Do Metal Roofs Attract Lightning Strikes?

Posted on March 27, 2015 by kbuchinger

LightningArticleBuilding owners and managers fortunate enough to have a metal roof know personally its durability, resiliency and reliability, not unlike that contributed to the U.S. Postal Service of yore:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …”—nor fire, nor hail nor the like—will prevent it from fulfilling its function. Those natural elements conspire to knock on the good reputation of a metal roof, to no avail. But how does a metal roof hold up against a more ominous threat… lightning?

The Myth of Metal Roofs & Lightning

Metal conducts electricity, so it’s not unreasonable to have concerns about whether a metal roof is the best material with which to build a roof to avoid damage from lightning.

According to the Metal Construction Association’s technical bulletin on Lightning and Metal Roofing, the probability of a lightning strike is determined by several factors:

  1. Topography in the area of the structure: The probability of a strike is higher if a structure is situated on a mountaintop or hilltop as opposed to a field.
  2. Size and height of the subject structure. A tall building or a facility covering a large ground area is more likely to be struck than a short or small building. A tall, thin structure, such as a tower, a tree or utility pole, is also a more likely target for a lightning strike.
  3. Relative location of the structure with respect to nearby larger and taller structures. A very tall structure located near a small, short one will tend to further reduce the likelihood of a strike to the smaller one.
  4. Frequency and severity of thunderstorm activity in the geographic area of the project.

Notice there is no mention of the material from which the structure is made. In fact, the probabilities of a strike to a metal roofed structure are no more or less than any other kind of structure. The probability risk has more to do with the height and size of the structure and its surroundings than the material of which it is made.

The use of a lightning protection system, such as lightning rods, may lessen the consequence of a strike. And if lightning does strike a building, a metal roof actually can cause the energy impact to disperse evenly and uneventfully through the structure. Finally, metal roofing isn’t combustible or flammable.

Metal is Best Overall Roofing Material

Bottom line, metal is probably the best material option for roofing, and a safer source of protection for your facility , customers and employees when the inevitable storms come.

Find out more about MBCI metal roofing products

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