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35 The fast route to compliance


Steve Howard of Neaco gives his view on why there has been a revolution in balconies and decking, with the dominance of wood being usurped by aluminium


D


ecking design is undergoing something of quiet revolution. For many years, two materials – timber and wood-polymer composites – have been the dominant options for flooring applications in gardens, terraces, balconies and external walkways. That duopoly has been broken in recent years however, by the rapid growth of an aluminium alternative. This change is due in no small measure to the demands of housebuilding warranty providers seeking to improve safety and durability. While not yet enshrined in Building Regulations, their technical guidance and performance stipulations have driven an undercurrent of non-statutory regulation, which architects and developers need to follow with equal diligence to meet the approval of key stakeholders. In a post-Grenfell construction world, fire safety is under the spotlight and rightly so. In truth, even before Grenfell, housebuilding warranty providers were


already showing increasing concern about fire safety on decking and balconies. Balconies can be a life-saving means of escape from a burning building, and timber’s vulnerability to the outbreak of fire is one of various reasons why it has seen a dramatic decline specification in these locations. Wood-polymer composite is slightly more fire resistant, but having timber elements it will never be totally fireproof. This is where aluminium performs extremely well – it is fully compliant with Class 0 of Approved Document B ‘Fire Safety.’ In the EU’s harmonised Euroclass system, aluminium has an A1 Fire Rating – the highest achievable score for non-combustibility. Another important aspect of safety is slip resistance. Even with a grooved surface, timber decking becomes increasingly slippery underfoot with the build-up of dirt, moss and grime. It can become especially hazardous in wet conditions.


Aluminium is a versatile metal that can be precision-engineered to provide a very finely grooved surface for outstanding anti-slip performance in the direction of travel


ADF OCTOBER 2018


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