In this webinar, experts discuss the balustrade design regulations in South Africa. A team of experienced balustrade contractors, joined by Craig Thompson, a renowned structural engineer answer questions that the industry and the consumer have with regards to some very contentious issues around safety and installation:
- What is a balustrade and what is it’s purpose?
The definition of a balustrade is, it is a structural element that forms part of a building and it is there to prevent the people that are using that building from falling from one level to the next and thus it’s a safety element that will prevent harm or even death in some circumstances. In the attached video discussion, experts and professionals take on this question and unpack the balustrade design regulations behind this structural element that forms part of safety in any building.
- Why does a balustrade need to comply with SANS?
Over the last couple of years we have seen an increased number of incidents where there have been serious accidents and even deaths that have occurred due to inferior balustrades installed by unscrupulous balustrade installers, installing systems that do not meet the balustrade design regulations and safety standards. Just to name a few, there was an incident in Umhlanga at the Gateway shopping mall where a six year old child fell between a gap of more than 200mm between the balustrade uprights. Tragically, that child fell to his death. Another incident in Mosselbay where a balustrade that failed a 400 Joule soft body impact test, a teenager also fell to his death. The media has reported very little detail on these incidents and have noted that out of court settlements were taken with no persons taking responsibility for the failure to protect the public and their children.
When is the industry going to wake up and regulate balustrade contractors and ensure that we are looking after our clients and their safety. The SANS codes very clearly specify that the responsibility lies with the owner of the building for any death or injury that occurs due to a non-compliant balustrade system.
Together with industry associations and professional structural engineers, Steel Studio has undertaken various measures of trying to educate the industry on the balustrade design regulations. In addition to measures to try and build associations to help us to educate and regulate the industry. Unfortunately we have found this to be very difficult to do with the amount of red tape, corruption and lack of support, when all we’re trying to do is save the lives of our clients and the lives of our clients’ clients.
- What does the SANS codes say about balustrade design regulations and safety?
As far back as 2011 the SABS rewrote quite a lot of the codes covering the building industry and they became known as the SANS codes instead of the SABS codes. The main SANS code being the 10400 and the 10160 which talks to the loading requirements on a building project. Prior to this, there have always been regulations basically governing the design and safety requirements of balustrades but not in so much detail and once the new codes were published a lot more attention was placed on what is happening in the industry. In particularly Steel Studio noticed these changes and decided to do the right thing and we needed to make sure that we comply with the SANS codes. Which we did and it’s cost a huge amount of money, time and effort, testing, sample manufacture, consulting with engineers like Craig from Pure Consulting to make sure that any balustrade system that we manufacture, that we quote on and install complies 100% with all of the SANS requirements. There are a multitude of other codes that also talk to various things like fire, people with disabilities, glass in architecture. All of those things have something to do with balustrades in the building codes. Which unfortunately a lot of it falls on deaf ears and people are still kind of doing what they think will fly. So from a responsibility point of view we have taken it upon ourselves to take the SANS building codes and all of the regulations and make sure that our systems comply. At the same time we are trying to assist and educate the industry to try and get everybody to comply with regulation and code. A competent person has to sign off on a balustrade and that competent person by definition is someone that is a registered professional structural engineer.
- What is the definition of a competent person that is referred to by SANS?
