Commercial buildings: an EV-ready approach for new builds and retrofits
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EV Charging
Apr 14, 2021
Brendan McEwen

In the third article in a series that explores how to make the built environment EV-ready, Brendan McEwen turns to commercial buildings, outlining how building codes and assessing user needs can achieve EV-ready outcomes

In the third article in a series that explores how to make the built environment EV-ready, Brendan McEwen turns to commercial buildings, outlining how building codes and assessing user needs can achieve EV-ready outcomes

Previously in this series we examined “EV-ready” best practices for parking in new and existing multifamily residential buildings. But what about new and existing commercial buildings? How can public policy support access to EV charging where we work, shop, and recreate?

Unlike the scenarios in the first two articles, the solutions here aren’t so much technical as they are policy-based — mandating minimum EV-ready access and then determining the right type of charging depending on a building’s user profiles.

Nor is there a lack of best-practice examples. Many cities around the world have established requirements for new commercial buildings to feature EV charging infrastructure. For example, the cities of Toronto, Surrey and Port Moody in B.C., and multiple cities in California have all adopted requirements that 20 per cent or more of parking spaces in new non-residential developments feature either an EV charging station or an adjacent electrical outlet (i.e. be “EV-ready”).

These innovative policies will make it easier to charge EVs in these buildings in the future, and have informed similar proposals to update both Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings and the International Building Code (referenced in the U.S. and other jurisdictions).

Tailoring EV-ready policies to match user needs

Cities, provinces and states adopting EV-ready requirements for new construction isn’t enough to ensure success, however. Property owners and managers thinking about how to proactively future-proof their own properties also must consider what sort of EV charging infrastructure is best suited to different building types.

Broadly, passenger vehicle charging occurs at home, at work and on-the-go. For some building types (e.g., offices or industrial), most of the parking is used by employees who will typically stay onsite for long periods of time, allowing for a relatively slow rate of charge to provide adequate amounts of power for end users. Conversely, retail parking will often have more turnover and shorter dwell times, necessitating faster charging infrastructure.

Catering to their building’s particular profile with the right charging infrastructure should be every property manager’s goal.

Innovation in EV-ready requirements in B.C.

AES Engineering and Dunsky Energy Consulting recently completed a study to help multiple B.C. local governments consider how best to establish EV-ready requirements for new non-residential buildings. This work started by articulating the values and objectives associated with providing both workplace and “on-the-go” charging. We then considered the implications for what types of EV charging infrastructure can best serve these applications.

The table below summarizes this analysis. Armed with this information, B.C. local governments are now in the process of consulting with stakeholders to introduce new requirements for EV-ready non-residential buildings in their parking requirements.

Values and ObjectivesImplication for Infrastructure
At Work Charging
Support drivers without home charging, long-distance commuters, and limited range EVs: Provide charging for drivers without access to home charging or other reliable forms of charging (e.g. existing MURB residents; “garage orphans”; etc.). Provide charging for long-distance commuters or vehicles with limited electric range, for whom home charging may not suffice.
Provide reliable access to parking spaces with EV charging. Slow rate of charge is adequate (e.g., heavily load-managed L2).
Use clean, low-cost daytime power: Maximize daytime charging, anticipating future potential for significant amounts of low-cost energy due to growing solar energy supply; reduce overnight charging demand; support future “load shifting.”Provide infrastructure to accommodate significant aggregate daytime electrical load (e.g., significant portion of parking spaces and/or faster rate of charge).
On-the-Go Charging
Support opportunity charging: Provide options for L2 “opportunity charging” at common destinations.Dedicated L2 of ~40A at appropriate land uses (e.g., retail, etc.)
Develop fast charging network: Add to networks of DC Fast Charge stations; support drivers without access to home or workplace charging; long-distance trips; taxi; and car-share fleets.DC fast charging for short-term parking (e.g., one hour or less) near concentrations of garage orphans, major transportation corridors, etc.
Support electric car-share: Support car-share vehicles to electrify.Dedicated L2 charging for car-share of at least 40A.

Other Energy Code leaders following suit

Other jurisdictions and organizations are likewise considering EV charging requirements that better reflect the uses of parking found at different types of buildings. Notably, the New Buildings Institute recently released a Building Decarbonization Code. The Building Decarbonization Code is structured as an overlay to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), frequently referenced by authorities in the U.S. States or local authorities can adoption the Building Decarbonization Code to support carbon neutral buildings and enable electric transportation.

Requirements for EV charging infrastructure are summarized in the table below (note: EV-load-management systems can be used to comply, limiting electrical demand):

OccupancyEV Charger Spaces
(EV Charger Installed)
EV-Ready Spaces
(Electrical Outlet)
EV-Capable Spaces
(Space on Electrical Panel and Conduit to Parking Space)
Offices, Industrial15%25%
Residential 100%
Other 10%40%

As noted in a previous article, cities are rightfully reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements for new developments. But if parking is constructed, we need to ensure that EVs can charge. The progress demonstrated here by B.C.’s local governments, the New Buildings Institute and others points the way.

Brendan McEwen

Brendan McEwen is Director of Electric Mobility & Low Carbon Strategies at AES Engineering, where he helps government and utility clients plan for the transition to a zero-emissions, electrified future.

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