Specifying electrical systems in manufacturing, warehouse buildings

Warehouse, manufacturing and logistics facilities need engineering experts to specify various electrical and power systems

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer May 31, 2021


  • Jarron Gass, PE, CFPS, Fire Protection Discipline Leader, CDM Smith, Pittsburgh
  • Mike Morder, PE, CPD, Design Engineer II, Southland Industries, Dulles, Va.
  • Bryce Vandas, PE, Mechanical Group Lead, CRB, St. Louis
  • John Gregory Williams, PE, CEng, Vice President – Design Studio, Harris, Oakland, Calif.


Are there any issues unique to designing electrical/power systems for these types of facilities?  

Bryce Vandas: yes, these facilities need to maintain power (including eliminating blips) to eliminate product losses. Increasingly we are seeing uninterruptible power supplytype systems being required for large portions or entire facilities. 

What types of unusual standby, emergency or backup power systems have you specified for warehouse, manufacturing and logistics facilities? 

Bryce Vandas: Most of our facilities use generator to back up large portions of the process or the entire building and mediumsize UPS to back up the controls. Some projects are heading in the direction of backing up parts or the entire portion on UPS. This has typically been diesel generators with 24 hours fuel tanks and lithium-ion batteries in UPS. 

What are some key differences in electrical, lighting and power systems you might incorporate in this kind of facility, compared to other projects? 

Bryce Vandas: The type of facilities we use are FDA regulated. The finishes and types of fixtures are built specifically for the environment they are put in whether it be NSA for food projects or ISO 5-8 for pharmaceutical facilities. They are typically stainless or have specific coating rated for the environment. We also see a lot of PVC coated and stainless conduit, hazardous areas and heavy wash down areas. These types of facilities increasingly have more power distribution for segregation and maintenance then a typical facility as well. 

How does your team work with the architect, owner’s rep and other project team members so the electrical/power systems are flexible and sustainable? 

Bryce Vandas: Typically, the electrical design team needs to understand the process and how the building is meant to operate so that the electrical system can be design to eliminate costly shutdowns and enable maintenance in specific areas while other areas continue to run. To do this, we are intimately involved in the process coordination meetings as well as requesting significant space for electrical panels compared to a standard office building. 

When designing lighting systems for these types of structures, what design factors are being requested? Are there any particular technical advantages that are or need to be considered? 

Bryce Vandas: Lighting for these types of facilities, especially in clean spaces are function over form but energy efficiency and control are becoming more and more important. In the more general spaces of the building like offices, entryways etc. clients are requesting more appealing lighting and fixtures to improve employee morale and attract clients.