Frameless glass balustrade, also known as structural glass, is an increasingly popular specification for contemporary design. The glass functions as free-standing balustrade and requires no supporting uprights. There are a number of different options and various performance and safety requirements to consider.
Frameless glass balustrade and structural glass can be secured in place by a continuous floor channel. This can be left exposed in its natural state or concealed beneath the finished floor level. Alternatively, on mezzanine floors and stairwells, ‘button side’ fixings can secure panels against a vertical surface. Both top and side fixes can be capped or cloaked.
Laminated structural glass
Many designers and architects favour laminated glass. It’s a completely frameless glass balustrade and provides the ultimate in minimalism. Laminated structural glass comprises two glass panels with a stabilising insert placed between the two to prevent shattering under extreme force. Whilst this will not necessarily prevent the glass panels from cracking, it does help to hold any shattered glass in place until a replacement can be installed
Structural glass with toprail
A more robust and durable alternative to laminated glass is monolithic glass (pictured below). This would typically be capped with a toprail. As well as providing greater strength and stability, the toprail is smooth and more comfortable to the touch than the edge of a glass panel. Toprails also provide a useful indication of where the glass ends for the visually impaired.
Neaco offers a semi-structural glass with minimal stanchion support and panels secured by a top rail above and a floor channel below which is more subtle in appearance than channels used for regular structural glass. Our Elan system (pictured below) is designed for non-raked installations, including balconies, and it is quick and easy to fit.
The use of integrated rubber seals in floor channels can insulate structural glass and eliminate the need for the messy mastic detail which can spoil the appearance of some structural glass installations. You can utilise plenty of possible aesthetic options for the glass itself. These include clear or tinted (grey, bronze, green or blue options are available), acid etching or an applied logo/graphic. Neaco also supplies a low iron glass option which offers a noticeably clearer panel than standard clear float glass. We also provide the option of fabric or wire mesh inserts (pictured right) between glass panels, adding a rich texture to design schemes.
Safety and regulations
All structural glass must be toughened in accordance with BS EN 12150 1(C)1 and all structural glass balustrade must be manufactured in accordance with BS 6180:2011. In terms of its capacity to withstand horizontal (uniformly distributed) load relating to your project, please refer to the building categories in Table 4 of BS 6399-1. In buildings that are likely to be used by children, safety on staircases and landings is paramount. Any structural glass system should be very difficult for children to climb and should have no gaps of 100mm or more through which they could pass.
Neaco provides the option to heatsoak the glass at the manufacturing stage to accelerate crystallisation, reducing the risk of potential breakages when glass is in situ. If you are installing structural glass with a toprail for external use, ensure that the toprail is manufactured from a material that is not cold to the touch in cold winter conditions in accordance with clause 5.10.1 of BS 8300. Neaco offers tubular or ovular Nylon coated aluminium (6063 T6) rails which meet this requirement.
If you need some advice on a suitable frameless glass balustrade/structural glass installation, Neaco’s technical team would be delighted to help, so please get in touch.