Revolutionary precision-engineered balcony system
An innovative, lightweight unitised balcony system offers specifiers huge benefits over existing options. Considerably more speedy and efficient, the Grappler balcony looks set to become a game changer for the Australasian building industry.
Started by Urban Group NZ, a long-established manufacturer of high-quality fencing, architectural balustades and gates, Belcanto was established 12 months ago to develop an off-site manufactured balcony construction system for commercial apartments and social housing.
In the UK our technology partner, Sapphire, mostly designs balconies for high-rise buildings with insitu concrete floorplates. However, structural building styles in New Zealand vary considerably, explains Belcanto’s Patrick Kendrick, so it was a challenge getting it right.
“We have to be really flexible and innovative with our engineering partners to find solutions that work to produce an off-site manufactured grappler balcony. It’s about adapting to the local environment to make it work.”
The company combines decades of experience with future-focused innovation to build the balcony and balustrade system safely, efficiently and with a high aesthetic value.
The new product is precision-engineered for no maintenance. You simply glide it on to the buildings structural arms, level it up and go.
Grappler balcony system: speed, efficiency and cost savings
By far the biggest advantage grappler balconies offer the New Zealand building industry is speed. Belcanto’s manufacturing operations in Auckland and Wellington can build them well in advance of the building programme, which means they can deliver well ahead of schedule.
“Typically we’d be up against a concrete designed balcony. With the Grappler balcony, the facade of a building can be completed much earlier. It dramatically reduces the scaffolding duration, programme timelines and does away with material site storage requirements as well.
Belcanto can slot in around 15 balconies in one day, which is a huge win for developers and builders, says Patrick.
“Massive savings can be made because of this capability. As it is delivered ready to install, there is no longer any need to wait for all the trades normally involved such as waterproofing, fixing balustrades, flooring or tiling to complete the work.”
The lightweight aluminium cassette significantly reduces the weight or structural load of the balcony and the soffits are powder coated, which creates a clean, good looking finish. Balustrades can be made of frameless glass, solid aluminium or perforated aluminium. The flooring is either non-combustible WPC decking or porcelain tiles.
Grappler balcony system: thermal efficiency, low emissions
There are thermal benefits too, as the system creates a thermal break between the building and the balcony. Because there are only two or three small connections with a layer of thermo-plastic, energy leaking out of this area of the building is significantly reduced.
“You can’t achieve that with a concrete balcony. Belcanto is currently working on gaining passive house certification for the glide-on connection system,” adds Patrick.
All the products used are recyclable, with a low carbon footprint.
They’re designed for a seamless connection at a finished floor level so there is no step down from the interior. Additionally, they are designed to free drain from the front edge as a run-off, or positively drain into a downpipe.
The design components also offer flexibility. For example, if required, services such as ventilation and lighting can be integrated into the balcony cassette.
“The earlier in the project we get involved, the better,” says Patrick, “as we can coordinate with structural engineers and architects to make it happen and take care of the compliance pathway.”
“Over the last decade or so there has been significant publicity around construction defects particularly around facade and balcony weather-proofing applications. The Grappler system can heavily de-risk the these design areas and can, potentially, even be retrofitted for existing building refurbishments.
The soft launch of the grappler unitised balcony to the New Zealand market has been incredibly well received with some of New Zealand’s largest development companies and construction contractors incorporating Grappler balconies into their projects. Patrick assures that it will be a game changer once the wide AEC market knows about it.
Belcanto: specifier training programme
“Over the next few months, up to three finished projects will shine a light on the benefits of using the grappler system. People will definitely start to notice. When this happens, we’ll give a big push to architect CPD training so they know how to design and specify them.
“We already provide the BIM models and specification assistance for the architect. We’re doing all the heavy lifting for the consultants so they can continue with other things.
“It’s about providing an understanding of what it is, how it works and how it affects the building programme. We want to point out the cost savings for their clients as well.”
Patrick says everyone at Belcanto is very excited for the future of the product. “We’re looking forward to lots of enquiry from our friends in Australia too.”
A demo Grappler balcony is on display at Belcanto locations in Auckland so clients can get a hands-on, tactile experience when viewing.