Craig Thompson elaborates on the gray area that remains in contention around what a competent person is and whether that is a registered professional engineer. “In my opinion, there are glass specialists that are competent glazing specialists. If the balustrade was only glass and merely glass then one could argue that a person with the credentials of a competent person glazing could sign such a thing off but most balustrades have components beyond the glass. They have connections to the floor slab and they have other connections and structural components associated with it, so there are gaps in such a persons’ understanding possibly. I know a lot of competent people that don’t have academic qualifications that are hightly adroit at designing things so I am not saying that qualified by experience isn’t worthy of respect, however the most important thing to say is that for the end user, they would want someone who’s registered, in other words someone who has studied and is experienced in that line and at the end of the day they can put their registration number against that , because that is really the basis of the regulatory system in this country. Whether it is a balustrade or a building structure. Whatever it may be, at the end of the day for the comfort of the occupants, the person who is signing that off has a higher duty of care to society to sign it off. It’s a duty that goes beyond the duty to the project. It’s a duty to society, so essentially that professional person needs to be registered because it’s a higher calling. It requires that level of commitment. That person should be able to speak to an imaginary judge and in the event of a failure, when you ask that person to look at things that maybe aren’t quite engineered correct but they maybe are advantageous to winning the contract. The main thing is about me saying to my own subconscious, well am I doing the right thing by society. Can I justify the decision that I’m making today to this imaginary Judge because one day I might have to sit in front of this imaginary judge and he’ll be a real judge and I’ll be explaining to him, why as the alledged cleverest person in the room I let this decision go by without due consideration and thought and that’s really the just of it. A higher call and duty of care to society”.
- Steel Studio’s ‘Saving lives one balustrade at a time’ campaign
This is exactly why Steel Studio has undertaken this campaign ‘Saving lives one balustrade at a time’. To try and educate the public on the balustrade design regulations and actually get people to realise that they do have a responsibility to socienty, including balustrade contractors like us as professionals and as responsible corporate citizens, we all have a responsibility for what we are installing regardless of whether it’s a balustrade or anything else.
- Who is responsible in the design of a balustrade and who carries the risk in the event of a failure?
The main question an architect or building professional needs to ask themselves is who is going to take the design responsibility for the balustrade design. Upon receiving a lot of drawings and tenders from architects for various designs, one has to ask yourself what’s the actual design that will comply with the balustrade design regulations? and that’s why we try to reach out to the professionals, to actually set up appointments with them to assist with the design. From our side, we’re trying to make sure that what is actually detailed is a compliant system and inline with the SANS codes.
Craig comments that “It is advantageous for architects who are highly trained to give their intent in terms of the details when they are looking to procure a balustrade because that is in essence them saying, this is what we’d like it to look like. This is how we believe it could work, but at the end of the day the final decision, the designer, is the guy who gets to decide last. This is really important. The guy who’s the designer of the architectural and the intent drawings. I look at it as intent only. And sometimes an architect may not see it that way and insist that this is what he wants. Yes, it might be what you want, but it might not work. So, how do we get from something that you want to something that works. That is certifiable and can be signed off. My measure of who is the designer, I always say, it’s the guy who gets to decide last! There can be lots of cooks in the kitchen through the process but the guy who decides last is the designer because he’s the one that says the glass has to be this thick, the bolt has to be this big. He’s the guy that gets to decide. People can throw their concepts on the table and those will all get the due consideration. But at the end of the day, they’re really just ideas in the melting pot. But the guy that’s responsible, gets to decide because hes the guy that carries the can”.
- What is the responsibility of the architect when designing a balustrade?
The architect and the professional team’s responsibility when designing a balustrade and appointing a contractor should be to look at the basic specification to make sure that it is properly interrogated with the installer and that it’s double checked by a peer engineer to make sure that it complies with the balustrade design regulations and that your client is fully aware of what this balustrade does and what will happen to it if it is impacted whether it will disappear or not. We know clients in the past that have been quite acceptant of just a toughened solution, and then insist on toughened laminate glass simply because they realise that there is a danger if the glass is damaged, it will disappear completely. At least there is an element that remains in place, and might protect somebody for a little bit longer before it falls over. Unfortunately not all professionals are as attuned to the problem as we would like.
We see it all the time in the enquiries that come through. Steel Studio is a competitive organisation so we are answering enquiries all the time. The level of enquiries are astronomically bad. No performance specification, no definition of occupancy, sometimes specifying down to the last minutely what the balustrade should look like including the thickness of the glass even, sometimes no design as the word mentioned in the enquiry. It’s really hard in that instance to be competing against another tenderer. Because, what do you do? You offer what’s on the drawing but you clearly know it doesn’t work or do you do the responsible thing and design it properly, and not get the work.
