Occupied Roofs: Lightning Protection Systems

February 9, 2021
By Jennifer Morgan and Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI


Lightning Protection InstituteLightning protection systems safeguard structures from one of the most violent forces of nature. While the principles of lightning protection were established more than 250 years ago by Benjamin Franklin, the design and installation of lightning protection systems continue to evolve in response to advances in science and changes in architectural design, construction materials, and building technology.1

One area of ongoing innovation is lightning protection systems for occupied roofs. Rooftop terraces and gardens have become some of the most sought-after amenities in urban buildings. Tenants and condominium owners pay a premium for these design features and expect high-quality detailing and construction that does not distract from the views the rooftops provide. Anything installed on an occupied roof must also be robust enough to withstand damage, unintentional or otherwise, from people coming in contact with rooftop equipment.

Lightning protection systems can satisfy these expectations, as demonstrated by several recently constructed buildings in downtown Chicago, Illinois. These case study projects illustrate innovative approaches to integrating lightning protection into roofing, parapets, and railings while still complying with North American standards.

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