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Why Lightning is Not a Greater Risk for Metal Buildings

Why Lightning is Not a Greater Risk for Metal Buildings

There are a few unfortunate myths that have sprung up over the years about metal buildings and structures, and perhaps the most common is at least somewhat understandable: The misconception that metal buildings are at much higher risk of lightning strikes than other building types. While it's true that metal can conduct electricity more effectively than other materials, there are several reasons why this doesn't actually increase lightning risks on any metal structure.

At Redi, metal building construction is among our numerous specialties within the world of industrial projects and construction. In addition, we also offer a huge range of other services, from dumpster and porta-potty rentals to hydroblasting and various forms of cleanup (with many others in between). Here's a full rundown of why, despite your concerns and what you may have heard, a quality metal building is at no higher risk for lightning strikes or danger than any other -- and in fact, why such buildings might actually be at lower risk than others.

Lightning Isn't Actually Attracted to Metal

At the core of this conversation is a simple misconception: While it's completely true that metal conducts electricity, often far more effectively than most other materials that might be used to construct a building, this does not mean that lightning and other forms of electricity are actively attracted to metal. This may seem a small distinction, but it's an important one.

In fact, lightning is not attracted to any particular material. Metal doesn't "draw in" a lightning strike any more than wood, glass, or any other material would. Rather, what happens is that when a lightning strike does occur near metal, the metal provides an easier path for the electricity to travel. So while metal may not be "attracted" to lightning in the sense that it's more likely to be struck, it is more likely to conduct electricity if and when it is struck.

This is why you'll often see metal lightning rods on top of buildings. These aren't there to actually attract lightning strikes -- they're there to provide a safe, easy path for the electricity to travel in the event that a strike does occur.

Lightning Usually Strikes the Tallest Object Nearby

This is true regardless of what material that object is made from. So while a metal building may indeed be more likely to conduct electricity if it's struck by lightning, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's more likely to be struck in the first place.

Lightning strikes usually occur in one of two ways. The first is what's known as a "ground strike," which occurs when the charge from the cloud touches the ground directly. The second is what's known as a "conductor strike," which occurs when the charge from the cloud hits an object that's taller than its surroundings, causing the electricity to flow down that object until it reaches the ground.

The vast majority of lightning strikes are conductor strikes. And while it's certainly possible for a conductor strike to occur on a metal building, that's just as likely to happen with any other type of tall structure. In fact, it's actually somewhat less likely to happen on a metal building than on other types of buildings -- and we'll go over that in our next section.

Metal Buildings and Fixed Grounding

For the vast majority of metal buildings and structures, metal provides a number of advantages in terms of safety and security against lightning strikes. This is because most metal buildings are built with what's known as "fixed grounding."

Fixed grounding is a process by which the building is physically connected to the ground (usually through metal rods or cables buried several feet underground). This provides a safe, easy path for electricity to travel in the event of a lightning strike, which effectively eliminates the risk of damage to the building or its contents.

Other types of buildings, such as those made from wood or brick, often aren't built with fixed grounding. This means that if a lightning strike does occur, there's a much greater risk of damage to the building itself or to anything inside.

It's also worth noting that while metal buildings are often connected to the ground with metal rods or cables, this is not always the case. Some buildings may be connected with non-metal materials such as wires or cables made from synthetic materials. In these cases, there is still a risk of damage if a lightning strike occurs, although it's generally not as great as the risk posed by non-metal buildings.

Still Take Precautions

Now, it's important for our readers to realize that just because metal buildings are not at a greater risk of being struck by lightning, that doesn't mean that they're completely safe. All buildings -- regardless of material -- should take precautions against lightning strikes, such as installing lightning rods or other grounding devices.

Lightning is an unpredictable force of nature, and even the most well-prepared buildings can be damaged if a strike occurs. However, by taking the proper precautions, you can minimize the risk of damage to your building and its contents in the event of a lightning strike.

At Redi, we're here to help with all your metal building needs, including lightning protection. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services, or about any of our various industrial project solutions, which span an incredibly wide range of possible client needs.

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At Redi, we take each and every job that gets put in front of us seriously and are committed to providing our clients with the absolute best service around. Whatever job you need to be completed, we have the skills and expertise to get it done right. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer, and let's get started on the path to getting the job done right.

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