The change in the fire safety regulations for external wall systems has sparked a need for balcony refurbishments in residential buildings. Based on the latest regulations, all external wall systems of residential buildings must be built using materials that achieve Euroclass A2-s1, d0 or Class A1 materials, including the decking that goes on balconies. As a multi-occupancy residential building manager this is what you should know about refurbishing your balconies to meet these new safety standards:
Start by Assessing the Risk
The first thing you must do before you decide to refurbish your balconies, is to have the risk evaluated by a professional. This will help you get an informed idea of the various risks associated with your balconies, and you can deal with them in your refurbishment plan. This is essential so that you deal with all your fire risks in one refurb project.
Here’s what you should consider based on the latest advice by the MHCLG:
- Investigate and list out all the materials used in the construction of your existing balconies and identify the combustibility of each
- Examine if there are enough fire protection measures to prevent the spread of fire through the external wall system of the building
- If any combustible material is identified in the construction of your balconies, consult a professional for advice on how to rectify it
Replacing Old Balcony Decking with New Non-Combustible Decking
After the evaluation you will know what parts of your balconies will require refurbishment in order to be compliant with the latest fire safety regulations. Keep in mind that your new balconies will require construction materials that are A2-s1, d0 rated or Class A1 under the EuroClass system. Make sure you check relevant certifications when choosing your decking provider.
Additionally, you should also keep the following things in mind while refurbishing your balconies:
- Check the quality and stability of your decking structure
- Go over the installation strategy for the removal and replacement of the decking
- Check the design of your substructure
- Assess the health and safety measures during the process
- Plan for the material movement and debris removal
Access Systems – Planning of Work
The Rapid Access System, developed by MyDek, makes it safe and convenient to access balconies from the outside of high-rise buildings with a vertical stack of balconies. The access system uses a roof beam that is a cantilever structure to hang a cage using a robust wire cable. The cradle uses a simple hoist mechanism to lift material and personnel up and down the building effortlessly while ensuring safety and stability during installation. The system also ensures a safe way of getting in and out of balconies using a ladder system, which enables the refurbishment to continue without disturbing the residents.
The Rapid Access System by MyDek is also modular and easily portable through standard-sized lifts within a building. Handling the system is much easier and quicker than traditional scaffolding.
Choosing a Decking Installer for Refurbishment Projects
Choosing the right decking installer is pivotal for refurbishment projects as the wrong one can lead to disasters. Here are some things to keep in mind while selecting your decking installer:
Check the Installer’s Experience, Skills and Qualifications to Work at Height
While selecting your decking installer, make sure you check their skills and experience with working at height and risk management for such projects. It requires a particular skill set to be able to work at height in a safe manner. The principles of installing the decking remain similar, regardless of the material.
Additionally, for refurbishment projects, the main challenge is the removal of non-compliant material in order to replace it with new compliant material in a high-risk environment, i.e., a high-rise building. In such high-risk environments, there is always a risk of dropping items or falling from height, which can lead to serious consequences.
Check to See if the Decking Installer has Suitable Equipment and Staff
The decking installer you choose needs to have sufficient resources and staff in addition to the right skills and qualifications for your refurbishment project. They should have staff trained in lifting materials along with an experienced project manager.
Your decking installer should also have a health and safety adviser, surveyor, and competent on-site supervisor along with the right tools and equipment to meet all health and safety and CDM requirements.
Expertise – Don’t Risk Installers with Limited Experience and Competency
With the growing need for work in the refurb market, many new players have entered the market to take advantage of the new work opportunities. While many of them claim to be experts, they may not have relevant experience with managing refurbishment projects. Due to this, it is essential to check the contractor’s track record in refurbishment and ensure that they have the right equipment, skills and experience.