What Building Regulations Do Glass Walls Need to Meet?
The beauty of glass walls is clear cut, but they must meet building regulations.
Glass walls have become an increasingly popular architectural feature, adding a touch of elegance and modernity to buildings of any style. They offer numerous benefits, including maximising natural light, providing access to breathtaking views, and creating open, spacious interiors that can remain distinctively different from one another. But to function effectively and provide these benefits, they must meet stringent building regulations to ensure safety, energy efficiency, insulation, and structural integrity.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the key building regulations relevant to glass walls.
So, let’s begin.
Part A – Structure
Concerned with a building’s structural integrity (whether domestic, commercial or mixed-use), Part A ensures that a glass wall contributes towards – rather than detracts from – the integrity of the architecture. Glass alone is an unsuitable material for a load-bearing wall. If it breaks, the structure is likely to be severely compromised. Instead, a sturdy, strong, securely installed frame must be in place so that if a breakage occurs, the building remains standing without any danger.
The danger of injury can be further prevented by using safety glass; laminated glass keeps shards in place, whereas its tempered counterpart breaks into cube-shaped pieces upon impact, measuring a predetermined size depending on your specifications.
Part A also tells the reader that a glass wall must have sufficient foundations and anchorage to prevent it from collapsing. Those foundations are especially important for spreading the weight of the glazing and preventing settlement or tilting.
Part B – Fire Safety
Any material you use to partition one room from another must be made of a fire-resistant material to ensure compartmentation. For glazing to meet that legal expectation, it must prevent heat exchange from one side to the other, minimising the risk of fire spreading throughout a building. As well as defining the required fire-resistant characteristics of a wall – glass or otherwise – Part B of the UK Building Regulations also outlines the need for easy fire evacuation, guided by clear signage. Being an insulating material that is transparent – depending on your chosen design, of course – glass fulfils both requirements exceptionally well. Part B applies to all domestic, commercial and mixed-use buildings, whether they are new or being renovated.
Part E – Resistance to the Passage of Sound
While views through glazing can be impressive, the sounds that might accompany them should be kept to a minimum, or eliminated entirely. Part E relates to all buildings – whether residential, commercial, or mixed-use – and concerns itself with the transmission of noise from outside to inside and vice versa.
The document differentiates impact sounds – such as footsteps and moving furniture – from atmospheric sounds – talking and music – both of which can apply to glass walls (people tapping on the glass and people having a conversation in the next room, for example).
We can’t speak for all bespoke glass wall manufacturers, but- at Cantifix- our glazing undergoes regular audio testing to make sure that it’s not only insulated for warmth but sound too.
If audio transmission is a primary concern for your design – perhaps it is a street-level apartment in a busy city or a farmhouse located near an airport – we can incorporate acoustic glass which applies various interlayers to reduce sound transfers more than standard, non-acoustic glazing.
Part F – Ventilation Systems
To ensure good air quality in a building’s rooms (whether domestic, commercial, mixed-use, newly-built or renovated), ventilation must be incorporated into the design. According to the approved document ‘Part F’, ventilation might be natural – such as opened windows or vents, or mechanical- such as fans and duct systems. With those things in place, pollutants are diluted with fresh air and removed from the space, improving the occupants’ health and preventing mould from establishing itself.
In rooms that feature several panes of glass or, as with some enclosures, only glass, ventilation can be easily incorporated. You might, for example, install a mechanical system into the room itself which quietly filters the air. Alternatively, you could include a sliding door as part of your design, or you could simply install louvres that are subtle and unobtrusive, eliminating the impact that this practical requirement has on the aesthetics of your project.
Part K – Protection from Falling, Collision and Impact
If you are installing a glass wall on a balcony, terrace, or mezzanine, it’s necessary to have a balustrade or barrier to prevent falling from height should the glazing break. Part K applies to all buildings and specifies height, strength, and design requirements for these protective elements and stresses their importance by noting that children could be particularly vulnerable to falls.
Visibility can also be a concern when preventing impacts. Glazing can, after all, present an unforeseen obstacle if it is not highlighted or signposted. To limit injuries that might occur in this way, it might be necessary to mark the glazing or add contrasting elements to ensure that it stands out.
Part L – Conservation of Fuel and Power
As ‘sustainability’ increasingly becomes the byword of the current generations, the importance of conserving fuel and reducing energy consumption grows. In line with our environmental concerns – and the need to limit spending as we move through a cost-of-living crisis – Part L of the UK Building Regulations continues to adapt accordingly.
It was introduced in 1990 to address energy efficiency in building design and construction but has undergone several amendments since. In 2002, for example, specific energy performance requirements for dwellings and non-dwellings were introduced. In 2010 and 2016, further revisions aimed at reducing the emissions that new buildings produce in line with the European Union’s directives.
Finally – for now – in 2022, changes were made to Part L, requiring all new homes to produce at least 31% fewer carbon emissions. Alongside that mandate, U-values must be improved in walls from 0.28/m2K to 0.18/m2K, and the minimum values for things like doors and windows have moved from 1.6 to 1.4. Builders and developers should also upload geo-tagged photographs to prove their compliance with Part L.
So, how does Part L relate to glass walls? Quite simply – the materials used for walls should be sufficiently insulated to boost energy efficiency. By choosing double-glazed, low-E-coated glazing, you can ensure that your glass wall adheres to Part L.
Part N – Glazing – Safety in Relation to Impact, Opening and Cleaning
Part N might be the penultimate entrance in our list of building regulations relating to glass walls, but it is also one of the most important for our purposes. After all, it applies to all buildings and aims to ensure that wherever a person comes into contact with glazing, it does not cause injury. In some locations, such as those with high levels of foot traffic, it is necessary to use safety glass – which is laminated, tempered or wired.
Where safety glass has been deployed, the approved document recommends that you place signage to make occupants aware of that fact. In doing so, you enhance safety and provide peace of mind.
If you incorporate openings into your glass wall, the document specifies the maximum gap allowed to prevent accidental falls.
Finally, the document covers the subject of cleaning. Specifically, it is concerned with the safety of those doing the cleaning. Persons should be able to easily maintain the glass without putting themselves in harm’s way. Ladders and platforms will, of course, need to be deployed to access the glazing on tall buildings, but they must be able to be safely accommodated.
Part Q – Security
The final regulation on our list is Part Q, requiring all entry points on a new residential building – whether windows or doors – to be able to resist physical attempts to gain entry. Security is something that should be taken very seriously. After all, almost all domestic break-ins involve the unauthorised party entering through the door or window.
For a glass wall to comply with Part Q, it typically needs to incorporate laminated or toughened glass, reinforced frames and secure locking mechanisms that deter forced entry. These security measures aim to protect residents from potential break-ins while still allowing for the aesthetic and functional benefits of a glass wall.
The benefits of incorporating a glass wall into your next design are abundant; it increases the natural light coming in, can harness views of the surrounding landscape, and provides a talking point for your client’s guests who might not have seen glazing deployed in that fashion before. But it’s absolutely vital that the glass wall is structurally safe and limits injuries wherever they are liable to occur. By following the guidance of the UK Building Regulations as broken down into its individual parts, you can ensure that the brilliance of your vision remains crystal clear without being shattered by avoidable oversights.
If you have a question about the regulations surrounding the glazing elements within your project, drop us an email at email@example.com today. Alternatively, visit www.cantifix.co.uk to find out more and read articles on the latest glazing regulations.