Retail, restaurant and mixed-use facilities: Electrical, power, lighting

What are the trickiest aspects of retail, restaurant and mixed-use projects and what trends lie ahead? Read on for solid advice from experienced professionals.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer June 27, 2019


Jason GerkePE, CxA, LEED AP BD+C 

Practice Area Leader – Mechanical/Plumbing | Principal  




Wayne GriswoldPE, CFPS 

Principal Fire Protection Engineer 




Jonathan Robertson, PE, LEED AP BD+C 

Associate Principal, Mechanical 

Integral Group 

Austin, Texas 


Sunondo Roy, PE, LEED AP 

Vice President 

CCJM Engineers 


CSE: Are there any issues unique to designing electrical systems for these types of facilities?  

Robertson: Tenant systems are usually low-cost systems. Generally, there is a stumbling block in meeting the control requirements of the energy code and budgeting this correctly. 

CSE: What types of unusual standby, emergency or backup power systems have you specified for such facilities? 

Robertson: Generally, as little as possible consisting of battery or inverter systems. Only projects with four or more floors get backup power unless there is a particular motivation to have one. 

CSE: What are some of the challenges when designing electrical, power and lighting for restaurant, retail or mixed-use projects? 

Robertson: Achieving the perfect balance of energy, cost and control. 

CSE: What are some key differences in electrical, lighting and power systems you might incorporate in a restaurant, retail or mixed-use facility, compared to other projects? 

Roy: One of the key differences between restaurant and retail or mixed-use spaces is the need for wash-down capability. Ceilings, lighting and some fixed electrical devices in the kitchen/commercial cooking area need to be designed to withstand health code mandated washdown. It’s critical to specify wet location, sealed lighting fixtures and NEMA 4X enclosures. 

CSE: Describe metering or submetering project. What did it include and what best practices did you include for these facilities 

Gerke: Design for metering and submetering on most mixeduse projects is a must. A recent design project included tenant metering for power and chilled water consumption. Electrical distribution was centralized and a number of smaller tenants could not easily be served by utility provided electrical meters due to existing power distribution. The chilled water is supplied by a central utility plant for the facility. These meters are all integrated into a central direct digital control system that the owner uses to pull the data and bill tenants monthly. Other meters are installed to monitor and track consumption of utilities but are not used for billing. 

CSE: Are you seeing more smart or microgrid aspects on such projects? If so, how have you served these needs?  

Robertson: Yes, more and more smart or microgrid projects are coming online. Battery storage, in particular, helps by allowing the user to set their own priorities whether it be peak demand reduction, cost offsetting or enhanced resiliency. 

Gerke: GRAEF is currently involved in the concept design phase of a microgrid project for a large industrial site. It has not been our experience to see microgrids down to the level of mixeduse development due to the first cost and extended payback required.