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Lightning Protection for Multi Family Units

Multifamily housing – including apartments, condominiums, student housing, senior living facilities, and barracks – have a lightning-associated risk in common: they shelter sleeping people.

Lightning Protection for Multi Family Residences

Special Risk Factors

Yes, the loud crash of a nearby lightning strike will wake all but the heaviest sleeper. But the spark from lightning does not necessarily produce an immediate, detectable blaze. Residents can drift back to sleep unaware that lightning has ignited the building and that a smoldering ember is growing into a life-threatening fire. Waking in a dark and smoke-filled room, a person may be disoriented and have difficulty escaping without injury or death.

Residents can also be exposed to electric shock and injury from structural damage to a building. Personal property can be damaged by lightning, and powerful lightning surges can fry electronic devices and appliances.

Property owners can suffer harm to their real property, including damage to or total destruction to buildings, and the loss of income during repairs or reconstruction. Property insurance does not provide full protection against all the expenses an owner may occur.

Note that multi-family buildings, also known as multi-unit buildings, are generally at increased risk of lightning strikes, compared to single-family residences. This is because their larger roof area enlarges the “strike zone” for lightning. For further information about lightning risk factors, click here:

Learn About Evaluating Lightning Risk Factors

Lightning Damage to Multi-family Structures

Lightning damage to unprotected multi-family dwellings is a frequent occurance.

Design and Installation Considerations

Lightning protection systems require a whole-building approach in accordance with nationally-recognized standards, including LPI 175, NFPA 780, and UL 96A.

The standards require multiple conductive paths to safely carry intense lightning surges between the sky and ground. This includes strategically located air terminals (lightning rods) at high points and on the roof, ground electrodes, and a network of heavy-duty lightning conductors to safely conduct current between them.

To equalize electrical potential, the lightning protection system must also be connected (bonded) to metallic building systems such as plumbing and HVAC as well as to existing grounds for the building’s electrical and other systems.

To complete the system, surge protection devices must be added to telephone, power, and other services entering the building, to provide protection from current traveling on those lines and entering the structure.

During building construction, conductor cables will be concealed inside attics and within walls. If lightning protection is being retrofitted to an existing building, it may be most economical for some conductors to be exposed on the roof or exterior walls. These cables can be aligned with the natural edges and architectural lines of the building and will not detract from its appearance. Rooftop air terminals are slender and inconspicuous when seen from the ground; alternatively, decorative elements like spires or ornamental metal fabrications can be used as strike termination devices to add stylistic accents.

Design and installation should be performed by individuals certified by the Lightning Protection Institute. For added assurance, installations should be certified by the LPI-Inspection Program to assure systems comply with nationally recognized standards and function as required. To make sure your lightning protection system remains in working order, have it inspected by a qualified lightning protection specialist every two to five years.

Does your building require lightning protection? 

Case Studies

Final Thoughts

A lightning protection system is a benefit that can appeal to prospective tenants. Your promotional efforts will have greater impact if they feature “enhanced security plus 24-hour lightning protection.”

Further Information:

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