Survey: Majority of electrical contractors work on structured wiring, cabling for communication systems

July 22, 2014
70% of electrical contractors polled by ECM reportedly worked in power quality, communications systems/connectivity and/or CII automation/controls.

A new survey by Electrical Contractor Magazine (ECM), a publication of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), reports that 70% of electrical contractors worked in power quality, communications systems/connectivity and/or CII automation/controls, while 61% performed communication systems/connectivity work, with structured wiring/cabling mentioned most often.

Significantly, magazine's biennial reader survey, the 2014 Profile of the Electrical Contractor, also shows that while 92 percent of such contractor firms work in traditional electrical/power distribution, that category now accounts for just 44 percent of total firm revenue -- a figure down from 69 percent in 2004, and 56 percent in 2010. The magazine's editors contend that this steady decline demonstrates an increase in electrical contractors’ ever-expanding scope of services.

According to the survey, other significant boosts in types of work performed since 2012 include power quality (70 percent vs. 62 percent), green/sustainable building elements, communications systems and/or green/sustainable technology/alternative energy. Rapidly growing work also includes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects and non-LEED energy efficiency upgrades, electrical vehicle charging stations, energy audits (thermal imaging) and smart or net metering. The 2014 survey also debuted three, new project types: daylighting/shading systems, troubleshooting/maintenance of low voltage systems, and microgrids.

Additional highlights of the survey include the following:

-- 75% of electrical contractors plan to take formal job and skill training across 31 different categories.

-- More than 75% of specs indicate a variation of multiple brands, while the remainder indicate a single or proprietary brand.

-- 60% of electrical contractors said they both specify and install lighting fixtures and control systems.

-- 70% of firms performed design/build or design/assist work in the previous year.

-- 80% of electrical contractors say they receive plans and specs that are incomplete 46% percent of the time – where their firm is responsible for completing the design documentation.

-- About 20% of electrical contractors say they now get involved earlier in design collaboration.

-- Almost 25% now use Building Information Modeling (BIM), rapidly growing since 2012.

Finally the survey, which polled more than 2,700 owner- and top-management level U.S. electrical contractors, reported a high influence in electrical design and brand specification -- maintaining a steady gain over the past decade. According to ECM, more than 80 percent of electrical contractors now report a medium or high ability of a brand to influence the overall electrical system design. The top three reasons for original brand selection and substitution are availability, price and compatibility with existing systems.

"Our profile study is a 50-year-old trusted resource for our industry partners, and serves as a benchmark for our readers,” comments ECM's publisher John Maisel. “It offers the most detailed, current data on electrical contractors’ growing involvement in the design, specification and integration of a broad spectrum of building operating systems.”

The survey will be featured in ECM's July and August issues at, including detailed breakouts.

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