Balconies can make a real difference to new homes, particularly multi-occupancy buildings where outdoor space may be limited. Nick Haughton of Sapphire Balustrades looks at how housebuilders can add space and value to their developments with these attractive and practical features.
Well-designed balconies bring benefits for property developers and buyers alike. Externally they can give a residential building a distinctive architectural signature whilst on the inside they can make a compact living area feel more light and airy. Last but by no means least a balcony provides instant access to the outdoors for residents of high rise apartments. Recent research showed that 88% of people looking to purchase or rent an apartment felt a balcony would make a property more desirable, especially if the balcony offered views of a park, water or urban skyline.
Good balcony design delivers the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality. Whether they are large ‘walkout’ structures or ‘Juliet’ types, balconies form an integral part of a residential building’s external architecture and as such they should complement the overall style of the development and the materials used in the façade, such as render colours or cladding panels. The choice of balcony system is critical to achieving the desired specification in terms of look and performance. However, whilst getting the right look is clearly important, selecting the type of balcony for a particular project may also be influenced by factors such as planning, space or budget restrictions. So what are the main options? Juliet (or Juliette) balconies are essentially a specialist balustrade protecting opening French doors on an upper floor although they are a cost effective balcony option they don’t add the perceived space and value that cantilever balconies achieve. Built-in or integrated balconies are open areas set into the building façade, generally with a balustrade protecting the open face. Step-out balconies allow the user to do just that: step out onto a platform protected by a perimeter balustrade. Step-out balconies can either be cantilevered out from the building structure, or self-supporting with their own columns or ‘legs’.
In addition to these traditional options, recent innovations in balcony design and construction techniques are making it simpler, faster and more cost-effective to provide high quality balcony solutions for residential projects. For example, complete balconies with balustrades and decking can now be manufactured offsite and delivered fully assembled ready to be craned into position and fixed to the façade of the building. Manufacturing and assembling balcony units in factory production line conditions ensures a high degree of quality control and also helps minimise time, cost and risk on site. Sapphire is at the forefront of this pioneering concept with its patent protected balcony systems, which combine the benefits of pre-fabricated units with fast installation using innovative connectors. These developments have enabled Sapphire to set a record at the end of February 2014 by installing an entire project’s pre-assembled balconies in a single day.
When it comes to balustrades, protecting the edge of the balcony platform glass infill panels or even glass are a popular choice as they provide the perfect balance of light, visibility, and safety. Although glass infill panels are often perceived as a more expensive option than metal or timber, they can provide both an aesthetic and cost-effective solution for new homes. Glass can’t rot or rust and purely needs cleaning rather than repainting at regular intervals.
Corrosion is the most common problem as far as the metal elements of an external balcony balustrade are concerned. And this is not simply an aesthetic consideration as rust can also impair structural integrity. To overcome this, aluminium or 316 marine grade stainless steel should be used for balcony handrails and uprights. Using mild steel, even if galvanized, or the wrong grade of stainless steel for external balcony balustrades can prove a false economy. Alternatively, aluminium is a guaranteed rust-free solution for balcony balustrades and can be anodised or powder-coated to complement window frames and windows. Well designed balcony balustrades can add a feelings of space and value.
‘True’ value engineering
Balconies are a highly desirable addition to new residential development, giving it a prestigious appearance and boosting market appeal. Working with an experienced balcony and balustrade manufacturer at an early stage of the balcony design and specification process can maximise these added value benefits. Choosing the right balcony system for a project and optimising the benefits of ‘true’ value engineering such as offsite fabrication will ensure the desired aesthetic result and can help minimise time and risk associated costs on site for contractors and developers. Space and value can be enhanced as often value engineering can reduce the amount of frame and increase the glass making balconies feel more spacious.