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Understanding Balustrade Regulations – Part 4



The ‘balustrade loading’ refers to the force or weight that the barrier is designed to withstand when applied by something or someone. The barrier must withstand this loading within an acceptable deflection tolerance.

Loadings that relate to balustrades typically refer to 3 main areas:

  1. Horizontally Distributed Loadings or line load (HDL),
  2. Uniformly Distributed Loadings (UDL)
  3. Point Load

HDL is a load applied at 1100mm from the Finished Floor Level over a 1m span. This is regardless of the overall height of the balustrade. UDL is a uniformly applied loading over a surface area. A point load, however, refers to the loading applied to the infill panel at a single point. Typically, loadings are calculated in a measurement of kilonewton’s, so a measure of kN/m for a HDL, kN/m2 for a UDL or kN for a point load.

Loadings are a fundamental element to consider when applying the British Standard 6180 to the design of a balustrade system. To correctly understand how a loading applies to a balustrade, the designer must understand the location, building type and intended use of the space where the barrier is located. For example, the balustrade loading required in a shopping centre void space is going to dramatically differ from the loading required on a domestic stair case.

Typically, HD loadings are most commonly discussed when specifying balustrades and with each band of HD loading comes a corresponding UDL and point load. The below guide gives a headline guide on what loadings should be applied in different practical locations that are found on a day-to-day basis by specifiers and architects:

It is important to remember that each project has unique individual characteristics and use-cases. In quite a few instances, it is difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to specifying loadings on balustrades. For example, in some buildings and areas with exceptionally high traffic and crowds, such as stadiums and train station gantries, the balustrade may be subject to additional loading considerations.

If you have specific questions, please contact our technical team who would be glad to provide further clarity and assistance where possible.

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