It’s down to the wording of the actual enquiry, design, supply and install and if you don’t do that you are not protecting your client properly. As a professional, if you don’t have the proper wording, you’re actually just placing yourself and your client at risk.
But every time the discovery of who is the responsible person ends up only being discovered at the end when the installation is complete and there is no responsible designer to the installation and then everyone runs around like a headless chicken, going, “who’s going to sign this off”.
- The gray area around the word design
There is a gray area around the word ‘design’. People take it as “well I’ve got design responsibility. It looks very sexy at the end of the day and I’ve done a great job”. The balustrade is a beautiful design. That doesn’t mean that it complies with anything because it’s a great design. The definitition of the word design when it comes to doing a balustrade should incorporate the engineering, the calculations, the testing, the sign off and ultimately the certification. Which leads on to the Form 3 documentation which we all know is needed for occupancy. It’s a compliance requirement. And these days we don’t notice many Form 3’s getting issued by companies, whether it’s a balustrade, a skylight or whatever the case is. But it is a requirement in the balustrade design regulations.
Craig again comments “I think it is probably due to having watched it happen and seeing it in associated industries. It’s a lack of understanding in the early conceptual side of the job as to who is responsible. That’s why it is really important that when an enquiry goes out depending on whether the project is large or small, make it very clear that whoever is putting that enquiry out ,whether it’s a builder just looking for a quote, or whether it’s a professional quantity surveyor putting out a tender, it’s really important that that enquiry should say the words ‘design, supply and install’. If the word design is missing from that enquiry, then by it’s very nature it’s a supply and install tender or enquiry, so who is responsible for the design and obviously the original intent on the drawing is responsible. Sometimes those original drawings are devoid of any engineering, haven’t been shown to the project engineer that is responsible for the balance of the components on the project and therein lies the gap. The word design in this instance is the structural design of the balustrades. Is it strong enough? Is it stiff enough? Will it be fit for purpose to act as a barrier to stop people from falling to their death.
- What are the various tests that need to be performed on glass balustrades and why do they need to be performed?
Going back to the design and touching a little bit on the various tests. What sort of tests does a balustrade need to pass? SANS10160 clearly defines what loading the balustrade has to comply with. But to go back one step, there are clear occupancy categories within the SANS and balustrade design regulations, whether it’s a residential category or an office or a fire escape or in a retail space, each one has it’s own category of test requirements that have to be undertaken for it to deem to pass or deem to satisfy. If you look at table 7 in the SANS codes in 10160 it gives you a clear description of the occupancy categories so if it’s a residential category it then tells you, that the line load, which is a distributed load over a meter of balustrade has to be 0.5kN/m plus a point load which is a load that’s supplied on a 100×100 square element at any point on the balustrade and in any direction. That’s 1kN/m. That covers residential. That is pretty light duty. Then as you go up in categories to retail for example, that is a 1.5kN per linear meter line load which is pretty big. And then all the way up to fire escape stairs and fire escape routes, which are at 3kN/m. That’s 6 times what the residential loading requirements are. That excludes glass. That’s purely the two that we would call ‘static’ loads.
On glass it calls for the swing bag test, the 400 Joule soft body impact test, which is a 30kg bag of sand swung from a predetermined and calculated height and the glass may not break or come out of its frame. So, if you have a glass balustrade system, which incorporates steel members, with glass panels and it’s going into a shopping centre, for example, it’s got to have 3 tests done. Which is the swingbag test on the glass, and it’s got to have a line load test and a point load test. These tests we know are commonly not happening so, what we’ve noticed is because it’s a design and supply and perhaps a tender document comes out with a design indemnity form that people sign with a flourish and they indemnify the client, the owner, the developer and the main contractor and they hope nothing ever happens and pray nothing ever goes wrong. But they are still not doing the required tests on the balustrade systems, which is a major issue.
