities are among the most demanding an engineer can tackle—technology is evolving rapidly, hospital managers are increasingly budget-conscious, and assist in saving lives. Here, electrical, power, and lighting challenges are addressed.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer November 20, 2018


  • Andrew Flanagan, PE, GPD, LEED AP, Associate, Senior Plumbing Engineer, Interface Engineering, Portland, Ore.
  • Mikhail Fuks, PE, HFDP, Engineering Group Leader, P2S Inc., Long Beach, Calif.
  • Gary Hamilton, PE, LEED AP, CxA, EDAC, SASHE, Senior Vice President, WSP, Arlington, Va.
  • Alex Harwell, Client Manager/Project Manager, Dewberry, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Ted Hood, Senior Project Manager, TLC Engineering for Architecture, Brentwood, Tenn.
  • George P. Isherwood, PE, Vice President, Peter Basso Associates Inc., Troy, Mich.
  • Jeremy Jones, PE, LEED AP, EDAC, Healthcare Market Leader, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Brian Kannady, PE, Principal, ME Engineers, Golden, Colo.

CSE: What are some key differences in electrical, lighting, and power systems you might incorporate in one of these health care facilities or medical campuses, as compared with other projects?

Kannady: Lighting has become an important part of the health care facility design. It is used as a method of wayfinding, using color schemes and fixture types based on department. In addition, lighting fixtures with full, tunable white temperature ranges are being used to enhance the circadian rhythm for patients.

CSE: Are there any issues unique to designing electrical systems for medical facilities? Please describe.

Kannady: Medical facilities typically require several levels of backup power that need to be defined early in the design process. A facility with multiple imaging equipment may require a centralized uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system design. Separation of the emergency systems is essential to a successful electrical system design for medical facilities.

Jones: One unique quirk of hospital electrical design is the need for isolated power in certain locations. States vary considerably in regard to where isolated power is required. In almost every jurisdiction, it is required in “wet” locations, a vague definition most commonly applied to operating rooms. In my state, it is additionally required in any anesthetizing location as well as any room where there is the potential for a “direct electrical connection to the heart muscle.”

CSE: What are some of the challenges when designing electrical, power, and lighting for such projects?

Isherwood: Lighting concepts and controls have been studied and related to circadian rhythm, which is starting to relate to everyday design work. These newer concepts for lighting, the temperature of lighting, and amounts of light are being incorporated into most, if not all, of our health care-related projects.

CSE: What kind of lighting designs have you incorporated into such a project, either for energy efficiency or to increase the occupant’s experience? Discuss the use of LEDs or other updated light sources.

Jones: Several years ago, LED lighting was most prevalent in retrofit projects where hospitals received incentives from their utility provider for energy efficiency projects, or when their CFO allowed system upgrades based on lifecycle analysis. I believe we have finally reached the tipping point, where LED costs have dropped to the point where LED lighting is a common basis of design on new projects, even without incentives. In fact, on almost every recent greenfield or major renovation project we’ve issued, LED lighting has been the basis of design.

Kannady: The lighting design typically includes a full LED solution, providing energy efficiency. Lighting design includes full dimming to allow occupants and patients full flexibility to control light levels. Intensive care units use full, tunable white temperature ranges to help support circadian rhythm in patients