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CROSS Safety Report

Non compliant guard rails on high rise apartment buildings after modification

Report ID: 1221 Published: 20 February 2024 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter is seeing many high rise apartment buildings having balcony and walkway decks replaced and, in some instances, the increased height of the decks has resulted in the guard rails being less than 1100mm high meaning they are no longer compliant.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all professionals involved in balcony modifications:

  • When making alterations to balconies the guardrail height should be maintained
  • Increasing the guard rail height may result in the need to modify its fixings
  • The balcony structure may need to be checked for increased vertical and horizontal forces as the result of the alterations

Full Report

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The reporter has been involved in a number of high rise residential schemes which have included making sure guard rails on balconies and walkways were designed and installed in accordance with Part K of the Approved Documents and BS6180. They report seeing that many of these buildings are having their decks replaced but the increased height of the decks results in the guard rails being significantly less than 1100mm high, meaning they are no longer compliant. 

In addition to differences in the application height of lateral loads there may be, according to the reporter, unexpected consequences for the balustrade fixings and this may result in failures.  The reporter also has concerns that companies involved in replacing old decks do not have previous experience in balustrades and upgrades so are not checking aspects such as guard rail and balustrade heights.

The reporter recommends that:

  1. All those involved in remediation need to be conscious of the structural consequences of their work
  2. Balcony decking companies should train and advise installers and clients on the impact that a change of deck heights can make to safety
  3. Building Control should ensure balustrade heights are checked on such building works

Expert Panel Comments

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This is an example of seemingly non structural alterations having potentially wide ranging structural implications.  The reporter is certainly right to draw attention to dangers associated with lower guard rails but such modifications to balconies raise other concerns too, in particular the potential increased weight of the new construction has to be considered.

Readers are encouraged to consult the Safety Alert issued by CROSS in February 2022, Safety issues associated with balconies, which covers the general construction of balconies and the widespread problems that have resulted in many countries.

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