This course will discuss the overall advantages of choosing a custom-fabricated railing system built off-site compared to off-the-shelf products or locally fabricated railings. In addition to looking at the practical considerations of how different fabrication choices affect project time and budget, this course also identifies some ways to address health, safety, and building occupant welfare.
The traditional practice of building railing systems on-site can present architects and building professionals with several challenges that can affect overall project timelines, budget, and safety. When a general contractor builds a railing system on-site, he/she handles the entire process, from design to installation. This approach can add to project costs through time delays since the time spent on the railing system is time taken away from other aspects of the building project. Alternatively, contractors may choose off-the-shelf railing systems, which greatly limit the designer’s ability to provide custom and personalized touches to the overall project design.
Contractors often tend to choose wood, composites, or aluminum as the materials for on-site railing systems because they are easier to work with. Aluminum, for example, is very popular because it is strong, lightweight, and durable. These materials, however, are not always the best choice for a specific project design. Stainless steel railings, on the other hand, are considerably stronger, more durable and offer greater design flexibility than the previously mentioned materials. Whereas these other materials can be bought off the shelf and cut to length on-site, stainless steel railings must be custom fabricated before they can be installed.
When a contractor chooses to include custom stainless railings on a project, he/she usually hires a local metal fabricator/job shop who will design, manufacture, and install the railing system. While this practice can result in unique work from local specialists, it runs the risk of adding to the overall project cost and completion time. On-site railing work also increases the health and safety risk to the fabricator/installer, the contractor, and the building team, especially when materials need to be welded on-site.
As an alternative, architects and building professionals can specify "prefabrication" for the stainless steel railings they design into their projects. This option is more efficient and more reliable than using a local metal fabricator. It also takes some of the workload off the general contractor. Architects can consult with a manufacturer’s railing specialist to determine the best design choice for the project, and then provide their CAD designs to the manufacturer for customized fabrication. The manufacturer will deliver the finished product to the construction site as a ready-to-install, fully componentized system. The result is a project that benefits from customized, factory-crafted ornamental railings, without the time, expense, and uncertainty of local fabrication.
Click here to view a video version of this course. After viewing the video, you'll need to complete the exam that can be accessed by clicking the 'Take the Exam' button on this page.