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Every year, lightning strikes thousands of commercial and residential buildings across the UK. The strikes cause little to no damage because the vast majority of these buildings have in-built lightning conductors and earthing systems. In fact, in many cases, the residents and property owners will have no idea that their building has been hit.
The lightning conductors and earthing systems need to be tested regularly to protect a building and work as they should. Testing these systems will help protect tall, prominent buildings and ensure they are safe for use by businesses and public members.
Lightning conductor testing, or lightning protection testing, is when all lightning conductors and earth grounding installations are visually inspected and tested. Lightning protection testing procedures must be thorough, safe and valid; it needs to be carried out by a qualified electrical engineer. This electrical engineer should have extensive experience using an appropriate lightning protection testing method. This will ensure the testing is carried out to a high standard.
Testing the lightning protection earthing systems on large buildings helps keep these vital safety features in good condition. It also ensures the property meets the relevant British safety regulations.
A lightning strike can cause considerable damage to a building if no lightning protection systems are in place. In very rare circumstances, a direct strike can cause a fire in the property. This typically happens when the lightning causes a power surge in the electrical system, overloading it and causing it to malfunction.
A power surge caused by a lightning strike can do considerable property damage. An electrical surge can severely damage appliances and electronics that are plugged into power sockets. In some cases, the surge can destroy electrical systems. If lightning strikes an office block with multiple computers and other expensive electronic equipment plugged in, significant damage can result.
Lightning strikes can also cause physical property damage. When lightning hits a building, shock waves are often produced. These shock waves can cause cracks to appear in materials like render, brick, concrete and stone.
In some cases, lightning strikes can cause windows to shatter and even create cracks in the building's foundation. If these shockwaves travel right through a building, they can also cause cracks in the property's foundations, undermining its structural integrity.
The Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989, state that lightning protection systems need to be tested in accordance with the relevant British Standard. These standards include:
BS EN 62305-2: The purpose of BS EN 62305-2 is to provide a procedure for evaluating the risk lightning flashes pose to a structure. A lightning protection risk assessment on UK properties must be carried out once every twelve months.
BS EN 62305-3: British standard BS EN 62305-3 provides the requirements for protecting a structure against physical damage utilising a lightning protection system. It also provides the requirements for protection against injury due to touch and step voltages in a lightning protection system's vicinity.
BS EN 62305-4: BS EN 62305-4 provides information for the design, installation and maintenance of lightning electromagnetic impulse (LEMP) protection measures. These measures protect electrical and electronic systems within structures and reduce the risk of permanent failures due to LEMP.
Tests need to be conducted every year to ensure a property meets its safety standards. All tests on the lightning protection system should be undertaken by fully trained and qualified electrical engineers.
An earthing system is an essential part of a lightning protection installation. Properly earthing the building ensures that the electrical charge can pass safely into the ground if the property is struck by lightning. This helps to prevent damage to both the structure of the building and the people using the property.
To ensure the earth system is working as it should, lightning earthing testing needs to be carried out annually. The checks that must be made include testing the resistance to earth of the earth termination network as a whole. Also, each earth electrode must be tested. Carrying these tests thoroughly and on time will ensure the residential or commercial lightning protection system is in good working order.
Soil resistivity testing is the process of measuring a volume of soil to determine the soil's conductivity. The resulting soil resistivity is typically expressed in ohms. The resistance to earth of the whole system must not exceed 10 ohms.
By understanding the soil resistivity and how it varies with the depth of the soil, the design of the electrical earthing system can be determined. In fact, this testing of the earth resistance is the single most critical factor in electrical earthing system design.
A lightning protection system is an integral part of designing and maintaining a safe and secure building. When it is in good working order, a lightning protection system will help prevent electrical surges and shockwaves. It will keep both the electrical system and the structure of your property safe.
If you would like to find out more about maintaining and protecting your modern render, you can join one of our monthly CPD webinars. These informative sessions are aimed at surveyors and property managers who want to expand their knowledge of modern render. They can also help you better manage your building. You can find out more by contacting a member of our team or by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.
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