Sunday, January 09, 2005

Architects and others who design buildings should know something about static electricity

Often I get calls about this time of year (January) from people who moved into a new building sometime last year. Around this time they start to really suffer static shocks to the extent they contact me to try to do something about it.

There can be many factors and many variations - but one really common one is the floor material. If the floor material is highly insulating, this is a recipe for trouble. Static charges are built up by people walking on the floor (or by cars or fork trucks driving on the floor) , especially under dry air conditions. Charge build-up quickly leads to high voltages - and ZAP!!!!

For much of the year in the UK the air is damp, and this helps to prevent excessive charge build-up. As soon as winter comes, the air can be cold outside and warm and dry inside. This is ideal for static charge build-up. The user suddenly starts to experience shocks. What can they do about it? Unfortunately many treatments are only temporarily effective. If the real problem is the floor material the real solution is to replace it - but this can be very expensive. Not the sort of thing you want to be told if you've moved into your nice new building in the last year or so....
I've visited several car parks now where the floor was covered with epoxy. A nice hard wearing coating, I'm sure, and looks good. Unfortunately a car running on epoxy charges like a Van de Graaf generator and can be at several kV voltage by the time the driver reaches to pull a ticket from the machine at the barrier..........ZAP!!! A highly charged car can pack a lot of stored energy and the shock can be very painful!

2 comments:

Steve Fowler said...

When a building is first designed it must take static into account. We must begin to lower the electrostatic "noise" levels in our environments both from a comfort level as well as from a safety point of view. I wrote an article a few years ago on problems in the Call Centers. http://www.esdjournal.com/techpapr/sfowler/ccenters.htm
This is a problem in Call Centers and any automated office environment. Electrostatic polution along with Electromagnetic polution is a large problem for our brave new world. Look at the following article on a new desease in the workplace:
http://www.sfowler.com/esdjournal/lipoatrophia.htm
Believe it or Not!

Greg said...
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