Tips to design multifamily and mixed-use buildings: Electrical, lighting

Multifamily dwellings and mixed-use buildings are becoming more prevalent. Some best practices and tips are offered for engineering electrical, power, and lighting systems in these residential buildings.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 26, 2017


  • Brian Berg, PE, LEED AP, CEM, Associate Principal, Glumac, Irvine, Calif.
  • David Crutchfield, PE, Principal, RMF Engineering, Charleston, S.C.
  • Kieran Healy, PE, Mechanical Engineer, CCJM, Chicago
  • Lui Tai, PE, Technical Services Director, JENSEN HUGHES, Toronto
  • Robert J. Voth, Executive Vice President, Bala Consulting Engineers, King of Prussia, Pa.

CSE: Describe a recent electrical/power system challenge you encountered when working on such a project.

Berg: Dealing with utility companies for submetering is always a challenge. Some utilities allow submetering of all residential units while other utilities require utility meters for each residential unit. This greatly impacts spatial requirements and billing methodology. These conversations need to occur and be documented with the utility at the very beginning of the project.

CSE: Describe a recent standby, emergency, or backup power system you designed, and its challenges and solutions.

Berg: An owner recently had us locate an emergency generator on a median in the middle of the street underneath an elevated train track. Coordination needed to occur between the utility engineers, the city engineers, and the train engineers (pun intended) to allow this to happen and to navigate the infrastructure from the generator, across a city street, and to the building.