It’s not just vehicles that are changing with the shift to electricity. The buildings we inhabit, and their parking lots, are evolving too. More and more municipalities are adopting new building codes that mandate electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in new developments, further facilitating the overall adoption of EVs.
Why building codes are important
Building codes are important for standardizing building quality and safety. For example, before the introduction of fire safety codes, buildings could be built to whatever specifications the developer wanted. This often led to buildings that were built as cheaply as possible, which led to tragedies.
For example, while sprinkler systems have existed since the early 1800s and the first in North America was installed in 1852, it was not mandatory to install them in new buildings. Sprinkler systems were often ignored, as installation added to the cost of construction. Many fires that could have been quelled easily with sprinkler systems instead razed buildings and led to many deaths, such as during the infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Thanks to building codes that mandate safety systems such as sprinklers and fire escapes, tragedies like the Triangle fire are less common.
Why EV charging infrastructure building codes are important
In the case of EV charging infrastructure, building codes ensure safe installation, but they also help “future proof” buildings and facilitate EV adoption.
When people have easy access to EV supply equipment (EVSE), they’re more ready to purchase an EV. And if you’re going to charge your car, what better place to plug in than at your home or workplace where you spend most of your time?
And this is where EVSE building codes come in.
In a proverbial nutshell, EVSE building codes guarantee that every new commercial or multi-unit dwelling (MUD) has EV charging infrastructure. In the absence of charging stations, EV drivers sometimes plug a travel EV charging cord into an available 110V wall outlet, which can create a tripping hazard, as well as a fire hazard if the travel cord is damaged. Buildings that install charging stations to meet local code can ensure driver and pedestrian safety, as well as better manage their electrical usage.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) says EV building codes are necessary to:
- Meet federal, state and local EV ownership targets.
- Keep up with rapidly shifting EV automotive trends.
- Help meet the nationwide need for more EV charging infrastructure as EV adoption becomes more widespread.
- Expand access to EVs by providing more places for owners to charge.
- Save developers money by requiring upfront infrastructure rather than performing expensive retrofits later.
Building codes do not require old (heritage) buildings to be retrofitted with EV charging infrastructure, but sometimes they require retrofitting more modern buildings during ongoing renovations. (More on that later.)
SWEEP has compiled an ongoing list of all the jurisdictions in the United States that have implemented building codes for mandatory EVSE in new developments.
Three types of building codes for EV readiness
Sweep says most EVSE building codes for new developments fall into one of three categories:
- EV-Capable Parking Spaces
- EV-Ready Parking Spaces
- EV-Installed Parking Spaces
EV-Capable Parking Spaces
EV-Capable parking spaces have the wiring and conduits in place for EVSE, but do not have any actual chargers or dedicated circuits. The installation includes panel capacity and conduits (sometimes known as raceways) that would be able to accommodate installing 208/240 V, 40-amp circuits, and EV chargers. This underground work makes it easier to later add the receptacle for plugging in a charger.
EV-Ready Parking Spaces
An EV-Ready parking space takes things one step further. In addition to wiring and conduits, EV-Ready spaces include the installation of full circuits for 208/240V, 40-amp panel capacity, receptacles/junction boxes, and overprotection devices for the parking spaces. This would give them the same electrical capacity as the circuit for your dryer or other major appliances. These spaces are essentially “plug and play” and can immediately receive EV chargers if/when necessary.
EV-Installed Parking Spaces
As the name implies, EV-Installed spaces are where the EVSE is installed in the parking space. All electrical work has been completed, and the charging station is ready to charge a vehicle.
Other kinds of EVSE building codes
In addition to EV Readiness, some jurisdictions also include requirements for building operations and electricity usage.
Existing Building Alterations
Some jurisdictions have building codes that address existing buildings.
For example, a Denver EV building code proposal suggested that existing buildings that are undergoing a Level 3 Alteration “where the work area exceeds 50 percent of the original building area or more than 10 parking spaces are substantially modified” should be required to install EVSE.
The rationale is that buildings should be retrofitted with EVSE if they undergo any major alterations or modernization because their lifespan is typically around 50 years.
Electric Vehicle Load Management Systems
Many EV building codes include requirements for EV charging load management, which splits the available power on a circuit between multiple vehicles. With EV Local Load Management, buildings can add additional chargers to the same circuit without straining the electrical load. This helps to increase cost effectiveness by allowing a given electrical circuit to share power across multiple charging stations. Click here to view construction resources for installing Blink charging stations.
EVSE Minimum Requirements
It’s up to the individual jurisdictions to set their preferred minimum requirements, but cities such as Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta have all set 20% minimum requirements for EV charging. In these cities, a minimum of 20% of the parking spaces in new commercial buildings and MUDs must include some type of EVSE readiness. This requirement allows parking lots to easily accommodate a scenario where 20% of the vehicles are electric, but the use of load management would also allow a scenario with 100% EVs.
“Under a 20% EV Readiness scenario, buildings would be outfitted to support additional EV drivers beyond the 20% penetration with minimal additional cost. A minimum 20% electrical capacity allows for Load Management Software to ‘share’ load and allow reasonable charge times for 100% of spaces in residential and workplace applications,” SWEEP says.
Some jurisdictions with more ambitious EV adoption targets even require 100% EVSE readiness for new MUD and commercial developments.
As far as old, heritage buildings are concerned, retrofits are unfortunately much more expensive than new developments. Older buildings are more likely to require major renovations in the parking lot, as well as electrical system upgrades.
While it’s possible to retrofit an old building with EVSE, and Blink works with many owners of existing buildings, the cost of new site work adds up. For this reason, we recommend that developers minimize costs by installing conduits and EV ready infrastructure during other renovation projects on-site.
EVSE building codes are a helpful tool that facilitates EV adoption, ensures safety, and saves money down the road. If you are constructing a new building and you are looking to install EVSE, Blink can help you choose the best EV charging setup for your situation. We are happy to help future-proof your development and make it as inviting as possible for EV owners.