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System Cost

The cost data summarized below confirms that lightning protection systems are surprisingly economical.

The Cost Of Lightning Protection

Background

Lightning accounts for about $1 billion a year in homeowner’s insurance claims for property damage. Lightning fires in non-residential properties cause an average of over $100 million in direct property damage annually, not including damage due to electrical or equipment malfunctions, non-fire-related structural damage, or consequential damages. Additional risks include injury and death due to lightning strikes.1

Fortunately, reliable lightning protection of buildings and structures is available. Data on the cost of lightning protection & installation, however, has not been readily available. ECLE sponsored a cost study to help quantify the cost of lightning protection systems.  The study is intended to help building owners, architects, engineers, and risk consultants include more accurate cost estimates for lightning protection installation in their project planning.  

To prepare this study, East Coast Lightning Equipment, Inc. collected construction cost data from lightning protection specialists throughout the US. The lightning protection installation cost study data summarized below confirms that lightning protection is economical and can be justified on a cost-to-benefit basis in at-risk buildings.

Cost Study Parameters

During the second quarter of 2015, lightning protection specialists were asked to submit “bids” for the installation of lightning protection systems on three hypothetical projects. Prices were to include the installer’s overhead and profit but not a general contractor’s markup. The projects include a large single-family residence, a low-rise building typical of educational, commercial, and industrial occupancies, and a five-story building typical of many office buildings, healthcare, and similar occupancies. 

Residential Project

Assume the following:

  • Normal grounding conditions
  • Concealed installation – new construction
  • LPI or UL Certification Required
  • Please price in copper and aluminum
  • Price as you would to a GC or EC

High School Project

Assume the following:

  • Normal grounding conditions
  • Exposed installation – existing construction
  • EPDM Roof
  • LPI or UL Certification Required
  • Please price in copper and aluminum
  • Price as you would to a GC or EC

Government Office Building Project

Assume the following:

  • Normal grounding conditions
  • Structural Steel to Ground installation
  • New construction
  • Built-Up Roof
  • LPI or UL Certification Required
  • Please price in copper and aluminum
  • Price as you would to a GC or EC
heat-map-of-the-united-states-describing-lightning-detection

Regional Breakdown 

Responses were received from 21 installers that are certified for lightning protection work by the Lightning Protection Institute. The distribution of respondent trade territories is shown on a map according to US Census Regions. The distribution of respondents is similar to the frequency of lightning strikes; higher in Eastern and Southern states, lower in the West.

The results were tabulated by Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, an independent construction consultant and are summarized below.

Note: Bid prices were collected in 2nd Quarter 2015 and can be updated by applying appropriate factors such as the Engineering News Record Building Cost Index.

Key Findings

To allow for comparison between regions, material types and construction styles, the pricing for installed lightning protection systems was broken down according to square feet of roof area as well as square feet of floor area.

The chart below report the findings.

chart-of-the-lightning-protection-installation-cost-estimates

Estimated Cost of Lightning Protection per Square Foot of Roof Area, National Averages

The costs reported throughout the US are averaged together and represented as single costs for the three types of projects in the study.

graph-of-cost-of-lightning-protection-per-square-foot

Analysis & Conclusions

General: 

Variations between regions are due to regional trade practices, wages and benefits, soil conditions governing the type of ground terminals used, and other factors. Variations within regions can also be significant, especially between urban and rural locations.

Copper lightning protection equipment is generally more expensive than aluminum due to commodity prices. There are also regional biases that favor one material over the other.

Nonresidential Buildings: 

In nonresidential buildings, roof area is the most significant factor in determining the work required to install lightning protection. Hence, multistory buildings will generally cost less per square foot of interior floor area.

Costs will generally be more in buildings with extensive rooftop equipment and demanding architectural considerations; less in buildings with a modicum of rooftop equipment and a simple configuration.

Buildings over 75 feet in height (Class II) will incur additional expenses. These estimates do not apply to buildings that house explosives and other special occupancies.

Residential Buildings: 

In most homes with pitched roofs, air terminals need only be installed at the roof ridge and atop chimneys and dormers, not the perimeter of the roof. This explains why lightning protection costs for the home in our study is below the trend line shown for non-residential construction.

Note, however, features such as dormers, chimneys, balconies, skylights, rooftop equipment, and large flat areas can add to the cost.

How to Use

These cost estimates can be used in the early stages of planning or designing a project. Once the overall configuration of a building is determined, consultation with a qualified lightning protection designer will yield a more accurate estimate and identify ways to improve protection while reducing costs.

These cost estimates are subject to change with time and can be adjusted using the Engineering News Record Building Cost Index or other databases of historical construction costs. Lightning protection system costs are also subject to fluctuations in commodity prices of aluminum and copper.

  • LIGHTNING PROTECTION INSTALLATION COST STUDY

    LIGHTNING PROTECTION INSTALLATION COST STUDY

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