One has to look just a little bit behind what is the reasons for those load levels at the various categories. Firstly these categories exist from an occupancy point of view to govern rules pertaining not just to balustrades, but to fire, to fire escape to all sorts of things that the SANS regulations are linked to, so it’s really just saying that there’s a category of risk called residential, it’s got its associated risk associated with it whether it’s balustrade or whether it’s fire escapes or whatever it might be. Then there’s the retail risk, which is different and then there’s a fire escape risk which obviously has crush loading. In the event of a fire you will have lots and lots of people trying to get down those stairs so there’s going to be people in a crush situation much like a grand stand at a soccer game or a rugby game and so those load levels and those static load levels that were spoke about earlier, those are really like a combination of international norms. They’re a load event that is defined to give a reasonable sense of security that if that barrier can resist those kind of loads it will be strong enough and stiff enough to do the job. So, those static loads that were spoke about earlier, the line load on the balustrade and the point load that were spoke about, and incidently 1Kn is 100kg’s. So just to clarify. The residential codes is 0.5Kn/running meter line load on the balustrade. That will be 50kg a running meter or a bag of cement every meter. And then the 1kN is of course 100kg applied over a 100mmx100mm block anywhere and in any direction. You can demonstrate compliance to those without testing. Testing is one way to demonstrate compliance to balustrade design regulations but because they’re static forces you can as a registered engineer or competent person, you can demonstrate by reasonable calculation that the components in question can do that so, those kind of things can be done by calculation. However, the other category that was touched on, that impact category with the energy, that’s there to mimic someone uncontrollably maybe falling against the balustrade. Someone tripping and falling against something in a dynamic sense.
That’s not a calculable thing, There’s no engineering calculations that will calculate what that will do to the balustrade. The only way to demonstrate compliance with essentially what is energy is to test it. So, that 400 Joule impact test and the reason the regulation is quite emphatic that it needs to be tested on brittle material like glass, simply because glass is brittle. It’s either there, or it’s not. It’s not a ductile material like stainless steel or structural steel which will if overloaded, bend and bend a little bit more and give you lots of warning and bends even more and eventually it will not even break it will just sort of bend permanently. Glass is not like that. Glass is either there or it’s gone. We’ve all seen the hijackers on the side of the roads breaking the side windows with a spark plug and the glass is broken, that’s toughened glass. It’s a brittle material, so, the intent of that 400 Joule test is about demonstrating to ourselves and to the public, that that balustrade in glass, because everyone wants a ‘look ma, no hands balustrade’, one that you can see through, one that doesn’t get in the way of your sightlines, it leaves you with a beautiful view, that is usually glass. But it’s still a barrier and it still has to do it’s job. So, what happens if someone falls against that balustrade accidentally or runs into it accidentally? Will it still be there to protect that person or will that person fall to their death. 400 Joules is quite a lot of energy. That swingbag that is a leather bag with 30kg of sand inside, we lift it up quite high in a pendulum stroke, We sometimes lift it up to 2 odd meters, and then we let it go like a pendulum clock and that impacts into the glass and the glass has got to stay there. And that cannot be done by calculation.
These are all tests that Steel Studio has taken on to ensure that everyone of our balustrade systems go through this vigorous set of testing. We have our engineers involved and we take on that responsibility to ensure that we are installing a safe and compliant system. It’s unfortunately the case that there are all of these companies out there that aren’t doing this, and that’s why we’re trying to educate and let professionals and the consumer know what exactly goes into our systems and what should be going into every single balustrade system that is installed.
- What are the SANS required airgaps on a balustrade?
