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  4. What is the building regulation height for a balustrade or barrier in the UK – A comprehensive guide (by building type)
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  4. What is the building regulation height for a balustrade or barrier in the UK – A comprehensive guide (by building type)

What is the building regulation height for a balustrade or barrier in the UK – A comprehensive guide (by building type)

Heights of a balustrade – why it is essential to get it right?

When assessing the need for a balustrade, balustrading or barrier, the type of barrier to be provided or the design criteria for a barrier, you should remember to not only take into account building regulation requirements but to also give due consideration to the likely hazards, the building use and the risks to building users.

If more than one use of the building is anticipated, it is generally recommended that the barrier design should be chosen to suit the worst-case scenario.

Installing a balustrade that is the wrong height balustrade can prove very costly in the long run. Building Control can insist you remove the faulty balustrade and replace it, even many years down the line when you come to sell the property!

So often, we come across situations where someone’s circumstances have changed (for better or worse!), and when they come to sell their property, they run into unforeseen costs and delays due to regulations they didn’t think would apply to their situation.

Where are balustrades required?

Document K and BS6180 require all flights, landings and raised areas in single-family dwellings where the difference in adjacent levels is greater than 600mm to be guarded. This would include any part of a floor, gallery, balcony, roof (including roof lights and other openings), light well, basement or similar sunken areas next to a building or any other place to which people have access.

It is important to note that guarding is required in buildings other than dwellings where there is a difference greater than 380mm. This is to take into account the greater number of building users and their possible lack of familiarity with the layout.

With this in mind, many customers prefer to install balustrades wherever there is a difference greater than 380mm, even in single-family dwellings. After all, 600mm is a considerable distance to fall, particularly for a child or older person!

Is it a balustrade or a barrier (or a handrail)?

In the main, the regulations refer to “barriers”, which are generally defined as:

Any element of a building or a structure intended to prevent persons from falling and retain, stop or guide persons.

We generally refer to them as balustrades in this knowledge base, but please bear the above statement in mind while reading this.

These height regulations apply to all types of balustrades, whether glass, frameless, posts & glass infills, cable railings, timber newels, etc.

Note: This article explicitly refers to regulation heights for balustrades or barriers and not handrails or wall handrails. Wall handrail heights, which are used to provide support for people, often while ascending or descending stairways and escalators, are covered in a separate article.

What regulation determines the required height of a balustrade?

The minimum regulation heights are specified in table 1 of BS6180 and in building regulation Document K, diagram 3.1. It is important to note that the height is dependent on the location within the building, as is broken down into categories. We summarize the frequently asked building types below and conclude with the entire table to help double-check you have selected the correct category for your project.

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in Single-Family Dwellings residential applications?

Please note the keywords in this question are single-family residential dwellings. Different regulations apply to buildings with multiple or shared family occupants.

The minimum recommended height for barriers or balustrades in single-family residential dwellings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Single family dwellings Stairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors 900mm for all elements**
External balconies, including Juliette balconies and edges of roof 1100mm
** Many customers find that although a 900mm balustrading guarding an internal landing or void meets regulations it doesn’t feel or seem safe. We find in most instances our customers prefer the balustrade to be 1000mm to 1100mm high on internal landings and around internal voids.

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in flats and other shared family residential applications?

Naturally, the regulations for flats or multiple-family residential applications are a little for stringent. This is partly to take into account the more significant number of building users and their possible lack of familiarity with the layout.

The minimum recommended height for barriers or balustrades in flats or non-single-family use residential buildings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Flats and other shared family residential applications All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in commercial/ office applications?

The minimum recommended height for barriers or balustrades in commercial and office buildings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Commercial & Offices All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in Educational, institutional and public buildings applications?

The minimum recommended height for barriers or balustrades in educational (schools etc.) institutional, and public buildings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Educational, institutional and public buildings All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in Retail or Shop applications?

The minimum recommended height for barriers or balustrades in retail and shop buildings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Retail All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in factories & warehouses buildings applications?

The minimum recommended height for factories & warehouse buildings is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Factories and warehouses (light traffic) Stairs, ramps 900mm
Landings and edges of floors 1100mm

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the building regulation height for balustrades in Assembly / Theatre / Stadium applications?

The minimum recommended height for Assembly / Theatre / Stadium is:

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Assembly Within 530mm in front of fixed seating 800mm (h1)
All other locations 900mm for flights elsewhere 1100mm (h2)

It is important to remember that the safety of the occupants of the building is paramount. In some instances, it is better to go beyond what building regulations actually require!

What is the HSE regulation handrail height?

Not to be confused with building regulations, the HSE working at height regulations primarily apply to all work at height, where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury. They place duties on employers and those who control any work at height activity (such as facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

The Regulations require that, for construction work, handrails have a minimum height of 950 mm, and that any gap between the top rail and any intermediate rail should not exceed 470 mm. The Regulations also require toe boards to be suitable and sufficient (e.g. a toe board of a minimum 100 mm height would be acceptable).

For non-construction work, there are no prescriptive dimensions. However, guard rails, toe boards, barriers and other collective means of protection should be of sufficient size to ensure a person cannot fall through or over them.

In the absence of any standards, HSE operational guidance suggests that guard rail heights in non-construction activities should be a minimum of 950 mm. Any protection below this height should be justified based on a risk assessment.

For buildings, factories, warehouses, offices, public buildings, retail premises etc., sufficient dimensions for guard rails or similar barriers will be achieved by complying with the Building Regulations – which require guard rails to be 1100 mm.

For plant, machinery, equipment etc., sufficient dimensions will be achieved by compliance with any relevant EN standard. For example, BS EN 14122-3:2013 (covering the safety of machinery access) specifies a top guard rail of 1100 mm. The essential health and safety requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 determine that such equipment is ‘designed and constructed to avoid falls’.

Important points to note – applicable to all building types

Step Up Rule

The height of barriers installed on top of low parapet walls (or similar application) should be measured from the top of the parapet and not from the finished floor level. This is because the low parapet wall could constitute a step, therefore, reducing the effectiveness of the barrier.

A possible workaround to this application is to mount the balustrade to the inside of the wall rather than the top. We call this a side-mounted balustrade.

Finished Floor Level

The heights mentioned above are required from the final finished floor level, so remember to consider any floor finishes or build up in your design. This is particularly relevant if decking or similar is being installed later. You must take this extra height into account to ensure your building gets building regulation sign off.

Full table of balustrade heights

Building Category Location of Balustrade Minimum Height (h)
Single family dwellings Stairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors 900mm for all elements**
External balconies, including Juliette balconies and edges of roof 1100mm
Factories and warehouses (light traffic) Stairs, ramps 900mm
Landings and edges of floors 1100mm
Residential, institutional, educational, office and public buildings All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm
Assembly Within 530mm in front of fixed seating 800mm (h1)
All other locations 900mm for flights elsewhere 1100mm (h2)
Retail All locations 900mm for flights otherwise 1100mm
Glazing in all buildings At opening windows except roof windows in loft extensions, see Approved Document B1 800mm
At glazing to changes of levels to provide containment Below 800mm
** Many customers find that although a 900mm balustrading guarding an internal landing or void meets regulations it doesn’t feel or seem safe. We find in most instances our customers prefer the balustrade to be 1000mm to 1100mm high on internal landings and around internal voids.

Information is given as a guide and is not intended to be exhaustive. It remains the reader’s responsibility to take specific independent advice and comply with local legislation. Taken from BSS5395, EN1991, BS6180, BS8300, Doc. K

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