Electrical Wiring Requirements in Obsolete Facilities

As an electrical contractor working on renovating and upgrading older buildings, I often encounter obsolete electrical systems that do not meet modern electrical codes and standards. Keeping these antiquated systems up to code while retaining the historic character of the building can be a challenge. In this article, I will discuss in detail the key considerations and requirements for electrical wiring in obsolete facilities.

Evaluating Existing Electrical Systems

The first step when taking on an obsolete building renovation project is to thoroughly evaluate the existing electrical system. This includes:

Thoroughly documenting all aspects of the existing system is crucial to developing a comprehensive renovation plan. Photographs, diagrams, and load calculations should be included.

Upgrading Electrical Systems to Code

Bringing an antiquated electrical system up to modern NEC code requirements while retaining historic aesthetic requires compromises. Key areas to address include:

The key is balancing required safety upgrades with retaining the structure's original character as much as possible.

Working with Local Jurisdictions

When upgrading obsolete electrical systems, it is crucial to work closely with the local building department and jurisdiction. Key items to coordinate include:

Being solution-oriented and open to creative approaches that protect public safety can help ease the approval process when navigating between modern code and historic aesthetics.

Case Study: 1920s Power Plant Redevelopment

A great example of sensitively upgrading obsolete electrical systems is the Hub Power Plant redevelopment project. The 1920s power plant in Boston was converted to luxury residences. Key electrical strategies included:

The results blended 21st century living seamlessly within the industrial vintage character of the structure.


Updating inadequate, outdated electrical systems in historic buildings takes creativity and compromise. By thoroughly evaluating existing conditions, designing minimally invasive upgrades that retain original aesthetics while meeting safety codes, and working closely with oversight authorities, electrical contractors can find solutions that allow continued use of these cultural assets. The effort to balance preservation with modern needs is well worth it.