Focus for one second on only the airgaps of a balustrade system. The norm is on a residential application, you’re required to have no more than a 100mm airgap anywhere in the balustrade system. A balustrade needs to be a minimum of 1m high. In order for us to achieve that height and the 100mm airgap consistently throughout, we need 8 x 19 diameter rails as infills. We see plenty of other member sizes being used, 12 diameter and 16 diameter. That does not pass the balustrade design regulation and compliance. Due to the permanent deformation of these intermediate rails. It is important to note that the gap between the handrail/toprail and the first infill rail must also comply with the 100mm airgap. On a 7 infill rail system, the gap turns out to be 150mm which is non compliant. The codes are very specific as to what these minimum airgaps should be and yet we continue to see 5, 6 and 7 rail systems out there and sometimes even more scary, 2 and 3 rail systems! Some of the horror stories that we have heard about include incidents where balustrades have airgaps of more than 100mm. You have to look at the intent of the regulation. The intent of the regulation is that the occupant may be an infant, who is not all that together, yet, in their lives. They cannot distinguish danger from safety, and so, the gap of 100mm minimum is there to protect that toddler or infant that may fall through. Like the earlier story of the incident at Umhlanga mall and in Mosselbay. These are all children that have been taken before their time. How much money is a human life worth? Can you put a price on a human life? 5 rails, 6 rails, 7 rails, save 2 rails? Cost someone a life? That’s how you need to look at it.
But, besides the number of infill rails and having your uprights and handrails engineered, and all the calculations and all the testing done. The key to the whole installation is actually how it’s fixed at the base. Whether it’s into a concrete floor or whatever substrate the balustrade is being attached to, or whether it’s a bolting system. When the balustrade takes it’s load, that load transfers and creates a massive lever arm and all the force happens around the base of the balustrade. There are far too many systems being installed with a simple pin that is being drilled into the concrete and they are finding a product off the shelf at the local hardware and they’re using that as an anchor. This example of an anchor is known as and acts as a hinge. So, we’re expecting a balustrade with a meaty upright that’s required to take the load but we’re expecting everything to hinge on a 10mm or 12mm pin that’s been epoxied into the concrete for example. We also go to great lengths to test every method that we use to fix and our favourite method where possible is the core drilled method where we go in to approximately 150mm into the concrete. We take out the core, We go to 150mm to compensate for screed and tile or whatever they have done to fix the floor levels as is common practice in this country. But then you’re getting a good keep. We’re using a non shrink cementitious grout, which is also key, because you cant have a product that you pour in there and then the grout shrinks and the system is loose.
If it comes to a mechanical fixing where core is not a practical solution, we then obviously engineer to use whatever bolts or flanges or plates or weld ons that the system may require. If you’re welding a stainless steel balustrade externally in a wet environment onto a mild steel structure you will pick up problems with galvanic action due to two dissimilar materials reacting to each other in a wet environment. A long topic conversation for another day. But the fixing is key here.
- Are DIY balustrades tested and safe?
Companies that sell DIY balustrades and kits are not fabricators or manufacturers themselves but they have this whole catalogue and range of products, that don’t comply with any test or balustrade design regulations. But you can go in there with your shopping trolley and buy a whole range of products, walk out, and they’ll hapilly let you go and install a balustrade yourself. Who carries the risk in this situation? The products haven’t been designed. We’ve mentioned before that if youre a company that manufactures bullets for instance and you happily sell to the whole market but you say well I don’t know what they’re going to be used for. You have a liability in that whatever you are selling, should be tested to some type of norm and you should have a responsibility to the public and the consumer to say, what are you using this product for? This is what it has been tested for. This is what it complies to. That is currently not happening with diy balustrade kits!
Steel Studio is systemised about how we do everything. We know our business. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We have various systems that are our go to systems through the residential market, into the commercial tender market. All of those systems are tried and tested. We have always considered the regulations, we’ve considered the engineering and we’ve done the testing. So, we’re coming from a position that we understand the systems that we are selling. All of the systems whether it be a ductile stainless steel system, where we understand that the intermediate rails cannot be too small or they will just bend to the glazing systems that we will go through.
The key thing is that Steel Studio has a systemised approach to balustrades, and we know what systems work where and what to avoid, in terms of systems and certain instances and we won’t put the wrong kind of system into an inappropriate application whereas if you’re going to shop with your trolley looking for a diy balustrade, you’re going to make mistakes.
- Does a point fixed glass balustrade cause reason for concern?
There are constant concerns raised regarding side fix of glass to slabs. The design criteria that has been come across in the past from various designers seem to fail the tests. And it’s really just fixing the balustrade with a couple of pins onto the side of the slab and there’s no stability to the system.
