30 Apr

National Building Regulations and Sans Codes.

Our guide is broken up into sections.

  • The first section will deal with design responsibilities, the submittal of balustrade plans to the council and the signing off of said balustrades once they have been installed.
  • The second section will detail where balustrades are required.
  • The third section will detail the structural design considerations for balustrades and handrails.

1. Design responsibilities and submittal of balustrade plans to council.

This section outlines the responsibilities of architects, engineers and quantity surveyors in terms of balustrades and handrails.

Architects are responsible for the design intent of balustrades and handrails, as well as the proper placement of said balustrades and handrails as per deemed-to-satisfy regulations in SANS 10400.

After the architect has specified the location and the representation of the balustrades and handrails, it falls to the engineer to specify materials, thicknesses, connections and other structural details.

Quantity surveyors need to ensure that balustrades and handrails have been structurally specified by engineers before releasing tenders. If the projects-appointed engineer is not willing or able to take responsibility for the balustrades and handrails, the tender must specify the codes that the balustrades and handrails must comply to, as well as how the balustrade company’s engineers must test or sign off on the installation.

Due to the complicated nature of the building industry, these roles may differ from project to project. However, an architect remains the only person qualified to specify where balustrades and handrails should be installed, and an engineer is the only person qualified to do the structural design of balustrades and handrails.

If submitting plans to the council for approval, the responsible engineer or balustrade company must ensure that Form 3 (the declaration by a competent person appointed to design a component or an element of a system) is signed and submitted to the council. On completion of balustrade and handrail installation, the responsible engineer must visit the site to inspect and/or test the balustrade installation. If the engineer deems the installation to be acceptable and according to his specifications, he must sign Form 4 (certificate of the completion of the structural, fire protection or fire installation system in terms of the section 14(2A) of the Act.)

2. Areas where balustrading is required (SANS 10400 Parts D, M, S & T)

Hand railing and balustrading [hereafter referred to as B.H.] is required by law in the following scenarios:

  • Any bridge, balcony or flat roof that is accessible, needs balustrading of at least 1m high.
  • Any mezzanine floor or interior balcony requires balustrading of at least 1m high, although balustrading may be shorter [min 800mm] if in front of public seating in rows.
  • A change of level in occupancy classes E2, E3, E4, H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 or any public place requires protection in the form of a wall or balustrading with no opening that will allow the passage of a 100mm ball. Such balustrading in any other occupancy class shall consist of at least one handrail and one other rail midway between the handrail and the floor.
  • Pools must be closed off from public access with fences and gates. Balustrading may be used, but must be no lower than 1.2m and a 100mm ball should not be able to pass through any opening.

Stairways and hand railing:

  • Any flight of stairs that contains more than five risers (steps) needs one continuous handrail, unless it falls in occupancy class H3 or H4.
  • A handrail is required if the width of the staircase is less than 1.1m and a handrail is required on both sides if the staircase is wider than 1.1m.
  • There must be no obstruction to hand movement along the handrailing, and handrailing must be between 850mm and 1m above the pitch line of the staircase.

Disability access and B.H. :

For a building to be deemed accessible to the disabled, the B.H. must comply with the following:

  • A change of level of more than 600mm requires a handrail.
  • Ramps for wheelchair access need handrailing on both sides. If the width is greater than 2.4m, a central handrailing must be installed.
  • The gripping surface of handrails need to be of a certain profile.
  • If the gripping surface is elliptical, it needs to be at least 50mm wide and 40mm deep and if the profile is circular, the diameter must be no less than 35mm and not more than 50mm.
  • The height to the top of the handrail from the nosing or ramp surface must be between 900mm and 1 000mm and must remain consistent throughout the length of the handrail.
  • Handrails must be securely fixed and rigid.
  • Handrails or any adjacent surfaces must be free of sharp or abrasive elements.
  • The width between the handrail and the wall must be at least 60mm.
  • Handrails must extend at least 300mm horizontally beyond the top and bottom of a stairway or ramp.
  • Handrails must be continuous between landings, as long as this does not create a hazard.
  • Handrails must be supported centrally from below, with no less than 50mm between the underside of the handrail and the top of the support.
  • Stairways wider than 2.4m require a handrail every 2.4m.
  • Passenger lifts require handrails on all sides, with a height of between 850mm and 1 000mm above floor level of lift.
  • Wheelchair-accessible toilet doors need grab rails on the inside of the door.
  • Wheelchair-accessible toilets need grab rails on one side and the rear.
  • The grab rails must have a diameter of between 32mm and 38mm.
  • Handrails may not protrude into an emergency staircase by more than 100mm.

3. Structural design considerations for balustrades and handrails.

  • B.H. elements must not sag more than 50mm.
  • B.H. must be designed for the applicable environment in terms of corrosion resistance, for example, a seaside resort vs. a chemical factory.
  • The height of handrailing shall not be less than 1m.
  • Balustrading in public places shall not allow a 100mm ball to pass through the rails.
  • Kick plates shall be installed where legislation requires it and shall prevent the passage of objects through the handrailing within 100mm of the adjacent floor.
  • The finish of handrailing shall be smooth.
  • Handrailing shall be visible from 7.5m away. The minimum dimension visible from 7.5m is 20mm in diameter. If the elements of the handrailing are less than 20mm in diameter, a sign should be attached to ensure visibility.
  • Balustrading should be impact-tested after manufacturing and installation.

Balustrades using glazing have more design specifications due to their nature. The glazing must comply with the following:

  • Glass in balustrades shall be toughened safety glass.
  • Glazing must be SANS 1263 (human impact) compliant.
  • Safety marks (SANS 10137 and SANS 1263) must be visible on every pane after installation.
  • Glazing and fixings should be suitable for the environment (must resist brine, moisture, heat or other environmental factors).
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