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AS 1288 require glass balustrades at heights one metre and over when measured from an adjoining floor level or area to provide a handrail that will take an imposed load. Two options are provided to achieve this.
It is important to note that in addition to these provisions for glass balustrades set out in the Standard, there are also general loading requirements for balustrades and barriers. These are intended to ensure that the balustrade will be able to take imposed loads as a result of day-to-day use and also other loads such as wind loads for external balustrades. These other requirements are covered in AS/NZS 1170 Part 1 Structural design actions – Permanent, imposed and other actions.
To provide clarification the following types of glass balustrades are provided for in AS 1288:
Either the top edge of the glass acts as the handrail or the glass supports a handrail that is fixed to the glass and relies on the glass for structural support. These types of handrails cannot be used at heights one metre or greater.
This picture shows a glass handrail that relies solely on the glass for support that was an acceptable design prior to the changes in 2006, but is now not compliant with the Standard where used at one metre or higher above the level below.
Therefore the use of the glass as a handrail is now only permitted where the balustrade is within one metre of the ground level below.
The handrail is mechanically fixed to the structure, independent of the glass, but the glass can be connected to it. The handrail is taking the entire load. These types of handrails can be used at a height one metre or greater above the level below.
The picture below shows a glass balustrade and independent handrail.
The handrail is non-load-supporting, unless a panel breakage occurs, and is connected to adjacent panels of glass, or the building, where the adjacent panels are at least 1000mm wide and three or more panels of glass form the balustrade. If any one panel fails, then the remaining panels and handrail shall be capable of resisting the loads. This still provides reliance on the handrail for ultimate support.
It’s important to note that the interlinking handrail needs to satisfy the requirements of AS/NZS 1170 Part 1 as a standalone handrail if one of the glass panels does break. Note that the example below shows the handrail is connected at the building and to a post at the other end to provide sufficient support if a glass breakage does occur.
It’s always possible to adopt a Performance Solution under the NCC and use balustrade designs that are outside the scope of the Australian Standard.
This generally requires having a balustrade or barrier designed by an engineer who can determine that it will provide adequate structural support. The relevant building surveyor assessing the designs for the purpose of issuing a building permit/approval for the building work would also need to agree to allow the alternative solution and note this on the building permit.
This pathway can allow others, such as stair and balustrade manufacturers and suppliers, to rely on this alternative design and not risk supplying non-compliant systems or elements, where the relevant building approval authority also agrees with the solution.
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