One of the first things you should do when considering a new awning is investigate what building codes or other policies exist that govern such structures. Rules vary from place to place, but every state has its own set of regulations. A city awning will likely have to conform to more extensive requirements, because most municipalities including New York City often add their own layer of specifications.
The last thing you want to do is waste time and energy contemplating a design that won’t be allowed. Consulting a professional awning company will help get you off to the right start, because it’s their job to be fully up to date on all pertinent regulations for your location. But a little homework on your part wouldn’t hurt. At the very least, you’ll be able to have a more intelligent discussion with your awning expert.
You’ll find codes that affect awning design, construction and installation. Here in New York these regulations are categorized for buildings, structural details, fire and life safety and energy efficiency. Every city awning is affected by a variety of details within these categories. If your awning will be illuminated from within, there are special electrical code requirements, too, because light-transmitting plastics have their own rules.
Consider these three awning regulation areas:
Naturally you want your awning to look great. It’s a handsome addition to virtually any building, announcing your name and address and giving your business an added flair. But above all else, a city awning has to be tough customer, sturdy enough to withstand the elements without putting anyone in danger.
Structural design regulations specify minimum acceptable thresholds for live load and lateral load. It might be simply annoying if your awning flaps vigorously in the wind, but for everyone’s protection it has to be strong enough to withstand the wind’s sideways pressure – the lateral load. And it has to be strong enough to hold a certain amount of weight from snow build-up to avoid collapsing – the live load.
All awnings, canopies and membrane structures are considered “special construction” elements, and retractable or temporary structures also have rules that apply specifically to them. This category covers design and construction requirements for each of them.
This is where you’ll find specifications regarding materials allowed for framing and coverings – fabric or metal. You’ll also find rules that identify minimum flammability resistance. In addition, the New York Fire Department has its own set of requirements regarding flammability for permanent structures which may affect your city awning.
Encroachment into public right-of-way.
This is the government’s way of saying your awning can’t make it hard for people to use the sidewalk or curb area. Rules apply to both temporary and permanent structures.
Look for regulations that dictate minimum vertical clearance, including valances (the fabric that hangs down over the awning’s edge to create a trim-looking perimeter), so no one hits their head on your awning. And note that here in New York, as in most places, any water that runs off your awning cannot flow across a public walkway. That may seem silly, but when it’s very cold outside that water can turn to ice and someone could easily slip and fall.
If your awning or canopy will cover a fuel-dispensing operation, it will have to meet additional requirements.
Not surprisingly, building codes and related regulations are designed for architects and contractors so they’re couched in their language. It’s not so important that you read and understand all these details as that you know the rules exist and understand how they affect your choice of fabrics and framing materials when choosing a city awning.
Photo Credit: Randy Le’Moine Photography via Flickr