Smoking Ban Good News For Decking

The smoking ban will breathe new life into the decking market. Licensees and landlords expect to turn to timber decking to accommodate smoking customers. Catriona Nicholls, decking product manager for Richard Burbidge explains the new rules and how to specify decking.

THIS JULY will see a massive cultural shift in the UK, when smoking is outlawed in public buildings. It will also see an enormous market open for outdoor decking to accommodate smokers outside pubs and restaurants.

This predicted surge in demand from the commercial market has been enthusiastically embraced by decking suppliers, keen to benefit from the same growth in sales experienced by their Irish counterparts after smoking was banned in public places in the republic in 2004.

But how can architects and specifiers tasked with developing outdoor areas for pubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, golf and leisure clubs be confident that the decking systems they choose are fit for use in such environments?

Rather like the atmosphere found in eating, drinking and entertainment venues prior to the smoking ban, the rules and regulations surrounding public decks are perceived by many to be somewhat hazy.

How are commercial decks different to domestic installations? What constitutes a “commercial” application? Do decks designed for public use need to satisfy Building Regulations? Should decking systems be tested to British Standards?

Commercial decks are subject to a whole host of different safety and strength requirements. A timber deck installed in the garden of a busy riverside pub frequented by families with prams and pushchairs, plus groups of social drinkers, will experience far higher levels of traffic and usage than your average domestic deck.

And whether its playful toddlers or customers who’ve had a few pints the need to prevent and protect clientele from slipping, tripping or falling from a deck is essential for any proprietor.

What is a commercial deck?

Such installations are categorised into heavy and light commercial, depending on the likely usage and volume of customers.

Heavy commercial installations are those decks used by people who may congregate, with fixed seating within 530mm of the balustrade, plus areas with tables and fixed seating but which are not susceptible to overcrowding. This covers beer gardens and outdoor public dining and seating areas found in pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, leisure and golf clubs.

Light commercial applications are thoroughfares without obstacles that connect different sections of a venue, allowing customers to move through but without getting overcrowded. Examples include exterior stairs, ramps, landings, corridors and balconies in the same diverse list of licensed premises.

A load off your mind

To ensure public health and safety, timber decking designed for areas like these should comply with the same stringent rules and regulations applied to other building improvements.

Decking balustrades need to conform to Part K of the Building Regulations in England and Wales and Part S of the Technical Standards for Scotland. Balustrades on stairs must be at least 900mm high and horizontal handrails should be 1100mm high. And if decks are to be used as dining areas by families with children aged under five balusters must be no more than 100mm apart.

Specifiers should also check that decking balustrades satisfy British Standards for barriers and balustrades (BS6399-1:1996), which sets out minimum imposed loadings for parapets, barriers and balustrades intended to retain, stop or guide people.

To withstand customers crowding against handrails for example, balustrade systems must be capable of resisting loadings of 1.5kN/m in heavy commercial installations, the equivalent of 270kg, and loadings of 0.74kN/m in light commercial applications.

Only those balustrade systems strength tested to satisfy these requirements are proven to be fit for use in commercial applications, whether it may be a decked area for dining and drinking or an exterior walkway guiding customers outdoors.

Timber decking fitted with outdoor balustrade is an affordable, aesthetically appealing answer to the smoking ban that is easy to fit and maintain but savvy specifiers should check the credentials of any commercial decking system to ensure safety on deck.