Railing Systems CES Program Now Available
In response to your requests, we have added a new AIA CES program covering Contemporary Railing Systems.
Here’s a narrative of the program offering.
Contemporary Railing Systems
Railing design options have expanded over the years. While still popular, ornamental railings (wrought iron) are no longer the only design choice when choosing a metal railing system for your handrail or guard.
Post Mounted Railing Systems
The most common contemporary railing systems you will find are post mounted systems, cable railing, and glass railing. Further, each of these options may also be illuminated with LED lighting components.
Post mounted railing systems may utilize square tubing, round pipe or tubing, solid flat bar, or custom designed posts.
Round pipe and tube are very similar but there is a difference.
Round tubing tends to be a thinner wall material and is noted by it’s true outside diameter. 1.50″ Tubing is a true 1.50″ diameter and is commonly available in .050″ to .125″ wall thicknesses.
Round pipe is stronger as it has a thicker wall. Pipe is noted by it’s nominal dimension. 1-1/2″ pipe references a nominal inside diameter of 1-1/2″ but the actual outside diameter is 1.9o” (1-1/4″ pipe is 1.66″ diameter and 2″ pipe is 2.375″ diameter). Wall thickness is referred to as a schedule. Most common schedules would be schedules 5, 10, 40, and 80 (.06″ to .2″)
Size and spacing between posts will vary and is based on the railing height, material selection, and attachment to substrate. Wagner can provide guidelines for post spacing but final determination will require an engineering review.
Post Mounted Railing Systems
Railing System posts may be surface mounted, fascia mounted, or embedded. When surface or fascia mounting, the substrate (e.g., wood, concrete, tile, etc), will dictate the appropriate fastener. Embedded mount provides the strongest connection.
Tube Railing Systems
Brass and stainless steel are available in tube railing systems but — as mentioned earlier — these tend to be smaller diameter and have a thinner wall. As such they are unable to meet commercial load requirements without internal reinforcement of reduced post spacing. They are very common in restaurants and hospitality but should be avoided for guards and handrail.
Pipe Railing Systems
Pipe Railing systems are available in steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. They are larger diameter and have a heavier wall making them better suited for guard and handrail applications that need to meet a structural requirement.
Pipe railing systems may be purchased as components for non-welded assembly or ready to install welded railing systems.
Post mounted systems, when used as a guard, will also require that the openings be limited such that a 4″ sphere may not pass.
In addition to the traditional infill of vertical pickets, contemporary railings offer several design options — glass, cable, horizontal rails, woven wire, or perforated panels.
Glass Panel Railing Systems
Often, what drives the design choice for an infill panel is the view. The use of glass panels is one way to maximize sight lines while maintaining a safe environment. Typically, the glass panels are 3/8″ to 1/2″ in thickness. Thickness will be determined by load requirement and local codes regarding wind borne debris. Always check with your local authority having jurisdiction as to what requirements apply in your area.
Also note that the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) now requires that all glass used in railing systems must be laminated, tempered glass — if there is a walking surface below the railing.
Cable Railing System
Cable Railing is another excellent choice when considering an infill that limits obstruction and thereby maximizes sightlines. Cable size is typically 3/16 diameter, stainless steel — available range is 1/8″ to 3/8″. Initially, cable railing used components designed for the marine industry and used cable clamps and turnbuckles that were cumbersome. New components are now available that were designed specifically for railing applications. These components are hidden and visually appealing.
In order to meet the 4″ sphere rule for guards, cables are spaced at 3″ on center and must be of a proper type and tension to prevent injury.
While the “ladder effect” is no longer in the building codes, some local AHJ may limit horizontal elements in guards. In this case, components are available to mount the cable vertically.
Other Infill Options
Some other common infill options are woven wire and perforated metal. Both are contemporary in appearance. Woven wire provides good sightlines while perforated metal will tend to block the view.
For handrail or OSHA applications, a mid-rail is sufficient. Horizontal bars are an option as infill for railing systems but are can be easily bent if stepped on. Consider cable railing instead.
Glass Railing Systems
As opposed to post systems with glass infill panels, glass railing systems utilize glass itself as the structural balustrade — no posts are required.
As with glass panel railings, the current IBC model code now requires that glass be laminated, tempered and must meet the load requirements.
Without posts, glass railing maximizes the view and is very popular where the vistas are worth the expense. However, glass railing has unique challenges in meeting load requirements and when specifying this product, make sure testing data is available from your supplier. In particular, areas prone to wind borne debris issues are a concern and should be addressed prior to specifying glass railings.
In addition to the tempered, laminated glass, the key element of a glass railing system’s ability to meet load is the choice of the base shoe molding and attachment.
Your supplier should be able to help you in specifying the proper attachment suggestions for your application.
Historically, the glass was set into the aluminum, base shoe molding using a wet-glaze process — grout, cement or silicone. Over the past 10 years, dry-glaze solutions have been introduced which have supplanted wet-glaze as the installation method of choice.
The use of a dry-glaze glass railing option reduced labor costs. Additionally, the base, shoe molding has been redesigned to reduce weight and costs while still meeting load requirements.
Illuminated Railing Systems
The most recent development in contemporary railing systems is the introduction of low-voltage LEDs incorproated into the railing to illuminate walkways and stairs.
Illuminated railing systems have seen significant growth in recent years as architects have embraced the dual functionality provided by lit railing. Suitable for both handrail and guard applications, illuminated railings improve safety and may serve as either a primary or secondary light source.
LEDs may be added to a railing as a linear or point light source.
A point light source in the form of LED pods permit multiple options not available with a linear product. They are available in symmetric and asymmetric throw patterns, may be used in curved railings, and may be retrofit into existing railing systems.
AIA CES Contemporary Railing Systems also includes an overview of materials and finishes, building codes and standards relating to handrail, and LEED opportunities.
To schedule this program with your firm, contact [email protected]