Complying with Balcony Regulations: The Rules Explained

Looking for your next balcony? We're here to help you adhere to UK regulations and get exactly what you need

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    When planning the construction of balconies on large buildings, meeting the plethora of building regulations surrounding these raised platforms can seem overwhelming.

    From chasing the latest regulation revision to determining which conditions and standards apply to your project, deciphering building regulations can be a time-consuming and tricky process.

    However, compliance is key to having your construction signed off – and doing so in a quick and cost-efficient manner. The durability and safety of the balcony also hinges on compliance throughout the design, manufacture, and installation of your balcony.

    Our guide to understanding the latest balcony requirements breaks down the major regulations you should be aware of. Whilst providing a range of the most common regulations, this guide is not inclusive, and official advice should always be consulted prior to beginning a project.

    Specialising in this field, the Gatehouse Architectural team are happy to provide you with further information regarding large-scale construction and building regulations.

    General Balcony Regulations

    There are several prevalent British Standards that should guide your balcony design from the beginning. These regulations are in place to ensure the durability and safety of the balcony for all users, as well as the suitability of the balcony for the environment and surrounding area.

    The regulations pertain to structural requirements; materials and finishes; and further design considerations. This is in relation to steel balcony structures, with reference to the specific requirements for glass balconies also.

    Structural Requirements

    When adhering to structural requirements, the notable British Standards in place are as follows...

    One of the predominant regulations is BS EN 1090. This standard establishes the requirements for structural steel and aluminium components, ensuring their durability, structural integrity, and safety.

    An important aspect of BS EN 1090 is regulation markings. BS EN 1090 requires a UKCA or CE Marking on all products; this mark represents conformity to British and/or European health, safety, and environmental standards.

    Alongside this, BS EN 1990:2023 must also be considered when accounting for structural requirements. This revision is the latest version of BS EN 1990:2005, which relates to the design of balconies, ensuring their safety, serviceability, durability, and robustness.

    Furthermore, BS 6180:2011 provides guidelines for the design and construction of temporary and permanent barriers around balconies, such as balustrades. According to this regulation, a 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through any gaps in the balustrading, ensuring the safety of users, especially young children. The balustrade should also be designed in a way that it cannot be easily climbed.

    These regulations are further supported by Approved Document K, which offers additional guidance to meet the standards, particularly regarding protection from falling, collision, and impact.

    Materials and Finishes

    According to HSE guidelines, public and commercial spaces, such as workplaces, must be made as safe as possible. This means using durable materials, reducing the risk of slips, and ensuring fire safety with the materials and finishes you use.

    A non-slip regulation is outlined in The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, whilst the Fire Safety Act requires materials used in buildings, including external walls and their attachments, to be non-combustible.

    Firstly, it's crucial to have non-slip materials and finishes on balconies in order to reduce the number of workplace accidents and risk to the public. This can be achieved through non-slip flooring and non-slip coatings.

    Adequate drainage further ensures water can drain quickly and effectively, reducing the chances of slippery surfaces and creating a safer environment. Whilst the regulations surrounding drainage requirements for balconies is somewhat contested, ensuring water is not able to pool on balconies is essential for reducing slip risks.

    Fire Safety

    When considering the right material for your balcony, fire safety should be at the forefront of your decision. 

    Ensuring fire safety is of utmost importance in the construction and development of all types of buildings, including external walls and balconies. The Fire Safety Act 2021 mandates that balconies must be constructed with materials that meet European Classification A2-S1, d0 or A1 standards, as classified by BS EN 13501-1:2018.

    For this classification, materials are labelled according to their reaction to fire. An A1 or A2-S1, d0 material can be broken down in the following manner:

    • A1 = non-combustible.
    • A2 = limited combustibility.
    • S1 = minimal smoke produced within 10 minutes of exposure to fire.
    • d0 = materials do not produce flaming droplets or particles within the same timeframe.

    A1-S1, d0 is the highest rating which can be achieved by a material, closely followed by A2-S1, d0.

    These requirements are particularly crucial for any attachments on the external walls of buildings over 18m in height. Those responsible for development and construction are legally obligated to identify and address potential fire safety issues, as outlined in the Fire Safety Act 2021.

    Glass Balcony Regulations

    Compared to steel or aluminium balconies, glass balconies require further management to ensure they meet construction standards.

