Many of the newest homes and buildings are considered “smarter” because they have sustainable energy technology and wireless communication built into almost all aspects of the infrastructure. Now that buildings are especially reliant on electrical features, it is especially important to protect them from inclement weather. Building plans often include features for protection from natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding, but lightning protection is often left out, despite the fact that lightning strikes the earth about 100 times each second.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a nonprofit lightning safety group, urges builders to include lightning protection systems in their initial design plans, especially for smart homes. “Even though these automated systems are grounded, they are still highly vulnerable to lightning, since a direct strike can spark a fire and an indirect surge of current can pass through the wiring of a structure in any direction,” said Bud VanSickle, LPI’s executive director, in a statement. “Lightning can initiate a domino effect path of transient overvoltage which can disrupt, degrade and damage multiple electronic systems and connected equipment, making lightning protection systems significantly important for smart structures.”
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is also addressing this growing concern, and will be added two new technical provisions to the upcoming edition of the NFPA 780 Safety Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems. The 2017 Standard edition will address lightning protection applications for smart buildings and it will emphasize the importance of a comprehensive lightning protection approach in order to avoid a “lack of potential equalization (isolated grounding and lack of bonding) stemming from piecemeal or uncoordinated installations of the electric service, telecommunications, antennas and other electronics,” a problem that is too common in smart structure building applications.