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Designing Balustrades for Spectator Seating

Posted on 10th March 2022

Leisure environments usually require spectator seating in areas such as swimming pools, ice rink arenas or sports courts.

Balustrades in spectator seating areas typically consist of glass infill panels. For safety, laminated glass is recommended, especially in a swimming pool environment. Using laminated glass means that if an infill panel were to break the panel would shatter but remain intact. Preventing pieces of glass contaminating the area, potentially injuring a person, and maintaining a barrier until it’s replaced.

Sport England’s stance on the use of glass in leisure facilities is, “Any glazed areas shall be designed to withstand impact and prevent glass from breaking and entering the water.”

Different areas of spectator seating require different loadings according to the Green Guide – Guide to Safety in Sports Grounds. The below diagram discusses required balustrade loadings.

Balustrade heights for spectator seating can vary, with lower balustrade heights accepted when directly in front of seating.

‘The barriers should measure a minimum of 800mm in height, but preferably 900mm…’ Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, Supplementary Guidance 01: Safe standing in seated areas.

Fixing balustrades to concrete upstands can also affect balustrade heights. When fixing balustrades to the top of upstands the overall height of the balustrade is measured from the top of the upstand (as this could be stood on).

‘The height of barriers installed on top of low parapet walls should be measured from the top of the parapet and not at walk level. NOTE 2 Where a low parapet wall could constitute a step, it might reduce the effectiveness of the barrier.’ BS6180 6.1

When fixing balustrades to concrete upstands core drilling is required, so it is important to design the upstand to a width that is suitable for balustrade fixings. As a guide, core drilling for 50mm uprights needs 90mm diameter pockets and for 60mm uprights approximately 110mm diameter pockets.

Depending on the environment the balustrade finish should be considered carefully. Spectator seating balustrades in ice rinks benefit from powder coating due to the ‘warm to touch’ nature of the finish. Yet for swimming pool balustrades we recommend 316 grade stainless steel with a bright polish finish, as standard brushed finishes can retain moisture and may be at risk of tea staining (which can lead to rusting) and corrosion.

It is also important for the balustrade supplier to check with the architect if there are any earth bonding requirements when fixing balustrades in a swimming pool environment.

For more information on barriers for spectator seating refer to:

  • The Green Guide – Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds
  • BS6180 – Barriers In and About Buildings

Click here for Delta’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre Case Study.