Lightning protection - Ignorance is no defence!


Last August saw the long awaited arrival of the new British Standard for lightning protection, BS EN 62305, replacing the now obsolete BS 6651. It has changed, and will continue to change, the way lightning protection is understood, planned and implemented. Yet despite extensive publicity, widespread confusion across the industry remains, particularly among main contractors. As a result some Atlas members have lost out on contracts, even though their proposed solution was the only compliant option explains Fiona Lindsay at Atlas

The past year has been a huge learning curve for the entire industry. Literally thousands of operatives, apprentices and consultants now have to possess some, if not full, comprehension of this new standard. Its arrival has changed how the industry operates forever! For the past three years a dedicated Atlas team has worked tirelessly to disseminate and educate the industry about the fundamental changes, additions and implications of BS EN 62305. What has become apparent is Atlas members who undertook the special training workshops are a cut above the rest.

The complex risk assessments that are now compulsory under the new standard are extremely time consuming but intrinsic to the whole process. However, several members have reported many contractors still appear to be unaware that these risk assessments are a mandatory requirement and are therefore still accepting quotations from non Atlas members who are not working to the new standard. Colin Clinkard from Best said: "We are extremely happy our LC designers and estimators have passed the Atlas accreditation, however there still needs to be a huge push to ensure that main contractors understand the repercussions of not using a BS EN 62305 accredited lightning protection company."

This point is further highlighted by another Atlas member, Edward Wilson & Co, who has found many contractors and architects are still requesting quotations from the company based on the old BS 6651. In the current economic climate, contractors are understandably looking for the best price. This, coupled with their lack of knowledge on the extreme differences between the old and new standards means that they are often commissioning unsuitable work that is not compliant. Atlas members are dedicating a lot of time in an attempt to educate the contractors they work with about the BS EN 62305, and it is beginning to have a positive effect. However, with approximately two thirds of contractors and architects clearly not understanding the new standard, it is very frustrating and inconvenient to have to teach them what BS EN 62305 is all about every time they tender for new business.

Although there are inevitably issues surrounding BS EN 62305, all Atlas members believe the new standard is a positive thing for the industry. Atlas member, John Ashmore from Protectis said: "The next step must be to set up training workshops for engineers and architects. It's as simple as this; unless they understand how the new standard works and the huge benefits that it gives them, inadequate lightning protection will continue to be offered to clients who will then find that their buildings are non-compliant."

Fellow member, Andy Richie agrees. His company, Lightning Protection Services has noticed a lot of large projects that were originally planned before the new standard's implementation are still being built now with out-of-date protection. Jason Harfield of Orion has also observed the new standard is being ignored with specified separation distances not being adhered to. Orion has put all their employees through the Atlas design course for the BS EN 62305 and feel the whole industry must follow suit, if only to put an end to the ignorance.

Overall, everyone agrees more education on the new standard needs to be provided to the construction industry as a whole. Atlas is still the only organisation to offer comprehensive training. The National Construction College offers NVQ Level 2 for apprentices but this is only a basic introduction. Like it or loath it, the arrival of BS EN 62305 has split the industry. Lightning protection is now recognised as an extremely skilled profession. The new standard has clearly started to separate out the professionals from the cowboys!

Case study: Red turned green

Scout Moor Wind Farm, (the largest onshore wind farm in England), consists of 26 wind  turbines situated on the moors of North West England between Rawtenstall and Rochdale with the Rossendale Way running through the heart of the site. When running at full capacity, the farm generates 65MW of electricity, providing enough power to meet the average needs of 40,000 homes. To ensure continuous and reliable electricity generation in such an exposed location, the site required the installation of extensive earthing and lightning protection systems to protect it from the potentially devastating effects of a lightning strike. McNicholas awarded the contract to Omega Red Group - one of the UK market leaders in earthing and lightning protection.

In the early stages of the project, Omega personnel conducted soil resistivity surveys at each of the turbine locations, and at the substation situated approximately a mile away, to enable a detailed design to be undertaken. This would not only ensure the safety of the structures themselves, but would also safeguard the general public against the hazardous touch, step and transfer voltages that can occur when lightning strikes or when power system faults occur.

The remote location of the wind farm combined with unpredictable and often inclement weather conditions (including thick fog, snow, ice, torrential rain and gale force winds) provided additional challenges throughout the project. During the installation, a few potential issues were encountered in obtaining the requisite resistance values at some of the turbine locations, largely due to the ground conditions varying from marsh bogs to solid rock. However, the proactive approach and technical expertise of Omega's onsite engineers and operatives soon ensured that these issues were resolved without compromising the construction programme.

At the end of the construction and installation phase, Omega was further tasked with carrying out the overall test of the earthing and lightning protection systems on both the substation and turbine sites to confirm their compliance with all statutory requirements. Due to the large footprint of the site, the test leads were required to be run out in excess of 2 kilometres - including across a waterfall - to obtain an accurate set of test results - just another small challenge for the Omega engineers to overcome!

Because climate change is now widely recognised as one of the most important global issues, and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions is a vital element in limiting the effects of climate change, Omega is committed to working within the renewable energy market, using its expertise, technical competence and extensive experience to overcome the very specific challenges this market presents.

"The sheer size of wind turbines along with the isolated locations upon which they are constructed renders them vulnerable to lightning strikes. Without adequate earthing and lightning protection systems they are more likely to suffer the detrimental effects of a lightning strike. We are extremely happy to be involved in the success of wind farms across the UK and to use our expertise in the support of this growing, environmentally- friendly industry".

Colin McElhone, managing director, Omega Red Group

Case study: Straight sets

For almost 35 years R. C. Cutting & Co. has been involved with the All England Lawn Tennis  Club (AELTC) both in new installations and the ongoing maintenance surrounding their world famous Championship in June each year.

Most recently have been the challenging works to Centre Court, where a new retractable roof has been incorporated over a three year construction period. The continued use of the playing surface during the Championships was always a factor and the re-development works had to be scheduled around this.

Now complete, the roof can be closed and the temperature and humidity controlled dependant on the number of spectators, thus ensuring that play can continue whatever the weather.

For those that remember, the 1996 Championship was delayed hugely by bad weather and the crowds were frustrated by the conditions and delays. .

The lightning protection system, originally installed by Cuttings in 1992, has been enhanced and the steel supporting structure of the new retractable roof was incorporated giving particular regard to the many moving parts!

The closing roof was used during the 2009 Championship and allowed play to continue well into the evening, creating the latest finishing game in the history of the event.

Originally built in 1922, Centre Court held 13,810 spectators in 2008, increasing to 15,000 for the 2009 Championship by adding six rows of seats to the upper tier on the east, north and west sides.

An inscription above the entryway to Centre Court reads "If you can meet with triumph and disaster / And treat those two imposters just the same" - lines from Rudyard Kipling's poem If.