Balustrades and barriers need to be designed to protect persons from falling from height. A load can be defined as a force, weight or pressure applied to the balustrade by someone or something. When designing balustrades in domestic and public locations it is important to bear in mind both the imposed load requirements for the particular location of the balustrade and also the load types that are applied, all in accordance with BS6180:2011.
Common balustrade UDL requirements
All too often the design of the balustrade leaves the decision on the load requirements to the specialist balustrade subcontractor and generally this is long before the specialist has been appointed. This results in misinterpretation of the requirements by the tenderers and often means cost uplift at late stages of the project if costs have been based on lower loads than are actually required or are fit for purpose for the project.
In general there are three main uniformly distributed line load requirements for barriers or balustrades and these are, 0.74kN/m, 1.5kN/m and 3kN/m. This refers to the force applied to the balustrade per linear metre of balustrade at 1100mm above finished floor level. These loads in general cover the following locations (although it is always prudent to refer directly to the standard to ensure that every situation is covered).
Areas not susceptible to overcrowding in office and institutional buildings including stairs, walkways and balconies – 0.74kN/m
Areas where people might congregate and public walkways and pavements less than 3m wide that protect a drop – 1.5kN/m.
Footways or pavements greater than 3m wide and public areas such as theatres, bars, shopping malls and other areas susceptible to overcrowding – 3kN/m.
Balustrade load requirements
The other load types that need to be considered under the standard are the uniformly distributed load to the infill panel, the point load applied to a small part of the infill panel and the impact load.
The uniformly distributed load to the infill is applied horizontally below the level of the handrail and is measured as a value over an area of 1 square metre. The point load is usually applied to the most onerous point of the infill over a small area of 50 x 50mm.
The performance of balustrades under impact should also be carefully considered and should be designed to withstand all incidental static and dynamic impact and also the inadvertent impact from electrically powered wheelchairs or scooters where that means of access is possible.
Other forces also need to be considered when designing the balustrade, such as wind loads. When these loads are applied, the deflection or movement of the balustrade is measured to check whether it complies with the maximum allowable stress.
BA Systems load testing
BA Systems have their own in house testing facilities for balustrade load testing and impact testing to support continuous and ongoing product development. Load testing is carried out to simulate live site conditions, giving practical and visual assurance of the safety of a balustrade. This testing is usually completed by independent test consultants under controlled conditions, resulting in the balustrade being certified to comply with the load requirements.
BA Systems will always encourage early design collaboration and involvement to ensure that balustrades will satisfy regulatory requirements as well as specific client or site requirements at the same time as giving cost certainty earlier on in the design stages.
This guide is a summary of the key loading requirements to consider when designing balustrades. It is based on our own interpretation of the requirements and it remains the responsibility of clients to satisfy and comply with local legislation and British Standards. For more detailed advice on these regulations or any other current standards, please contact as on +44 (0)1603 722330 or [email protected].