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Balconies

Christopher Alexander, in his book ‘A Pattern Language’ points out that any balcony which is smaller than 6 foot square is virtually never used. So this includes almost all balconies you see and explains why they are never in use (and therefore a waste of energy, money and resources). Particularly silly is the so-called Juliet balcony. See this Pattern Language example

Balconies need careful consideration to avoid causing a thermal bridge through the floor of the balcony into the internal floor of the room it serves. This has caused a great deal of redesign of balconies over the last decade or so.

One option is to make balconies free standing with minimal connection to the building. A steel structure standing on its own foundations is a way of achieving this. With concrete floors there is the possibility of using insulated connectors between the floor and balcony (such as the Ancon Isolan product).

Another way is to jetty a timber floor out through the wall to form the floor of the balcony. This requires careful detailing to ensure that the area of structural timber linking the inside and outside is minimised so that that the thermal bridging is not too great.

Masonite beams may achieve this as they have a relatively small cross sectional area. It also requires attention to airtightness at this point and a way of ensuring that moisture cannot penetrate back into the building from the balcony floor.
The balcony floor must be totally watertight and properly drained to protect the joists.

Another approach is to hang the balcony from the roof, possible by stainless steel cables or struts. This requires extra detailing by a structural engineer (probably entailing extra strengthening at the eaves) and then either an understanding of stainless fasteners etc. or specialist steel fabrication and erection.

The Building Regulations cover thermal bridging in the Approved Documents part L1A for new dwellings.

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