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CROSS Safety Report

Heritage balustrade complying with current regulations

Report ID: 599 Published: 1 January 2017 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter is hoping that CROSS might be able to help with some research for a heritage project.

They are wondering how to treat an ornate cast-iron balustrade guarding a stone interlock stair to make it comply with current building regulations.

Key Learning Outcomes

For professionals working on heritage projects:

  • Be aware that there may be conflicts between building regulations and heritage aspects of buildings, and sometimes compromise is needed

  • It is good practice to consult with building control and the Heritage Authority at an early stage of the project to resolve any potential conflicts

  • One option to the reporter’s issue may be to insert an independent guarding in front of the balustrade as shown in Figure 1. This could be glass if the visual aspects were important.

  • Be aware that adding additional fall protection measures to a stone staircase could result in making the stair less safe due to the extra weight on the outside edge

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A reporter is hoping that CROSS might be able to help with some research for a heritage project. The project falls into the conversion category which invokes the requirement to provide improvement to as near the building standards as reasonably practicable. As the building is A listed the Heritage Authorities and building standards authorities view this requirement differently.

The issue is how to treat an ornate cast-iron balustrade guarding a stone interlock stair, which is an important historic feature of the building. The existing arrangement does not meet the modern requirement, because a 100mm diameter sphere can pass through a gap in the balusters that is 130mm wide.

Unfortunately, the ornamental nature of the balustrade does not lend itself to simple alterations so the reporter would be interested to know if there are any recorded incidents where the spacing of balusters has been found to be at fault, particularly in a heritage context.

Perhaps a systemic issue was identified that led to the introduction of this regulation? He would be grateful if this were something CROSS could shed some light on, because either way it would be a useful contribution to the discussion.

Expert Panel Comments

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There are often conflicts between building regulations and heritage aspects of buildings, and sometimes compromise is needed. The 100mm sphere referred to is to protect against children getting stuck, rather than protection from falling. The ornate balusters may however be more susceptible to climbing.

This might not apply unless it was a building to which children may go. An answer to this may be to insert an independent guarding in front of the balustrade, which could be glass if the visual aspects were important. However, in the case of a stone staircase with cast iron balustrade it might not be practical to add glass on the inside. This could result in making the stair less safe due to the extra weight on the outside edge of the stair and the difficulty of making fixings in brittle materials.

This is obviously something to be discussed with the different authorities. Sometimes however, there may be no way to ensure a safe building and satisfy the heritage aspects. If that was to be the case, then it should be accepted that the conversion is not possible, and this is something that an owner should consider before embarking on a project of this nature.

Following publication, a correspondent sent an image (Figure 1) of a similar stair which had been successfully modified.

Image
Figure 1: modified staircase on a similar project

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