Modular Balustrade Systems: Best Practice in Design and Construction

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Modular Balustrade Systems: Best Practice in Design and Construction

This article examines the use of modular balustrade systems in the context of Modern Methods of Construction. Please read on and get in touch if there is anything that you would like to discuss in more detail – our technical experts would be delighted to share thoughts and ideas with you.



Part 1 – Modular Balustrade Systems and Modern Methods of Construction


1a) Defining modular building

Many associate the term Modular Building with a re-locatable, self-contained structure or unit installed for temporary use, not upon a permanent foundation. However, a second, less commonly used definition relates to modular architectural products and systems with the following characteristics:


1b) Modern Methods of Construction

Modular Buildings Systems are intrinsically linked to Modern Methods of Construction and their key objectives.  Modern Methods of Construction are designed to increase site efficiency and safety whilst reducing environmental impact. These objectives are primarily achieved by completing as much construction activity as possible off-site, a process which is one of the defining features of Modular Building Systems.


Modular balustrade
Modular balustrade



Part 2 – The Advantages of Modular Building and Modern Methods


2a) Reducing construction time

Reducing construction time addresses market demands for improved efficiency and better cost control:

2b) Reduced on-site disruption

2c) Reduced Health & Safety risks

Modular construction Reduces Health & Safety risks in a number of ways:

2d) Improved quality control

2e) Reduced Waste

Waste from construction is one of the principle waste streams to landfill sites. Manufacture in a factory allows far better management of the waste stream.

2f) Reduced environmental impact

Achieving more sustainable building requires the  reduction of carbon emitted during the whole life-cycle of buildings, including that emitted during the processes of material extraction, manufacturing, delivery to site, construction process, maintenance and refurbishment, waste processing, demolition and recycling. All of the above advantages offered by Modular Systems also benefit the environmental impact of a development.

Components can be manufactured to 100% precision
Components can be manufactured to 100% precision



Part 3 – Applying Modular Solutions in Balustrade Design


3a) Modular Balustrade

Balustrade is one of the more complex and variable architectural works. It often requires a wide variety of materials and as well as more time invested in achieving precise dimensions and angles. Therefore the aforementioned advantages of Modern Methods of Construction are magnified in comparison with the traditional methods of fabricating on-site.


3b) Meeting complex design requirements

With their standardise components, modular balustrade systems are often perceived to offer less design versatility than solutions fabricated on-site, especially in the refurbishment projects where an existing fabric may present awkward layouts and structurally restrictive environments. However, today’s most sophisticated modular balustrade systems adapt with ease:

3c) Meeting Building Regulations

When choosing and specifying modular balustrade solutions, certain key performance criteria apply:



Industrial environments require heavy-duty performance
Industrial environments require heavy-duty performance



Part 4 – Choice of materials in modular balustrade


Handrail and balustrade is primarily specified in aluminium (usually powder coated) and/or stainless steel. Use of wood railing has dramatically decreased due to its high maintenance: timber requires ongoing treatment to maintain its aesthetic, prevent absorption of bacteria and control infection. Structural glass solutions, requiring no stanchions, are also popular in certain environments.


4a) Aluminium – Natural Advantages

Aluminium is now an extremely popular choice of material for balustrade and offers a number of natural advantages:


balustrade systems
Powder coated aluminium balustrade




4b) Aluminium – Recyclability and Carbon Savings

Assessment of environmental impact is now more sophisticated and encompass the full cradle-to-cradle life cycle approach. When preparing a specification it is essential to consider the responsible sourcing, effectiveness, durability, and the potential recycling of any material. The embodied carbon of a material needs to be considered over the lifespan of the material.



4c) The benefits of powder coating aluminium

Aluminium balustrade manufactured off-site can be finished with powder coating prior to delivery. This brings a number of benefits:


An aluminium handrail finished in a powder coated reproduction of wood
An aluminium handrail finished in a powder coated reproduction of wood





4d) Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is also a popular material for contemporary balustrade solutions. Its key attributes include:


Stainless steel balustrade
Stainless steel balustrade




4e) Structural Glass

Structural glass requires no supporting uprights and therefore provides an ideal balustrade solution when seeking maximum visibility or a more ‘minimalist’ aesthetic style. Advances in design and manufacturing means that free-standing structural glass is now more stable and adaptable – and therefore more suitable for wider variety for environments and more demanding conditions:




Structural glass balustrade requires no supporting uprights for minimalist looks
Structural glass balustrade requires no supporting uprights for minimalist looks




5) Conclusions