Promoting a Culture of Testing Balconies
Construction products must be tested rigorously to ensure quality and compliance with local standards. Doing so can help highlight future risks, and the data from such tests can be used to classify a building site and help make engineering decisions. When it comes to testing balconies at Sapphire, we conduct numerous tests such as structural tests, glass strength testing, decking strength testing, vibration testing, deflection testing and slip resistance testing on balconies. Without such trials, it would be difficult to know whether the product meets the standards detailed in the building regulations. Sapphire has been committed to testing right from the early days. Today, we have our in-house testing lab and work with various experts to ensure the highest quality of all our products.
Use of UK Accreditated Services (UKAS)
To ensure the highest levels of protection and peace of mind for our clients in the high-rise housebuilding sector, we have continued to invest in testing at Sapphire. We worked with a leading UKAS-accredited test house to gain expert advice on testing and certification, as well as ensuring materials, components and structures conform to the required standards and meet specifications. We worked closely with this Notified Body under the Construction Products Regulation to conduct rigorous testing to create the most tested balconies in the industry today.
However, while working with UKAS test houses, we found that their test lab was not set up specifically for balcony products. Most of their testing equipment is for general construction products, and we felt this limited our testing capabilities. This led us to set up our in-house testing facility and invest in balcony specific testing equipment.
These test houses can provide costly large scale equipment for critical longevity tests. One such piece of equipment is the hydrothermal chamber. This lets us conduct ageing tests on all our products to ensure durability. We leave the product in the chamber for weeks and subject it to scorching and frigid temperatures. We also test for the effect of heavy rain, salt spray for seafront homes, and other factors that could affect our outdoor products.
We have tested our cast-in anchors, balconies, decking, soffits, facias, glass balustrades, vertical bars and power coated samples to test how they age in extreme weather conditions.
In-House Testing at Sapphire
To ensure that standards are upheld, we have set up an in-house lab to test our balconies regularly. This lab can conduct a wide range of tests. Over the years, we have invested in various testing equipment to enhance our capabilities to perform most of our testing in-house (apart from specialist testing like fire).
We have invested in numerous sensors, equipment, pneumatic computer-operated rams and other technology so that multiple forces, factors, measurements, etc., can be applied and recorded during the working day or over several days of 24/7 testing.
With many of the tests we do ourselves, we have done desktop assessments in-house and with experts in the field and often the tests are witnessed by highly qualified and chartered subject matter experts.
We conduct fire tests on our products with accredited testing houses to ensure compliance with the latest Building Safety Standards in the UK. we also engage with various fire and engineering science specialists for testing/studies in the other markets we work in, bringing a wealth of different tests and localised knowledge.
As balconies are such an excellent product, many standard industry tests are for related products rather than balconies directly. e.g. a fire test for external wall systems rather than a test for balconies. This often means that testing an exact balcony scenario needs the principles applied from various related tests to know more definitively how it will relate to a balcony. This often calls for complementary or adapted testing regimes to be set up in-house.
The disadvantage of such testing in-house to slightly different parameters is that it isn’t a formal test it is certified to; however, being in-house, it can often be done much faster than waiting for a test house, and the results are much more scenario specific.
Overhead Costs and Testing Balconies
So that we could conduct exhaustive tests during our research and development stages, we invested in a balcony test rig that helps us determine many things, from deflection to the natural frequency of a balcony. We work with reputable external test companies and undertake in-house commissions to test components. By investing heavily in testing, we can refine, replace and improve existing products and test out market-leading innovations in terms of concepts and materials.
We work with experts in different fields to ensure compliance, not only with British standards but also with specialists to ensure compliance with KIRO codes, American standards, Canadian standards, etc. We work with renowned experts like Oxford Brookes in the UK and RDH in Canada and North America to better understand and improve the performances of our products.
The disadvantage of testing regularly and having an in-house Research and Development team and test lab is that it is an expensive overhead. The more important thing is that there is much more certainty of performance and thorough knowledge of how balconies can be improved in the future, whether it’s been tested extensively for years or a new product in the market.
Testing fundamentally takes much of the guesswork out of performance and ensures peace of mind for those whose safety depends on our competency.