What is an inset balcony?
In architectural terms, an inset balcony is a balcony which is recessed into the façade or roof of a building. Traditionally this would be a balcony which would have three sides enclosed with the building leaving one side of the balcony guarded with a balustrade. More commonly however, particularly in London inset balconies are used as architectural statements and often have two sides formed by the building and two sides with a balustrade forming a guarding.
One of the common uses of inset balconies is the corners of a building. This is often intended to break up the façade and add a feature to what may otherwise look quite a bland building. In London and the south east England particularly, the use of fins formed from cladding has seen growing popularity. On tall buildings these fins are often reasonably close together and the space in between are used as inset balconies.
These balconies are also known as recessed balconies or integrated balconies.
Options and benefits
As inset balconies are most commonly an integrated concrete deck, they require only a balustrade from Sapphire in most cases. However dependent on how integral the balcony is with the façade, these can be constructed as a Cassette Balcony which would be manufactured and assembled at offsite production facilities, then craned into position with balustrade preinstalled to the one or two perimeters facing outward.
To seamlessly blend in with the building façade, the most common balustrading choice is something minimalistic, for example Crystal – a frameless structural glass system, where the base fixings can be easily hidden to produce a crisp integration. In some scenarios, it may be more cost effective to use Aluma – an aluminum balustrade system which uses extruded uprights and incorporates hidden fixings within the post, avoiding the need of the traditional clutter of ‘D lug’ glass clamps.
As inset balconies are often just a small relatively simple application, the fixing details for the balusters are often quite straightforward. The key consideration though is usually the waterproofing interface, as a lot of inset balconies are directly above internal rooms. The interfacing detail between the balustrade and the rest of the waterproofing on the balcony in such applications must be carefully considered. Sapphire has developed a number of interface options which work well with a variety of different water proofing systems.
Whilst side fixing the balustrade to the slab edge is achievable, this often breaks up the smooth flow of the façade and therefore balustrades are normally designed with the baluster top fixed to the outside balcony edge. In applications which have parapet walls or upstands, then the fixing method would generally be to side fix the balustrade to the vertical inside edge of the upstand. The use of parapet walls in these scenarios generally gives balance and harmonise the appearance of the façade with the balcony. The wall would commonly be fully clad, complete with flashings extending over the top of the upstand. Whilst these need clever coordination with the balustrade, with intelligent engineering Sapphire can provide customised solutions to hide or fully integrate the balustrade or base fixing.
With inset balconies being used as a key part of the architectural voice of the building, we recommend that a minimalistic balustrade which blends well with the façade is used. Crystal frameless structural glass is often the most versatile solution.
As a specialist in the high rise residential sector, Sapphire has regularly come across the challenges applications like these present, and with continual innovation can provide you with intelligently engineered solutions to minimise and simplify the interfacing challenges. Talk to us so that we can work with you in achieving a smart design solution.