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Re: [TowerTalk] Grounding base slab and pier tower bases

To: Roger D Johnson <>
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Grounding base slab and pier tower bases
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2006 11:57:37 -0700
List-post: <>
At 10:43 AM 7/4/2006, Roger D Johnson wrote:
>JThe NEC is definitely more focussed on dissipating transient energy (from 
>near strikes, etc.) and fault currents, not on dissipating a direct 
>stroke, so the 20ft encased in concrete thing might be insufficient for 
>lightning protection.
>I did find a site which said that 20 ft of rebar in concrete is capable
>of absorbing an 8 kiloamp surge. Since the average lightning strike is
>around 15 Kamps, it's obvious that these mini-Ufers don't offer much
>protection from lightning strikes. I've noticed that most of the sites
>that promote a Ufer ground made up of the tower base and rebar also
>advocate the use of a radial system. My feeling is that the radial
>system actually provides the lions share of the protection.

or, given that most rebar reinforced slabs have a lot more than 20 ft of 
rebar in them, it works out ok.

I used to have some equipment in a shed like metal building about 20 ft 
square out at White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, a place where 
lightning is an extremely common occurance.  They had 8 rods sticking up 
above the roof about 2 feet around the perimeter, a AWG2 (or bigger) wire 
coming down from each rod to the foundation where it was run into the 
concrete.  There was also a peripheral ring connecting all the rods at the 
roof level.  The building structure was the usual steel I beam type frames 
bolted to the foundation with corrugated sheet metal as the skin and roof. 
The frames were also bonded to AWG2 wire which disappeared into the 
foundation. There was a fair amount of rebar in the foundation, as well.

So.. while this building was clearly grounded with a Ufer style ground, it 
was a heck of a lot more than the NEC required 20 ft of conductor.  I 
suspect that in "lightning country" the wise builder does this as a matter 
of course.

An interesting sidelight on this might be the increasingly common Post 
Tension Slab style of construction, where there's no rebar in the 
slab.  Instead, there are several steel cables on roughly 5 foot spacings 
that are tightened after the concrete is poured to keep the slab in 
tension. The cables run through a plastic sleeve, and I'd imagine that they 
aren't connected to the grounding system.  Furthermore, on most PTS 
systems, there's a vapor barrier (read, plastic sheet) between slab and 
ground, although from an RF standpoint, the capacitance across the sheet is 
huge so the RF reactance is low. (This is also the case on most slab 
construction (post tension or not), in residential use, anyway). In 
California, for seismic reasons, there are also turndowns at the edges of 
the slab (to transfer shear loads to the soil), and I'm pretty sure there's 
rebar in those.



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