Beat the Burnout: Lightning Protection in Multifamily Buildings 

For taller buildings with multiple occupants, lightning protection is key to consider.

Baseball rules dictate that after three strikes, you’re out.

However, when it comes to lightning, builders know that just a single strike can blow fuses, ignite fires and consequently implode your business.

Whole-house surge protection is an excellent starting point for both single family and multifamily residences, but builders and developers need to go beyond this level of defense.

For multifamily buildings especially—where taller building heights, greater occupancies and larger footprints create a greater risk—lightning protection equipment and software can ensure the safety of your building and its renters.

“If lightning goes through your equipment, it will burn it out. This is your security system, your entertainment system, the automation, the fire protection, the sensors, all your gizmos and toys—it’s very much a TecHome accessory,” says Michael Chusid, building project consultant for Architect of Building Product Innovation and Marketing.

RELATED: 5 Things to Know About Whole House Surge Protection

Becoming Knowledgeable and Certified

Chusid, who also works with East Coast Lightning Equipment (ECLE), notes that specialized lightning protection is often a value added service for builders, meaning they can subcontract through a certified installer.

 “This is not something a normal electrician can do, because it is so specialized,” says Chusid.

Therefore, developers need to ensure they are working with certified professionals. The Lightning Protection Institute also offers a certification program, which allows builders, designers, installers and more to become certified in the business of lightning protection.

A map of lightning flash density in the United States.
A map of lightning flash density in the United States.

Software, Planning and Preventing Liability

For multifamily developers, planning becomes extremely important for making sure their communities, especially tall buildings, are protected.

This is where software comes in. East Coast Lightning Equipment uses software that can accurately protect risk of lightning damage based on surroundings, location, height, footprint and more. This same software can be used by builders, developers, designers, architects, etc. during meetings with potential clients.

Michael Chusid.
Michael Chusid.

The software essentially makes a recommendation of whether lightning protection should be included in the residence. For multifamily buildings, this is an excellent resource for the planning and design stage to ensure protection for all renters.  

For more spread-out multifamily communities, where each individual townhome would require separate lightning protection equipment, this is a conversation developers can have directly with the client. By using the software and directly speaking with the client, this not only creates protection for the residence, but for the developer as well.

“If lightning protection is recommended, but the client doesn’t want it, they can sign something, so the builder or designer has no liability,” says Chusid.

How It Works

Chusid notes that lightning protection systems are extremely reliable and based on 150 years of scientific research, stemming from the early experiments of Ben Franklin.

The equipment comes in the form of metal rods, with locations determined by the software and strategically placed all along the rooftop in areas where lightning would be most likely to strike. For multifamily buildings using steel framing, the beams can even be used in partnership with the rods to create a down conductor.

“The idea is that it must create a safe path between the earth and the sky, through which the lightning can travel with such little resistance that it doesn’t create heat, which can cause explosions or fire,” says Chusid.

This extra level of protection will certainly ensure your clients’ happiness and secure the quality of your business and buildings for years to come.

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About The Author

Greg Vellante is a staff writer and multimedia specialist at TecHome Builder, as well as a content coordinator for AE Ventures events. He has over a decade of experience writing for various publications on topics that range from cinema to editorials to home technology. His favorite technologies fall into the A/V and home entertainment realm, and he’s keeping a close eye on the rising trends in robotics and virtual/augmented reality. Greg resides in Boston, holds a degree in Media Studies from Emerson College and pursues screenwriting/filmmaking in his free time.

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