Electrical Design Stages in Construction Projects – Part 1

In the world of construction projects, the electrical design process serves as the backbone that brings structures to life. This intricate journey unfolds in distinct stages, each with its unique set of challenges and objectives. In this comprehensive guide, we will navigate through the phases of electrical design, from the initial concept to the final realization.

Phases of a Construction Project

To grasp the importance of electrical designs, it’s essential first to understand the broader context of a construction project. Construction projects typically progress through multiple phases:

  1. Feasibility Studies and Surveys: This initial phase involves assessing the project’s viability and conducting site surveys to gather essential data.
  2. Planning & Budgeting: Once the project’s feasibility is established, the planning and budgeting phase begins. Here, project stakeholders outline the scope, budget, and timeline.
  3. Design and Development: This phase is the heart of the project, where detailed plans and designs are created, including the critical electrical design component.
  4. Construction Phase: The final phase involves the actual construction and implementation of the project.

Design and Development Phase: Unraveling Electrical Design

The electrical design process unfolds through various stages and sequences within the Design and Development phase. These stages help transform ideas and requirements into a tangible electrical system. The specific stages may vary depending on the project and its complexity, but here are the general electrical design stages:

  1. Concept Design Stage
  2. Schematic Design Stage
  3. Detail Design Stage
  4. Tender Stage

Note: Smaller projects often combine the conceptual and schematic design phases.

Understanding the Significance of Concept Design Stage

The concept design phase involves creating an initial high-level plan for the electrical system. It’s the phase where designers brainstorm solutions and ponder the possibility of achieving the same objectives through alternative, more straightforward means.

Major Activities in Concept Design

During the conceptual design phase, the Electrical Design Team undertakes essential tasks to set the groundwork for the project’s electrical system. These tasks include:

  1. Client Requirement Assessment: The team thoroughly reviews client requirements, focusing on aspects like reliability, efficiency, and redundancy.
  2. Evaluation of Existing Connections: The team examines the requirements for links with existing structures and equipment. This step ensures a seamless integration of the new electrical system into the project.
  3. Code and Standards Compliance: The team conducts a meticulous review of relevant authority codes and standards to guarantee that the design adheres to legal and safety requirements.
  4. Utility Company Engagement: To establish effective connections and utility service access, the team initiates contact with utility companies. This guarantees a reliable source of power.
  5. Load Estimate Calculations: The team performs load estimate calculations, typically expressed in watts per square meter (W/m²). This provides a foundational understanding of power demands.
  6. Assigning the Primary Supply Methodology: The team decides on the primary supply methodology during this stage, shaping how power is sourced and distributed.
  7. Emergency Preparedness: The team ensures uninterrupted operation and safety by allocating standby power, outlining emergency lighting, and aligning with fire safety standards.
  8. Assigning Plant Space Requirements: Defining the space needs for main plant areas, where critical electrical equipment is housed, is a crucial aspect of this stage. (See Article 110 NEC 2023 for space requirements.
  9. Earthing Methodology Selection: The choice of earthing methodology, a vital safety consideration, is established to safeguard against electrical faults.
  10. Hazardous Area Classification and Risk Assessment: The team identifies and addresses potential hazards and safety risks, ensuring a secure working environment while adhering to safety protocols and regulations.

Concept Design Deliverables

At the end of the Conceptual Design Stage, the Electrical Design Team provides building drawings that include their recommendations for the electrical room, placement of main electrical equipment, and locations of major service routes.

This extensive process in the Conceptual Design Stage sets the stage for a robust and well-informed electrical design, laying the groundwork for the subsequent stages of development.

In the next Article, we’ll discuss the Schematic Design Stage.