Lightning Protection Issue

By Joe Belcher, Code Consultant

The FHBA was successful in opposing requirements for lighting protection in all commercial and multi-family buildings. At the June 13, 2017, Final Rule Development Hearing on the Florida Building Code, 6th Edition (2017) conducted by the Florida Building Commission, the Commission reversed its earlier vote and disapproved Modification E6460. The modification added a new Section 2703 which would require lightning protection on all commercial and multi-family buildings unless a risk assessment per a National Fire Protection Association Standard (NFPA) proved it unnecessary. The estimated cost of the lightning protection system provided by the proponent of the change was 1% to 5% of the total construction cost of the building. In addition, the provision required the installation of surge protection for all normal and emergency electrical systems at an estimated cost for professional installation of $274.00.

Initially, the Commission approved the provision in spite of two separate recommendations from the Electrical TAC to not approve the change. A number of opponents in the lightning protection industry contacted the Commission directly and provided public comment to the Commission at the rule hearing. The bulk of the objections were due to the fact that the proposed change only recognized one standard or system type for providing the protection. There were more than fifteen persons providing comment at the Commission meeting, including FHBA.

While the bulk of the testimony related to the standards permitted for use, several commenters testified the provision was insufficient in that single-family residences were exempt. According to their testimony, the most severe problem with lightning strikes is in single-family residences and the protection should be required for all residences. It was clear that, if approved, there would be future attempts to extend the provisions to single-family residences.

FHBA testified in opposition to the change requesting disapproval of the original proposal. FHBA further suggested the convening of a Commission Workgroup to examine the issue. The Commission voted unamimously to disapprove the amendment as requested by FHBA.