    For instance, glass balconies must meet specific thickness and loading strength requirements based on the building's use and intended traffic, ensuring they can handle various loads and deflections. Line loads and uniformly distributed loads (UDL) must be carefully calculated depending on the use of the building and its intended traffic, alongside accepted deflection (which is limited to 25mm or L/65).

    Glass balconies will always have a certain amount of deflection, referring to bend or reformation of the structure under a load or force; however, too much deflection can make users become uneasy and can further pose a hazard.

    But what about guarding for glass balconies?

    Glass balconies, like steel balconies, require a form of guarding such as balustrades; this is necessary on nearly all raised platforms, with only a few exceptions. The recommended height for balustrades in institutional, educational, office, public buildings, and retail spaces is 1100mm.

    However, according to BS 6180:2011, handrails are not always necessary for glass balustrades. This is often seen where a frameless design is preferred; in this instance, a laminated toughened glass material should be used, that would remain in place should a panel fail.

    These regulations are in addition to the general regulations that all balconies must adhere to.

    Additional Balcony Design Considerations

    Not only should the design of your balcony adhere to the above regulations, but there are further considerations to bear in mind in order for your balcony to be signed off.

    This is because local authorities will only permit the construction of a balcony if it meets certain conditions.

    For instance, it’s important to take into account the surrounding architecture and the potential impact the construction may have on neighbours – blocking sunlight to or views out from their home, property, or business.

    Moreover, the appearance of the balcony should be in keeping with the host building and surrounding area, for instance, if the building is especially contemporary or traditional.

    If your property is traditional, you need to make certain you’re not working with a listed building (Grade 1 or Grade 2) or constructing in a conservation area. Extra care must be taken to meet any specific regulations or restrictions that may apply in this application.

    Loss of light is another concern when constructing a balcony at height, which can be the case if the design is a solid platform, as opposed to a perforated platform. Perforated platforms are further advantageous since they allow for rainwater drainage.

    Minimising the impact on neighbours should always be a priority, ensuring that the balcony design is respectful and considerate of their needs.

    Do You Need Planning Permission for a Balcony?

    Lastly, ensuring you are permitted to construct the balcony is a check you should make prior to the commencement of any work. Raised platforms higher than 30cm require planning permission from the local authority; this means, the construction of balconies does not fall under permitted development.

    To secure planning permission for your balcony, you should follow the design considerations as discussed above. Working closely with architects and structural engineers to submit your application gives you the best chance of approval. 

    If you’re looking for a balcony which does not require planning permission, Juliet balconies are the exception. Juliet balconies often fall under permitted development because they are not of a standard design since they're typically floorless. However, there are still conditions surrounding Juliet balconies falling under permitted development that you should be aware of.

    This includes if the Juliet balcony has a floor; if your property is a listed building, located in a conservation area, or is a part of a block of private residential flats; and if Juliet balconies are uncommon in your area.

    Balustrade Guidance and Regulations

    Balustrades play a large role in securing the safety of balconies for individuals. There are several documents and standards to follow when installing balustrades for raised platforms, including Approved Documents B and K, BS 6180:2011, and CDM regulations.

    Approved Document B outlines the fire safety standards and requirements that must be met when designing and constructing buildings, including buildings other than dwellings (Volume 2). This document advises on how all types of balustrades can meet fire safety standards.

    According to Approved Document K, any balcony that people have access to should be provided with barriers to prevent falling. The document outlines the requirements for guarding and serves as a guide for ensuring the safety of individuals in or around the building. Approved Document K outlines that guarding for external balconies, including Juliette balconies, should be a minimum of 1100mm.

    Additionally, BS 6180:2011 sets out the minimum load requirements for balustrades. These requirements are put in place to ensure that the balustrades can withstand the necessary pressure and provide adequate protection.

    It's also important to consider the CDM regulations, which are a legal requirement aimed to improve health and safety for those involved in construction projects. A CDM risk assessment should be produced prior to the commencement of the project and followed tightly to ensure compliance with the standards.

    Adhering to Balcony Regulations UK

    The regulations covered here are commonly drawn upon to guide design and construction practices. From the structural requirements of standard and specialist balconies, to materials, fire safety, and balustrading, ensuring your balcony design and construction follows legal requirements is critical for securing planning permission for your project.

    Gatehouse Architectural has over 23 years of experience in the metalwork industry and is dedicated to supporting large contractors throughout the UK with design, manufacture, and installation services. If you’re looking to undertake balcony construction, our team ensures your project is undertaken on time, on budget, and always to regulation.

    Talk to a member of our team today to enquire about our balcony systems.


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