Vancouver condominium balconies could soon gain new purpose and vertical surface.
Finnish company Lumon has taken a big step towards being able to install its retractable glass balcony systems on both new and pre-existing condominiums in Vancouver.
Vancouver City Council recently voted 11-0 to ask planning staff for potential zoning amendments or regulatory changes related to retractable balcony glass systems. If those changes are approved, installations would be allowed without any impact on the floor space ratio (FSR) calculations that regulate the size of buildings.
“Our company is delighted that Vancouver city councillors realized that as part of the modernization of the city’s bylaws, it should recognize a product that wasn’t even invented when the bylaws were first drafted,” Lumon CEO Olli Vanska said in a press release.
The vote was part of a public hearing for the City of Vancouver’s Regulation Redesign initiative and council heard from planners, homeowners and Lumon representatives.
The glass systems are retractable so balconies can be used traditionally during hot weather while giving extra space to residents when temperatures dip and seasons change, Vanska said.
“It can be nice and open when the weather allows for it,” he said.
The system can be added to existing buildings with the approval of that building’s strata council and is a one-day installation, he added.
“It’s installed from inside the balcony. It’s pre-manufactured, an easy installation of one day per unit and then the product is ready to go,” he said.
Vanska said the company previously received requests for service from the Vancouver area but could not get approvals from city staff and has been working with the city for some time to explain the benefits of the system.
“I think there’s a willingness and desire to get this done from the city and especially given the COVID-19 situation, there’s an urgency and need to get it going sooner rather than later,” Vanska told the Journal of Commerce.
“The meaning of a balcony has changed completely after COVID-19 with outdoor living space getting to be pretty precious. Our system allows people to use that more.”
The enclosed glass system also improves safety in towers, Vanska said.
“Balconies in tall condominiums don’t feel safe and this adds a layer of safety,” he said, adding the glass also means residents are protected from COVID-19 transmission from neighbouring balconies.
Lumon has previously installed glass balcony systems in Hamilton, Mississauga and Toronto, Ont. and Montreal. Vanska said the system is well suited to Canada’s sometimes extreme temperature changes.
“We started in Finland. We all know it’s pretty cold there,” Vanska said.
He added the technology is common in some parts of Europe.
“In Scandinavian countries it’s hard not to find this kind of balcony. It saves energy costs and warms intake air if the balcony has a fresh air intake. From a sustainability point of view, it makes for a greener city,” he said.
When asked for comment on the glass balcony systems, City of Vancouver civic engagement and communications spokesperson Ruth Suurkask said “upon direction from council, city staff are looking into the opportunity to permit retractable balcony elements. It is too early for staff to determine whether the proposed systems are a good fit for Vancouver’s climate. Any new regulations must adhere to both the BC Building Code and Vancouver Building Bylaw. Staff will be able to provide more information and an interview once they have completed their research and reported back to council.”