Balustrade Building Regulations – What Are the Key Factors to Consider?
The UK has the world’s strictest building regulations, which can seem both dense and complex to someone unfamiliar with these guidelines. The incorrect construction of a balustrade could delay a project being signed off, adding unnecessary costs and further delays to a project’s completion.
Here’s our guide on how to navigate these regulations:
What is Document K?
An Approved Document is issued by the Government, and offers practical guidance about the specific requirements on building regulations across England and Wales.
First published in 2010 and later revised in 2013, Document K relates to balustrade building requirements, specifically protection, from falling, collision and impact. While Document K outlines the necessity of balustrade building regulations for both commercial buildings and dwellings, higher standards of provision are necessary in public buildings, as individuals may be unfamiliar with the setting, which is also likely to have more users.
Is the balustrade part of a building’s safety features?
Document K relates to a range of building safety features; however, it largely concerns balustrade building regulations.
Document K also highlights that employers have a responsibility to safeguard a workplace in accordance to Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992). These regulations are preventative, reducing the risk of falling, personal injury and ensuring that adequate access points are in place for individuals, including disabled people, in accordance with the Equality Act (2010).
Balustrade building regulations have different specifications depending on the type of building. For public buildings a balustrade is necessary:
- when the change in floor level is more than 380mm
- when a staircase has more than two risers, a riser being the vertical space between steps
In a dwelling, a balustrade is a necessary feature when there is a change in floor level of over 600mm.
What will building regulation inspectors be looking for?
Inspectors will be looking for balustrades that adhere to specific height regulations outlined in Document K, which are dependent on the building category and location. Different regulations also apply to the type of balustrade chosen for a project.
Balustrade building regulations for glass balustrades
Glass balustrades are becoming increasingly popular due to their modern appearance. Glass is a durable material that can resist load and impact, which is a useful safety feature. In the UK, reinforced glass and laminated glass are two of the most common materials in the manufacture of balustrades. Reinforced, or “tempered” glass, is also known as safety glass, as it will shatter completely when damaged, meaning that it will break safely.
Balustrade building regulations have minimum height requirements from the datum, which is defined as the point on which a handrail is stood. In a dwelling, this is 900mm, and external balconies must have a height of 1100mm from the datum to the top of the handrail.
Public buildings have different balustrade building regulations depending on how the space is used. Flights of stairs are typically 900mm, but can also be 1100mm if specified. This is also the same height needed for landings and assembly points in most factories. The smallest minimum height requirement is for assembly points with fixed seating, whereby a glass balustrade must stand 800mm high with a space of 530mm between the balustrade and the seats, to allow for access.
A common misconception with glass balustrades is that a metal handrail is a requirement under balustrade building regulations; however, this is not the case. Frameless glass balustrades are a popular choice, as they minimise the obstruction of the view in spaces such as balconies. If a glass balustrade is erected in accordance with balustrade building regulations, then it does not necessitate a continuous handrail.
According to balustrade building regulations, a sphere of 100mm should be unable to pass through the glass balustrade’s sections in an area frequented by children, another safety feature that must be adhered to for a project to pass an inspection.
Balustrade building regulations for metal balustrades
In public buildings, if the stairs are less than 1000mm wide, then they require at least one handrail; stairs wider than 1000mm must have a handrail fitted on either side as a safety precaution. A continuous handrail must also be provided along landings and ramps and must have a finish that reduces the risk of personal injury from clothes becoming caught on the end of the handrail.
Much like glass, metal balustrades must adhere to balustrade building regulations regarding height. A balustrade that stands 1100mm from the datum must be in place when there is a drop or change in floor level of 600mm, and the bars must be 99mm apart.
Areas of importance regarding balustrade building regulations
Balustrade building regulations not only determine the height of a balustrade, but also provide strict guidelines for the load requirements of glass balustrades. Three elements to consider are:
- the line load: the horizontal force on the balustrade, which mimics an individual leaning on the balustrade
- the uniformly distributed load (UDL): the horizontal force against the midsection of the balustrade
- the concentrated load: the horizontal load that takes into account any sudden force, mimicking the impact of an individual
These load requirements are in place to ensure that an individual will not come to harm, and the balustrade will not break when force is applied.
How to ensure project approval
A project involving balustrades will pass approval if all members of the project are aware of the balustrade building regulations as outlined in Document K.
The five key elements to remember regarding balustrade building regulations are:
- Balustrades are, above all, a preventative means of protecting an individual from personal injury and falling
- They are a necessity in public spaces for stairs, balconies and any changes in floor level over 380mm
- Balustrades must meet the specific height requirements, which are dependent on the type of building, location and use of space
- Glass balustrades must meet specific load requirements as per balustrade building regulations
- Source all materials needed for balustrades from a professional company to ensure that all products are of a high standard
Get complete peace of mind with SHS Products
SHS Products are balustrade experts. We have over 25 years of experience in designing and fitting balustrades of all materials across the UK. SHS have an unrivalled knowledge of the specifications of balustrade building regulations and can help ensure your project gets approval.
We can offer balustrade building regulation guidance, as well as advice on the best safety solutions for your home or commercial building. For a free quote or to talk through your requirements, contact SHS Products today on 01922 461578 to speak with a customer service representative.