Industrial-strength design: Electrical, power, and lighting

Manufacturing and industrial facilities tackle heavy-duty projects during their day-to-day operations—so it makes sense that engineers working on such structures face a number of tough challenges. Engineers offer advice on how to achieve results when designing electrical, power, and lighting systems.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer June 30, 2015


Jerry Bauers, PE, NEBB Qualified Professional, National Program Executive, Outcome Construction Services, Kansas City, Mo.

Jason R. Gerke, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CxA, Mechanical and Plumbing Group Leader, GRAEF, Milwaukee

Mark O’Connell, PE, Manager of Facilities Engineering, Matrix Technologies Inc., Maumee, Ohio

CSE: Describe some recent electrical/power system challenges you encountered when designing a new building or retro-commissioning an existing facility.

O’Connell: We have substantial experience with projects where existing facilities have been repurposed into a new manufacturing or process area. Sometimes, we find that the building’s electrical distribution documentation is nonexistent or outdated. This documentation is important in determining the existing electrical loads that need to maintain service, while adding additional loads associated with the new process. In addition, it is critical to review the electric utility or existing building infrastructure to determine if the system has the capacity to accommodate the proposed electrical loads. Finally, the engineer must develop a plan that incorporates new electrical improvements while maintaining existing building or plant operations. We feel strongly that communication with the owner is extremely important to ensure planning and coordination throughout the project design and installation

CSE: In your experience, what percentage of manufacturing/industrial facilities are transitioning to LED lighting?

O’Connell: We see a low percentage of manufacturing/industrial facilities that use LED lighting. The positive aspect is the use of LED lighting was nonexistent only a few years ago, so progress is being made. We are optimistic that LED lighting is building momentum due to the lower cost of LED fixtures, combined with manufacturers focusing more on their sustainability initiatives. As the cost of LED fixtures continues to decline, we expect LED lighting to increase significantly in market growth.