Bad Effects of Volcanic Ash to Buildings & Energy Facilities

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Volcanoes are one active in terms of climate change as we experience it unexpectedly year by year.
Being part of the pacific ring of fire, it is very inevitable for us to be more cautious and alert in times of calamities, especially the unexpected events. We have to be prepared at all times in order for us to survive any climate disasters.

As we encounter the recent Taal volcanic eruption in Batangas that spews volcanic ash, we have to be mindful that these volcanic ashes will put us in great danger if we are careless with our health and also with our surroundings. As volcanic ash spread within Batangas and now it reached Metro Manila, are we still safe to go outside?


Health is very important that’s why we research the best way to avoid inhaling the volcanic ash. But aside from our health, buildings and structures are also as important as we go for our shelter and other facilities that maintain our place to breathe clean.

Before we go deeper into the effects of Volcanic Ash, let’s define first for us to understand how it affects the buildings and energy facilities. Volcanic ashes are a mixture of rocks, minerals, and glass particles expelled from a volcano during volcanic eruption. These particles are very small that they tend to be pitted and are full of holes. The particles can travel long distances carried by winds that make the sky go dark and dusty. As these particles go down to buildings and energy facilities, it may affect the stability of buildings to collapse and for energy facilities to stop its function.


For buildings and structures during ash fall, one of the main parts to observe is the gutters and
down pipes as it blocks and may lead also to localized flooding and damage, especially the roofs,
drainage networks, and ceiling spaces. Internal gutters are particularly at risk and are not easily
accessible for cleaning. Another to observe is the roof of the building which may lead to structural
damage due to excessive load of ash. Long span and low pitched roofs are more susceptible and having very thick volcanic ash may cause roof collapse especially when it is wet, the static load is increased by up to 100% making it difficult to clean.


As for energy facilities, power outages are common making backup power systems important for critical facilities such as hospitals and may interrupt telephone and radio communication to function. Another part of energy facilities are the HVAC units – stands for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning. HVAC systems are effectively everything from your air conditioner at home to the large systems used in industrial complexes and apartment blocks. A good HVAC system aims to provide thermal control and indoor comfort but since the effect of volcanic ash, it may disrupt its filters, condensers and air intakes which is hard for people to breath and maintain body temperature.


Learning the bad effects of volcanic ash will give us the knowledge on what to do in times of calamities. Preparedness at all times is what we should always do, to avoid at risk we must identify the entry and exit point in any building operation as areas need sealing and restricted access to limit spreading ash. Make sure to have adequate supplies of necessary equipment at all times. For outlets and down pipes, always cover to reduce ash opening to drainage networks and disconnect down pipes and gutters.


In the event of ash fall, avoid cleaning up until the ash has stopped falling. However, in some situations, immediate action should be done to prevent damage or loss of function to the building. Always seal the building to limit entering of volcanic ash – select an entry point which can be used as an ‘ash lock’. Close and seal non-essential doors, windows, vents and other gaps. For energy facilities, always monitor HVAC systems, minimize the use for necessary operation.


Once the volcanic ash subsides and stops, look for exterior areas that need immediate clean up. Effective use of ‘top down’ and ‘up-wind’ method will prevent re contamination of cleaned areas. Moreover, on cleaning materials, shovels are best used for removing bulk of ash and brooms for small ashes. For interior areas, you may use a vacuum to clean the ash especially for hard to reach areas. While for difficult surfaces, use of damp cloth is much needed and remember to avoid excessive rubbing as this scratches delicate surfaces. Lastly, computers and electronics should need immediate action too as they are more at risk of not functioning due to the entering of ash inside. To avoid problems, cover the sensitive equipment with plastic sheeting. And for equipment, carefully clean using low pressure compressed air and damp cloth.


“Prevention is better than cure” is as important as to us humans and also to the buildings and energy facilities as we need shelter and energy equipment for our everyday living. Having the right knowledge in times of calamities will prevent us from any circumstances. With Envision Monitoring System, get access to an intelligent system with real-time and historical energy data for your needs that is both easy-to-use and accessible. Learn more by visiting our website at envision-monitoring.com/.

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