A recent initiative by Vancouver council to exempt retractable glass balcony enclosures from floor space ratio (FSR) calculation would be a benefit both to developers and manufacturers, says the CEO of Lumon Canada Inc.
Builders could include the enclosures in new developments as a way to better utilize outdoor balcony space and increase the value of the units without losing interior floor space.
Lumon, a family-owned and operated company formed in Finland in 1978, has developed a frameless retractable balcony glass panel system that provides weather protection when needed, without fully enclosing a balcony. The ventilated system allows airflow inside a balcony and makes the space usable year-round.
“It’s like an outdoor living space and is meant to be that way, but it offers protection against the elements,” said Lumon Canada chief executive officer Olli Vanska, who moved from Finland to launch a Canadian division in 2011.
“It’s been a lot of work with the cities and their bylaws so they understand how our product works.”
Excluding systems from FSR calculations
The new regulations in Vancouver would allow retractable balcony glass system installations without an impact on the FSR calculations which regulate how large a building can be constructed on an individual property.
By excluding these balcony systems from FSR calculations, Vancouver will join several other B.C. cities including Langley, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Victoria, along with municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe, Ottawa and Montreal.
Modern retractable balcony glass systems are made according to new good building practices which allow balcony space to be better utilized while protecting the building envelope, lowering the carbon footprint and saving energy costs.
“It’s still meant to be exactly like the outdoor space it was before,” said Vanska. “It’s not meant to be heated space by any means.”
City staff are currently examining the issue and will report back to council.
Installing retractable glass balcony enclosures
Retractable balcony glass systems have most often been installed in entire high- and mid-rise residential buildings during construction. Vanska said developers see them as popular additional features that can increase the value of condominium units.
“Since we make massive bulk orders with developers, their cost-per-unit price is low and they can charge more by offering this nice feature, plus added three-season livable space.”
Systems can also be retrofitted for existing buildings.
“Condo boards can approve that they’ll allow this kind of system to be installed unit by unit,” said Vanska. “It doesn’t need to be the whole building.”
Vanska said the cost of installing a retractable glass balcony system depends on the size of the balcony and type of railing in place, in case it needs restructuring for safety and building code requirements. Generally, the enclosures range from $7,000 to $15,000.
“We’ve seen that our customers are willing to pay quite a bit to make sure that they’re able to use their balcony space,” said Vanska.
This sentiment has grown during COVID-19 restrictions, according to Vanska, as people are making more use of balconies because they’re not leaving their units as often but still want to be outside.
Lumon Canada’s growth
Lumon systems are used in more than 20 countries, primarily in Europe, and the Canadian operation has grown from two to almost 100 employees. It has a head office in Vaughan, Ont. and branch offices in Stoney Creek, Ont. and Langley.
Vanska said Lumon manufactures its products in Ontario and has installed close to 3,000 systems across the country. Potential new opportunities in Vancouver will make the company more willing to invest in Canada, he added.
Among the Canadian companies and projects that have used Lumon’s retractable balcony glass systems are:
* C.H, Clement Construction‘s Promenade Miller in Cornwall, Ont.;
“We’re looking at massive growth in the coming years,” said Vanska. “It takes a lot of time to get into new construction. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s a new product and new innovation and it takes a lot of time before the market really sees the benefit of it.”