This side fixed glass system is probably the hardest balustrade to get to work by calculation. Because slabs are generally quite thin, because the engineer doing the slabs is trying to make them thin. So, when youre fixing to the side of something like that and you’re fixing into the slab with two point fixings, two things are happening. The point fixings are close together because the slab is quite thin and you have to work the point fixing down by the edge distance because the bolt manufacturer will tell you that you can’t put the bolt too close to the edge because otherwise it might break out or break off when you pull it. So you end up with a very small lever between 2 pins, usually in the range of 100mm. So just to keep the magnification thing simple, if you’re pushing something from a meter height, and the magnification between the two is 0.1 of a meter, you’ve got a magnification on the force on that point of 10 times just to start with. Then one has to understand that those point fixings are by their very nature, a point, so, it’s not spread over the surface of the glass like for example a glass in channel which is spread over the full length of the channel. But its localised stresses right at the point where that point fixing is coming off. And there’s holes in the glass right where you’re stressing the glass. So, it is the worst engineering solution and yet it has been in many successful applications, and we’re still battling today to find a structural model that can demonstrate compliance by calculation with some of those things and the only way we have managed to work our way through and understanding what we can certify in regards to the various occupancies we’ve spoken about was to understand the dynamic side of things because the dynamic tests, the 400 Joule soft body impact tests are far more onorous for that kind of application than the static ones, so whilst we have tested those systems intensively for the static, that 400 Joule bag test on the glass is by far the worst load case we could consider. The only way we can get through that process is to understand the dynamics of the thing and how it vibrates when it’s hit and how it interacts with adjoining things. So, does the handrail play a part? Are we able to pin the handrail at some point to assist? Is pinning the handrail helping or is it making it worse for us? Is the handrail infact behaving a bit like a whip? We found that the handrail at times can behave like a whip. Because when you hit one panel of glass and as the glass moves and imagine that the glass is rubber, so imagine in your mind this thing hitting the rubber and you see the handrail vibrating and as it starts to vibrate it leaves glass panels next to it, behind as it moves forward. But then the glass panels behind start to catch up. And so the handrail at the top acts a bit like a whip. In fact, when we thump one piece of glass the adjoining two pieces of glass break, not the one we hit because the handrail at the top, whips the other direction and literally breaks those panels of glass. It has been a tricky design. However the ones that we do certify have gone the test of time with testing with Steel Studio. Obviously glass thickness plays a very important role and glass type.
There are such anomalies with engineers signing off a balustrade with point fixes because as soon as you impact them they break. A lot of times during the designing period, you first want to have that design and due to it’s failure you go for a normal top of slab in channel situation. It comes down to the actual main structural element of the building that’s not designed to take this balustrade. And if you have the information to make the slab with an upstand or some way to give it depth then you can make this balustrade work.
Also to understand that it’s a point fixing so the stresses are highly localised at the point whereas a channel is distributed over a longer length. One has to understand that without commercial pressure you would just keep making glass thick enough until it works. But unfortunately in this country we are a little bit of a back water. It’s a wonderful place to live but we only make ordinary annealed glass between 3mm thick and 12mm thick in this country and then we beneficiate that glass by either toughening it which is a bit like the blacksmith toughens the horseshoe by heating and quenching it. It’s a similar process to make it stronger. The cooling effect at the surface of the glass generates a pre-compressive stress in the outer surface of the glass, which means the glass is awful in tension. It can’t carry any tension. So, that pre-compression has to be overcome before the piece of glass breaks. For instance, the side windows of your car is toughened glass, that is a safety glass because when it breaks, the locked in energy of that toughening process, fragments the glass into lots of very tiny pieces. But without commercial pressure we would just make the glass thicker and thicker. Of course, that’s an ideal world because we all live completely in a commercial world so, it’s finding that happy medium between beautiful looking balustrades and commercial balustrades. And that is our dilemma. With those point fixings, we battle. We end up going to thicker glasses than we make in this country, which means the raw material that we are using in the balustrade, is imported at import rates, with duties etc, etc. because we’re ending up with glass thicknesses thicker than 12mm. spigot systems with no toprail, can you just imagine that panel of glass, especially in a retail application, falling from a height, the kind of damage that it could do?
