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Case Study: Vertical Fin Balustrades Ensure Safety and Style at Torbay School

UNEX’s heavy-duty ‘Finline’ postless balustrades were specified for balconies and stairways at Torbay School’s new modern teaching block.

Alocated on Auckland’s North Shore, Torbay Primary School has recently opened a new two-storey modern teaching block designed to provide spaces for flexible learning and accommodate the school’s growing roll. With students from years 1 to 6 using the building on a daily basis, architects GHD Woodhead worked with UNEX to specify safe and attractive balustrade solutions for stairwells and balconies.

The building features six classrooms on the ground floor and six on the top floor with external stairwells on two sides of the building. There is also a large first floor balcony, and an additional smaller balcony on the rear of the building with a sink for students to wash paint brushes and other equipment. Balustrades were needed for all these areas to meet Ministry of Education guidelines and keep students and staff safe.

“It was important to have everything safe first of all, and then to have pleasing aesthetics inside and out,” says Petar Milivojevic, Director of GHD Woodhead. He approached UNEX following a recommendation by the contractor, and was pleased with the level of service they could offer. “We started talking to them and realised they had an engineering service and were willing to think outside of the box and think of solutions that would meet the specific requirements of the build.”

Working with UNEX, the GHD Woodhead team specified 100LM of the heavy-duty ‘Finline’ postless balustrade for the project. Custom vertical 60 x 16mm aluminium fins were fixed along a channel system for both balustrades and stairs, with an interlinking side rail fixed off fins at stairs. The modern, vertical style of Finline makes it an ideal choice for adding visual interest to buildings, and offers options for side fixing. In this case the channel system was side fixed to steel PFC using M8 bolts via aluminium cylindrical spacers.

Petar was impressed with the level of support the UNEX team provided as challenges arose. “We had an issue where there was a clash between the balustrade and first floor canopy, and they came back with a good solution,” he says.

Another issue regarding the colour of the balustrade also tested the quick thinking of both parties. “UNEX tried their best to accommodate us and clients, bending over backwards to find a solution,” says Petar. In the end all balustrades were powdercoated in LSG Bronco Matt — a lighter colour than originally intended, but one that ultimately worked to the project’s advantage, providing a softer, warmer look.

The level of support UNEX provided earned them a new client, with Petar already specifying them for another school project. “They’re solutions-focused,” he says. “When we had a problem, their main engineer and owner would come. They have intimate knowledge of the product so we could find a resolution then and there. I really like that. That’s how you earn trust.

For Torbay School, the quality product and detailed level of support has resulted in sleek balustrades that meet Ministry of Education requirements and keep children safe while providing a warmer, more architectural look for the new classroom block.

As published in the May 2022 edition of EBOSS NOW, a monthly digital newsletter by our friends at eBoss, Auckland's leading construction product database and specifier marketing agency.