Successful specification of glass balustrades for commercial projects
Glass balustrades are a popular choice of structural glazing which provides protection against changes in levels in commercial spaces.
Predominantly in architectural designs, this structural glazing solution is transparent to increase visibility and minimises disruption to light distribution while maintaining the safety elements needed for commercial projects.
When specifying frameless glass balustrades on commercial spaces, specific areas of the glass specification need to be considered to ensure that the correct glass is detailed in line with the project location.
IQ Projects designs and detail commercial structural glazing to create strong and safe glazing solutions, with building regulations and functionality in mind.
Building Regulations for Glass Balustrades
Non-residential buildings have different requirements for their balustrades compared to regulations and building practices for glass balustrades in residential projects due to the individual uses for each space. The requirements for balustrading to commercial projects are detailed in Building Regulations Approved Document K.
Frameless glass balustrades provide protection against falling. They provide a protective barrier against level changes that can resist the likely forces applied to it with minimal deflection and without the possibility of it being penetrated.
In all building types other than a dwelling, a balustrade is needed in the below locations:
- on staircases with more than two risers
- where the floor level change is more than 380mm
(from Building Regulations Approved Document K, Section 3: protection from falling)
The different building uses or occupancies will have different requirements for their glass balustrades, including height and the loads the glass barrier is designed to take.
Height Requirements of Glass Balustrades for Non-Dwellings
Building Regulations Part K details the minimum glass balustrade heights for each type of building and occupancy.
The purpose of these height requirements is to ensure that the balustrade offers adequate protection from level changes considering the likely traffic and use of the space.
|Building Type||Location||Height (h) of balustrade||Illustration|
|Factories and warehouses||Stairs and ramps||900mm|
|Landings and edges of floors||1100mm|
|Residential, institutional, educational, office and public buildings||All locations||900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm|
|Assembly||Within 530mm in front of fixed seating||800mm|
|All other locations||900mm for flights, elsewhere 1100mm|
|Retail||All locations||900mm for flights, elsewhere 1100mm|
|Glazing in all buildings||At opening windows expect roof windows in loft extensions||800mm|
Loading Requirements for Glass Balustrades in Commercial Buildings
When designing a frameless glass balustrade, we need to keep in mind the below:
Line Load = a horizontal force at the top of the balustrade. Intended to mimic the force of a person leaning on the top of the balustrade. It is measured in kN/m and loading requirements are given by EN 1991-1-1.
Uniformly Distributed Load (UDL) = a horizontal force applied uniformly to the midsection of the balustrade. This is applied across the entire face of the balustrade. It is given in kN/m2 and is governed by EN 1991-1-4.
Concentrated Load = a horizontal load designed to consider any sudden or accidental pressures applied to the balustrade face. This is designed to give an accurate indication of the balustrade under sudden human impact. Loading requirements are given in EN 1991-1-1 and measured in kN.
Building regulations approved document K details the minimum loading requirements for balustrades in all types of buildings.
As well as ensuring the glass balustrade achieves the minimum height requirements, you also have to ensure that the structural glass design is strong enough.
Table showing load requirements
|Building Occupancy Class (according to Building Regulations Part B)||Line Load applied 1100mm above FFL||UDL, applied to the entire glass face below line load height||Concentrated Load, applied to any part of the glass panel below line load height|
|1||0.36 kN/m||0.5 kN/m2||0.25 kN|
|2||0.74 kN/m||1.0 kN/m2||0.5 kN|
|3||1.5 kN/m||1.5 kN/m2||1.5 kN|
|4||3.0 kN/m||1.5 kN/m2||1.5 kN|
Glass balustrade specification for commercial properties
All glass balustrades for commercial properties have to be designed within the above parameters as dictated by building regulations.
Buildings that are not private dwellings are more likely to be visited or occupied by people less familiar with the layout and therefore, require additional protections. In addition, the higher occupancy numbers require additional strengths for glass balustrades and other protection devices within a building.
There are various ways in which we can detail a balustrade to adhere to the building regulation requirements above. All frameless glass balustrades for commercial projects are designed with a toughened laminated glass construct. This provides the required strength and breakage patterns as well as the requirements for deflection.
One way to increase the strength and durability of a glass balustrade is via the use of a strengthening interlayer. The strengthening interlayers are specialist architectural glazing interlayers designed to increase the strength of a toughened laminated glass structure significantly.
Their strength is such that even if the thick toughened glass panels within a frameless glass balustrade were to be broken, the ionoplast interlayer between the panes maintains the structural integrity of the frameless glass balustrade until a replacement can be installed.
Extra Strengthening Interlayers are used within architectural glazing to produce a stronger yet thinner glass installation, able to withstand large structural loads. A specialised ionoplast interlayer can be specified that is 5 times stronger and 100 times stiffer than standard PVB interlayers used in most structural glass assemblies.
It’s important to specify balustrades that have been extensively tested to withstand high levels of wind as well as line load requirements. Fixing options can be extremely minimal, but the available options will likely depend on many factors including glass specification, location of the glazing and project type.
IQ has engineered its own minimally design frameless glass balustrade to create a modern alternative to a traditional balustrade system, designed with a glass capping to allow light and views to travel through without interruption.
The pane of glass runs along the top of the balustrade, creating a completely smooth surface that eliminates any possibility of an uneven surface. Previously, even when two panes of glass are perfectly lined up and laminated together, having a frameless design means the top has a visible ridge.
Frameless glass balustrade specification for marine environments
Glass installations on a coastal facing elevation will be under extreme weather conditions almost constantly. This includes driving rain as well as strong winds. If a lower specification glazing system is used the building users will likely experience whistling or bowing in the frames under high winds.
The glass on a coastal project will also need special attention as these large glass faces will be under the same environmental strains as the framing
systems. For environments described as marine environments, handrail capping is typically recommended to protect the interlayer from eroding and discolouring due to exposure to moist air, minimal handrails can be applied to stop the risk of the structural interlayer from becoming weaker, as well as help reduce deflection of the balustrades.
IQ recommend the use of Ionoplast Interlayers for any external balustrade due to the high levels of weather resistance displayed by this extra strong interlayer.
There is also no change in the colour or haze of the interlayer due to sun exposure, creating glass structures that stand up against the elements.
Our Opti-edge glazing solution utilises the glass capping as an alternative to a metal cover capping to function in the same way, which reduces the amount of water to sit on the interlayer allowing for the corrosion of the ionoplast. The top of the glass balustrade prevents water damage to the interlayer and stops dirt or debris from building up, maintaining a clean and crisp glass finish.
If you have any questions about the right kind of balustrade for your commercial spaces speak to the team at IQ. We listen to your specification requirements and provide bespoke solutions to match your requirements. Be that size, design or performance; all IQ systems can be expertly engineered to fit your design.