Electrical Safety Research Advisory Committee | Standards Michigan

Electrical Safety Research Advisory Committee

We are grateful that other organizations -- such as the Independent Electrical Contractors Association -- have taken leadership of the "rightsizing" building power system issue. David Hittinger and Larry Ayer deserve special mention.


Electrical Safety Research Advisory Committee

September 18, 2018
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University of California San Diego microgrid

The NFPA affiliate Fire Protection Research Foundation supports the Electrical Safety Research Advisory Committee (ESRAC); a committee focused on supporting the safety mission of the NFPA.  For example:

Some of the research topics — such as grounding, bonding and the increasing proximity of the public to electrical energy — are perennial with every National Electrical Code cycle.  Some research topics such as photovoltaic systems and electric vehicles seek to keep pace with the information needed by technical committees to inform consensus deliberations for newer technologies.   Other topics — such as the how energy codes are driving down electrical power densities — are technically and politically complicated.

One such research area that was of interest to the original University of Michigan standards advocacy enterprise involved “rightsizing” electrical power systems. (Link to APPA Facility Manager: Disrupting the National Electrical Code)  This topic, while relatively simple technically, was politically complicated because,  while it lowered the cost of education facilities (i.e. the user/owner/final fiduciary we describe in detail in our ABOUT), but also narrowed the revenue margins of incumbent interests such as manufacturers, insurance, labor, compliance and enforcement who routinely out-voted proposals for rightsizing.  A short paper summarizing how this condition emerges is linked below:

NEMA ElectroIndustry May 2013 ReImagining Safer Power Systems in Education Facilities

NEMA deserves credit for publishing this paper. 

An IEEE paper on this topic expanded upon the technical specifics (Link to IEEE Industrial Applications Society Article: Rightsizing electrical power systems in large commercial facilities)   To follow this, the original University of Michigan standards advocacy enterprise catalyzed the funding of a research project that resulted in providing the technical foundation for the changes to 2017 National Electrical Code Article 220 which can be used by the education industry (and all others) to bring the building premises wiring infrastructure closer to the actual load.   Details more fully explained at this link: Evaluation of Electrical Feeder and Branch Circuit Loading. Phase 1.   While every research project — by definition — calls for more research, the outcome of just this much of Ms. Gammon’s research gives building power system designers more flexibility in “rightsizing” the building premise wiring.  The result is lower cost and greater safety margins for most of the facilities in the education industry. 

The ESRAC met again in January 2018 during the 2020 National Electrical Code technical committee meetings and revisited its priorities, methods and prospective funding sources.   Minutes of the meeting are linked below:

MTG SUMMARY – Elec Safety RAC Meeting 2018Jan13 – FINAL

Since others have “moving the ball further downfield” on rightsizing building power systems, we will be collaborating with the IEEE Education & Healthcare Facilities Committee on the next zeitgeist in electrotechnology: power over ethernet and the likelihood that the internet of things will transform large parts of the existing AC power networks into lower-voltage DC power networks.   Because this transformation — much like microgrids — will likely involve federal research to academic institutions, we will have a front row seat.   We will be collaborating with IEEE SCC18 which is the IEEE technical committee charged with informing development and correlation of the NFPA and IEEE suites of standards.

The next meeting of the ESRAC is on October 27, 2018 during the Second Draft Meeting of National Electrical Code Technical Committees in San Diego California.  Remote attendance is possible; though login specifics are net yet available.    More information on all ESRAC activity is available from Casey Grant (cgrant@nfpa.org)

From our archive:



Link to previous coverage:

Fire Protection Research Institute | Evaluation of Electrical Feeder and Branch Circuit Loading

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