Lightning protection is “one of the first ‘future-proofing’ building technologies,” according to John McManus. He should know — in his job as Editorial Director of Builder, Custom Home, Journal of Light Construction and other construction-oriented magazines at Hanley Wood, he is constantly scanning the horizon to identify trends in design and construction. His recent article in Builder, 9/12/2018 says:
“The idea of ‘future proofing’ is to build a home whose structure and systems are resilient, able to morph, and capable of providing a place for a household to thrive and prosper in real-time and over time–is not new… At its essence, a future proof home serves its purpose as a place for the well-being and sense of sanctuary of people living there no matter what happens across a span of time–maybe two to three generations.”
McManus writes that inventor Benjamin Franklin, “in addition to wanting to prove that lightning was electricity, began to think about protecting people, buildings, and other structures from lightning. This grew into his idea for the lightning rod. In so doing, Franklin… gave home building one of its first deliberately ‘future-proof’ technologies, the lightning rod.”
No one can predict all the changes that will take place in the future as a result of climate change, social and political trends, new technologies, evolving styles, and other forces that shape our civilization. I am certain, however, that lightning will remain a hazard that can damage and destroy buildings and their contents, and injure, maim, or kill people. Making lightning protection systems a part of the structures we build today will improve safety and resilience far into the future.
A lightning protection system, when designed and installed in accordance with accepted industry standards, can outlast the “two or three generations” cited by McManus with minimal maintenance. When a structure is eventually remodeled to accommodate new requirements, most of the lightning protection components will remain usable as part of a reconfigured system. If a structure is demolished, the aluminum and copper components are readily recyclable without degradation.
Many recently proposed future-proofing schemes for our buildings and cities require huge investments and offer no guarantee of success. It’s nice to know that one of the first future proofing technologies is still one of the most economical and proven methods we can employ.
Image shows Franklin’s correspondence from 1750 explaining an experiment with lightning protection.