- Does the regulation insist you have a handrail on a frameless glass balustrade?
The question always comes up, “is it still possible to have a frameless glass balustrade?, without the installation of a stainless steel handrail”
Yes, it is possible, but it comes down to the engineering and it talks again about what we were saying earlier. It depends on what the occupancy category is, you can certainly have a glass balustrade without a handrail but it’s probably going to be very very thick glass. If the glass is planted in a continuous channel where the glass is grouted in and is continuous, you’re going to get some load transfer. If it’s a standard side fix glass detail with standoffs that we were discussing earlier, you’re going to have to have super thick glass to get it to pass because then, each panel is acting individually, in an impact situation. There is no assistance from any handrail at all. So, it can be designed to pass, but it is going to be very thick glass. Again, it’s a commercial thing. Essentially the rail at the top helps to share the loads. So, if you push on one panel, the existence of the handrail whether it be point fixed to the glass or capped over the top of the glass, there’s an act of sharing, so if you push on one panel, by vitue of the stiffness of the rail, It’s sharing the load with the panels on either side. So, the rail helps the installation and keeps the glass thicknesses at commercial levels, but yes, in an ideal world again, money aside, no handrail is required in terms of the regulation.
Does the regulation insist you have a handrail on a frameless glass balustrades?
No. It is just not economically viable, to install that type of system because you’re really going to have to go so thick on the glass, to borderline bullet proof glass or alternatively plant the glass in a channel to avoid the handrail.
Handrail options that Steel Studio offer:
31×31 concave or recessed stainless steel handrail. This is the most popular toprail, small and sleek and really finishes off the balustrade quite nicely.
We also offer a handrail that sits on a 12mm bent up bracket. We can offer a variation of sizes like a 40 x 40 square, 50 x 30 rectangular and or a 30 diameter or 50 diameter round handrail.
- Glass balustrade components. Why don’t they work?
Likewise with your post and glass system, if you’re not using the right clamps, the glass basically just slips out of the clamp. We have even seen in retail spaces where 8mm glass has been in stalled and has slipped through the clamps and is balancing on the floor surface. You have to ensure that the components that you are using have been tested to comply with the balustrade design regulations.
- Why is the grade and finish of stainless steel so important in balustrade applications?
In terms of stainless steel grade and finish, we have spent a bit of time in Kzn and have noticed that balustrade companies are installing grade 304 brushed stainless steel material, externally at the coast. It just doesn’t work. You’re not even going to get 2 years life out of it. We doubt if you would get six months life out of it.
Just something important to notice that if you are using stainless steel for coastal applications or around salt pools, it is important to use a grade 316 mirror polished stainless steel. That is the only spec that can abe used for coastal applications and around salt pools. This also again goes back to safety. If you’ve got a lower grade of stainless steel going in you’re going to have issues with corrosion and you are going to have issues with the safety of that balustrade actually where it may pass the compliance initially, but the system will deteriorate and it won’t hold up over a long time, exposing you to the risk of failure of the system and causing serious injury or even death.
- Educating the balustrade industry on the balustrade design regulations
The question is often asked, surely it must be responsibility of the Councils that they check for compliance? Are they issuing a compliance certificate without checking the compliance?
Yes, It should be. But it isn’t. It is something that we really have been pushing to create that awareness and to better regulate it, but there’s just so much red tape around it, we’ve actually got impatient with it and so now we take it upon ourselves to have discussions like this and to educated the public.
What we’re wanting to do is try and educate the architects, educate the contractors, and to educate the quantity surveyors, so that they can actually scrutinise these other balustrade companies, to a point where they are not going to be getting those orders if they intend supplying balustrades that don’t comply. They are not going to be getting work for non-compliant, dangerous systems. The fight is ongoing and we continue to advocate for compliance in the industry.