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Motif Articles: Austin Energy Primary and Neutral - Power Pole Clearance Requirements

Updated: May 16, 2023

How to design your custom home, with proper documentation and clearances around existing utility poles in the Austin area.

It is not unusual to find residential houses near power lines. However, not all people are comfortable designing a home near power lines.

To be safe from the highlighted risks, Austin Energy requires professionals to design homes or garages within a safe zone, some distance away from the power lines. The question of how far away will depend on whether the power lines in question are high-voltage or low-voltage, height, phases and a few other factors.

In this article, we will visit on a few design limitations that not only protect your home from powerlines, but also protect the crew building it too.

Action #1 - Identify the existing pole tags

By identify the pole number, you can determined the pole's height be contacting Austin Energy. This is required to document the "Existing Power Elevation" and useful when referencing Austin Energy's clearance design guidelines.

This is also a good gesture for the plan reviewer, as it save their team time reviewing the drawings.

Take caution around existing electric utilities.

Action #2 - Identify the exact location from a professional land survey

Motif always requires a professional survey to start a project. We worked with many local providers that will document your site features, including setbacks, easements, existing utilities, etc.

A survey is critical to understanding the limitations of your land and should be requested before considering purchasing land. Relatively, they are low cost compared to the overall construction cost.

By utilizing a professional survey, our team will locate each pole based upon the information (typical CAD file) provided by the survey company. This becomes the critical factor, when determining the home / garage profile and location.

Site Plan with Power Pole Clearances
Site Plan with Power Pole Clearances

"By working with local experts, we are able to breeze through the permitting process" – Casey

Action #3 - Utilize Austin Energy's Clearance drawings

Austin Energy has several guidelines online, that help determine compliance with the requirements. Keep in mind, not all poles are alike. Some differ in size, voltage, services, single vs three phase, etc.

By calling the energy provider with the pole tag (action #1), the architect can identify which reference document is applicable to your land.

Example of Austin Energy Clearance Diagram
Example of Austin Energy Clearance Diagram

Action #4 - Include clearance elevations on the architectural drawings set

Clearance should be clearly documented, according to the requirements provided by Austin Energy. At Motif, we only utilize 3D software to generate our drawings - thus our elevations are accurate and easy for plan reviewers and contractors to reference.

Elevation required by Austin Energy
Elevation required by Austin Energy

Action #5 - Apply for an Electric Service Planning Application (ESPA)

Based on the property location, a representative from Austin Energy will be assigned to your application. The form is self is typically handled by the contractor / builder and the review time can vary, based upon the amount of applications and quality of the drawings being submitted.

Should I buy land or build a house that has an existing power line?

This is not a simple yes or no question. It is critical to conduct the necessary due diligence before committing to a purchase. This involves conducting an assessment of the house location based on the safety issues raised above. We offer site studies that could help you decided too.

So if you happen to see a lot adjacent to a power line, do not dismiss it over safety concerns without doing your research. Otherwise, you may be turning your back on a perfect home.

This article is building code information and should not be seen as code advice. You should consult with an architect, builder or code expert before you rely on this information. The blog published by Motif Architects PLLC is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal and or building code advice on any subject matter. By viewing blog posts, the reader understands there is no architect-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal or building code advice from a licensed professional architect / interior design, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.

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