This coming Thursday, Vancouver will be holding a Public Hearing to consider a number of zoning amendments that arise from a regulatory review that has been underway for some time. I wrote about this in the Courier in March https://www.vancourier.com/opinion/city-of-vancouver-wants-input-into-cutting-red-tape-in-its-building-permit-procedures-1.24093581
While this seemed like a most worthwhile and much-needed review, it had not received much attention. Indeed, as noted in my article, I was one of the few people in attendance at an Open House held at City Hall.
As noted by Marco D'Agostino, the planner in charge of the review, the regulatory review/redesign is intended to rationalize a myriad of zoning regulations, including those related to balconies, porches, decks, in both residential and commercial zones.
I should note that I applaud the city for undertaking this review and support the recommendations, with one further modification that I describe below.
I only learned about the Open House from representatives of Lumon, a Finnish company that manufactures a retractable glass system that can be installed on balconies in both existing and new buildings to improve livability and performance. For the past two years, I have been assisting Lumon in seeking municipal approvals to allow installations without the area of the balcony being deemed 'enclosed' and therefore included in FSR calculations. While their system is so approved in over 20 countries around the world, and numerous jurisdictions across Canada and around Metro, it is not yet approved in Vancouver without FSR ramifications in those zones where enclosed balconies are not permitted or limited.
The reason why balconies incorporating retractable balcony glass and other similar European-style systems should not be deemed 'enclosed' is that these systems do not create a conventional exterior wall or 'conditioned interior space'. The fully retractable single-pane glass panels have air gaps at top and bottom and sides, and are designed primarily to keep the rain out, and reduce wind and noise. Despite the gaps, tests have shown that the system can improve energy performance and sound attenuation, and increase the longevity of balconies.
It's a bit like creating a 'convertible balcony'.
Although I shared a presentation some time ago with City officials, I have recently updated it to include the city's differing zoning regulations related to balconies and some observations about the importance of balconies that have become apparent during the recent pandemic. A full copy of the presentation can be found below.
If you agree that the city should allow the installation of retractable balcony glass systems made by Lumon and other manufacturers in both new and existing buildings, please write to the Mayor and Council at MayorandCouncil@CityofVancouver.ca or consider speaking at Thursday's Public Hearing. You can sign up here: https://council.vancouver.ca/
20200625/phea20200625ag.htm You can also find the proposed bylaw changes here as well. Now, everything you ever wanted to know about balconies!