The installation of balustrading and railing systems brings with it the responsibility to guarantee the safety of the products used and the durability of the installation.
All UGS systems are rigorously tested to meet UK Building Regulations and British Standards (BS) on guarding.
‘Guarding’ is the general term referring to barriers, in and about buildings, including balustrades and full height barriers, which protect people from falling where there are stairs, ramps, floors and balconies.
In domestic applications, guarding should protect a difference in level greater than 600mm, whether purely internally, or from the interior to the exterior or vice versa.
In all buildings, where guarding protects a change in level and the glass finishes within 800mm from the finish floor level (FFL), the strength of the glazing must ‘provide containment’. As Document K is a general guideline to guarding, without defining ‘containment’, it refers to BS 6180 : 1999 for more detailed recommendations for glazed balustrades and guarding.
The necessity for, and the type of protective barrier to be provided are determined by the intended use of the building and the potential risks to its users and occupants.
Resistance to loads
Guarding should be designed to withstand loads imposed in the most extreme circumstances, without deflecting or distorting beyond the permitted limit.
Barriers must withstand the following three design loads:
• a horizontal uniform load or line load, (kN/m), pressure exerted on a horizontal line 1100mm above finished floor level
• a uniformly distributed load also known as ‘UDL’, (kN/m 2 ), pressure exerted over the entire panel
• and a point load, (kN), concentrated pressure on the glass
Design loads should be determined by the building-use category (see BS 6180 : 1999 Annex A:2 and BS 6399 : Part 1: 1996 which supersedes BS 6180, but uses the same loadings) and the location of the guarding.
Does it protect:
• stairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors
• external balconies (being part of or serving buildings or part of buildings), edges of roofs, footways, pavements and areas not less than 3m, within the building curtilage and adjacent to access roads, basements or sunken areas (e.g. light wells) balconies and stands with fixed seating within 530mm of the barrier?
The barrier must not be penetrated under loading, i.e. it must prevent anyone falling through the barrier.
External barriers and external full-height glazing should be designed to comply with and withstand the wind loads outlined in BS 6399 : Part 2 Code of Practice for Wind loading.
There must be no horizontal elements that would allow the barrier to be climbed.
The glass must resist the load without breaking. A free-standing glass barrier must withstand all three loads, whereas in the case of an infill panel barrier, the line load is applied to the handrail.
In areas likely to be used by children, a sphere of 100mm diameter must not be able to pass through the widest gap in the balustrade, allowing for deflection under load. This is also referred to as the ‘Sphere Test’.
Fabrication and installation
Any construction or structure acting as support for the glazing must be of adequate strength and stability to sustain all applied loads safely.
Finished barriers should have no sharp edges or projections that may cause injury.
Once the fitting type and thickness have been decided, various finishes are available to improve the aesthetics of the balustrade ironmongery.
There are two broad types of glass balustrades:
A frameless balustrade comprises panels of thick toughened glass typically clamped along its bottom edge and with a continuous handrail fixed to the top edge of the glass.
The actual thickness of the glass must meet the requirements of BS 6180 and BS 6399 : Part 1. See the Frameless section of our products page for examples of frameless systems.
Laminated or toughened glass is suitable for use as an infill panel in protective barriers where the glass used is fully framed. See the Framed section in our products page for an example of a fully framed product.
Toughened glass can be used either fully framed, two edge framed, bolt or clip fixed. This includes the common post and rail systems as featured in our products page.
Key criteria when considering glass guarding and balustrading:
1. Identify the need for a barrier.
2. Categorize the risk.
3. Select the type of barrier, such as a full height barrier or a balustrade.
4.Consider whether the barrier is external or internal. If external, then wind loading data is required.
5. Select the correct glass type
6. Select fixing method.
7. Identify any need for manifestation.
BS 6180: 1999 Code of practice for protective barriers in and about buildings.
BS 6399: Part 1 1996 Code of practice for dead and imposed loads.
BS 6262 : 1982 Code of practice for glazing for buildings.
BS 6206: 1981 (1994) Specification for impact performance requirements for flat safety glasses and safety plastics for use in buildings.
The Building Regulations 1991 England and Wales) Part K (Amend 1998).
The Building Regulations 1991 (England and Wales) Part N (Amend 1998).