Lightning damage is a concern for landlords and facility managers all across the world. Every minute, there are more than a thousand thunderstorms around the Earth causing some 6,000 flashes of lightning. Generally, the UK experiences a low level of lightning activity in comparison to other countries across the globe, however, it does still pose a risk to lives and properties in Britain. This is why it is important that the legal requirements for lightning protection are met by all facility managers and landlords.
For centuries, lightning has interested, excited and yet terrified mankind. Bright flashes of light coupled with the roaring sounds of thunder were once believed to be a supernatural phenomenon in the realm of the gods, but today, we understand that lighting is an electric current, or a large-scale natural spark discharge.
There are different types of lightning: cloud to ground, cloud to cloud and within a single cloud, as well as rare variations such as ball and ribbon lightning. One lightning strike can exceed 100 million Volt-Amps, and can cause damage to the structure of a building as well as any electric and electronic equipment inside it. With our use and reliance on electronic equipment and gadgets increasing constantly, damage to electronic items caused by lightning has risen over the years.
In this article we discuss the buildings that rely on lightning protection and why they require such protection.
How does lightning protection work?Firstly, let’s take a brief look at how lightning protection works. The main function of a lightning protection system (LPS) is to protect a structure from damage caused by a lightning strike. Of course, there are no devices able to change natural weather phenomena, but there are some precautions people can take in order to reduce the damage caused by a lightning strike.
An LPS intercepts a lightning strike by providing a low-resistance path to ground for the lightning to follow and disperse. Without this path of low impedance to earth that allows the discharge to travel to the ground, lightning would follow paths of high resistance through a building’s structure, causing extensive damage.
Buildings that require lightning protectionBuildings most at risk of being struck by lightning are those on hilltops or hillsides, in isolated positions or at high altitudes, as well as tall towers and chimneys. While lightning protection is not a legal requirement for all buildings and structures, the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) will apply to most businesses.
Below we take a look at the buildings that need lightning protection.Historic BuildingsMany historic buildings were not constructed with lightning protection in mind. Historic buildings, including churches, museums, lighthouses, schools and factories, may be at unnecessary risk of damage or even loss as a result of a lightning strike, which is why it is important that they are protected.
Historic buildings need to be preserved and protected from lightning damage for a number of reasons. Not only do they have intrinsic value, but they are also reminders of a city’s culture and past, reflecting our history and helping us to understand people who lived in different eras with different traditions and habits.
The provision of an LPS depends on the type of historic building that needs to be protected. Whether or not a building needs to be protected is assessed against a series of factors, including the use, construction and location of the structure. Of course, the appearance of an LPS on a historic building can appear out of place and intrusive, which is why the choice of material used is important.
Tall BuildingsEvery year, our buildings in the UK get taller. As we build upwards, the risk of tall structures being struck by lightning increases and, of course, it is important that we safeguard these buildings against the deadly power of a lightning strike. Lightning will always take the path with the least electrical resistance; the tallest buildings have the shortest distance from the thundercloud to the ground, which is why they are more commonly struck.
In addition, many tall buildings are made from metal which conducts electricity very well. While lightning is unpredictable and can strike anywhere and at any time, it is common knowledge that taller buildings are more at risk.
So, how do we protect them? Protection for tall buildings against lightning strikes is often provided by the installation of a lightning rod. Instead of the top of the structure making contact with a lightning strike, the rod will instead become the point of initiation and intercept the lightning strike.SchoolsIn schools, hundreds of people, both teachers and students, congregate. There is also usually a large number of electrical equipment in schools - such as computers, printers, electronic whiteboards, power sockets, laboratory equipment and more. For the safety of lives, electronic items and the building, lightning protection is important in schools.
The largest number of lightning casualties occur in open spaces and therefore students on sports fields or in the playground may be at risk during a thunderstorm. Education authorities have the responsibility for the wellbeing of students and therefore lightning protection risk assessments are usually carried out by the local education authorities. Protection against lightning strikes in schools is subject to safety standard BS EN/IEC 63205.
In addition, there are some other considerations and situations in which lightning protection may be required. These include:
Other buildings that may require lightning protection include:
Does my business need to get in touch with lightning protection contractors?When it comes to the safety and protection of your business, you never want to compromise. While you may assume that the chances of your building being hit by lightning are zero, each year, hundreds of injuries are caused across the UK by lightning. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your employees, as well as the building and electronic equipment housed inside. It is recommended that your business has a risk assessment carried out to determine whether or not you require lightning protection. In addition, if you think that you require an earthing system for your home, you should get in touch with an expert to discuss this.
Rodells: Your go-to for high-quality lightning arrestersSince 1898, Rodells have been installing and maintaining lightning protection systems on commercial, historic and ecclesiastical buildings, boasting a wealth of experience in designing and installing lightning protection for buildings of all sizes and shapes. All of our engineers are fully qualified and highly trained, as well as CITB registered, with a vast amount of experience in all lightning protection works.
Not only do we design and implement earthing and lightning protection systems, but we also specialise in the testing and inspection, as well as repair works and new installs. If you require a risk assessment for your building, you can rest assured that we are always compliant with BS EN 62305, and our installations are always completed to this standard.
To learn more about us and what we do, simply visit our website or get in touch today. We are able to contract works throughout the UK - Scotland, North of England and Wales by request.