Consider it a small addition to your already well-thought out design for your existing structure of your dream house. But if you have always wanted to have a walk-out balcony for your landed home, today’s short article will give you an insight on how to make that dream a reality, then we should be fine.
What is a walk-out balcony?
A walk-out balcony is designed to be big enough for you to actually step more than two steps onto the platform. It is not like that of a Juliet balcony but more of something that you actually see as a common sight in Singapore’s landed enclaves, which sits on top of the car porch roof. Al fresco dining at its finest as you have a candle-lit dinner under the stars with your loved ones. In short, a walk-out balcony is an additional platform that usually juts out from the main building structure itself, unsheltered.
For starters, we list down the people that you will need to get involved with, which include that of a Qualified Person (QP) and Professional structural engineer (PE); team players for your construction process to run a smooth course. (Do look out for a more detailed Insights article on all that you need to know about rebuilding from scratch!)
Let us walk you through the few steps that you should take to realise your walk-out balcony dreams.
Reinstating the setback requirements
As mentioned in our previous article, there are many setback requirements for landed houses in Singapore. As for creating walk-out balconies on car porch roofs, there are also certain guidelines that you will need to follow, which we have included diagrams of below for the 3 main different types of landed residential housing.
URA guidelines for walk-out balconies
You do not need to obtain planning permission for the construction of a walk-out balcony, it is not too big of a deal unless you have some mind blowing design that does not comply with any of the pre-drafted specifications. So as long as the structure fulfils all guidelines and set back requirements, you are good to go. Below are the few guidelines that homeowners should follow.
Car porches are to be within the front building setback area. It is meant to be an unsheltered and unenclosed structure that will not adversely affect the streetscaping of the enclave the property is seated on.
A canopy is allowed with a maximum length of 1 metre that is meant to only shelter the entrance as an overhang structure.
A single-storey car porch roof shall not exceed the height limit of 4.5 metres and shall be set back at least 2.4 metres from the road reserve line.
It is important for owners to see fit so that it does not add excessive bulk to the existing structure and landscape of the neighbourhood that can potentially disrupt the view of the environment for the neighbours. This is to protect the general outlook of the enclave for the residents. Although the primary purpose of a car porch roof is to serve as a roof or shelter for the occupants’ vehicles (like duh), under the revised guidelines for car porch roofs that are redrafted along with the landscaping for urban spaces and high-rises (LUSH) programme, the authorities have passed the green light for car porch roofs to also be used as an outdoor balcony for gardening or just an additional space for owners to enjoy the greenery and fresh air outside of their homes.
In a recent home tour video that we did at Springside Drive, Melvin went through a couple of steps on how to create your own walk-out balcony while still retaining the existing structure that you already have. You can watch the full video here.
Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (LUSH) Programme
This programme was created in 2009 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as part of the country’s drive towards creating a sustainable and liveable top-notch environment for its residents, as well as a strategy to help strengthen our country’s firm stance and portrayal as a City in a Garden and a Green island city-state identity. Under this LUSH programme, the revised version of LUSH 2.0 in 2014 called out for a more diverse geographical landscape, including that of the landed residential enclaves of Singapore. This meant that homeowners were then able to make use of their car porch roofs to construct a walk-out balcony, with the purpose of it being a gardening platform or outdoor balcony, to contribute to the quality of greenery that has blossomed among our developed built environment and for homeowners to enjoy nature as well.
3 steps to creating a walk-out balcony
Now that you are familiar and all caught up with the latest guidelines out there for landed homeowners on creating a walk-out balcony, let’s dive into the main course for the day, the 3 steps to creating the ultimate star of the show.
Step 1: Can you access your car porch roof from the inside of your home?
Unless you are invincible, you will need to have an accessible door or window frame already carved out of your bedroom wall that is facing towards the car porch balcony for you to be able to walk out from. This makes the job easier when it comes to replacing the window with an openable and more functional door. Otherwise, if you do not already have such built-in features (say if your windows are on either side of the wall), then you will have to expect additional costs to create an additional entryway/ doorway that will open up conveniently to the balcony seating on the roof itself.
Each house is different in its own unique way, so don’t feel too bad about it if you have to start from zero. For a little design inspiration. sliding panel doors are getting popular these days and many homeowners like to install such a feature that leads out onto their balcony. The main reason being (apart from it being aesthetically pleasing with the floor-to-ceiling height) the amount of natural daylight it allows to permeate through and into your premises.
Also, should you decide that you want a little canopy over the balcony for your door entrance and windows, you can have up to 1 metre of leeway for that to happen, as demarcated on the guidelines image we have above. Otherwise, for a car porch balcony, it is not to be enclosed and to always remain as an outdoor balcony.
Step 2: Is your car porch suitable for the creation of your dreamy walk-out balcony?
Weight-bearing and type of material supporting the roof should be considered. You wouldn’t want a balcony that is not able to endure weight, so ensure that first. If it is not suitable because it is an aged structure or made of an unsustainable material, you may have to consider rebuilding from scratch, which may be more costly, but anything for safety, right?
Speaking of safety, is the car porch roof levelled to the second storey of your home? There may be instances where your second storey is a tad bit higher than 4.5 metres (which is again, the height limit of a car porch roof), and this makes it a little more troublesome for works as they will have to build an additional stair or a platform for occupants to make it down safely onto the base of the roof balcony itself. This does not happen often but if it does, you will have to take note of this detail and have your architect and builder work on a plan that is the most efficient and fitting for you.
Another instance to consider is also if the roof itself is odd-shaped with sharp edges or curved platforms, you will probably also need to reconstruct it from scratch as such a structure is just not feasible for a balcony at all. Then again, houses come in all shapes and designs, so work closely with your builder and architect to formulate the best architecture that will work for you and your household. While you are at it, you can also think of how you would like to decorate your walk-out balcony. Maybe an al fresco dining set that we’ve talked about? Or for those with green fingers, you can always show off your skills by planting flower beds, shrubs or potted plants that are carefully bred and homegrown by you, for visitors that pass by to look up to and admire in awe.
Step 3: Consider the safety of your balcony as well as other features and GET TO WORK.
For this step, and for all steps actually, you will definitely have to consult the expertise of a professional structural engineer (PE) to have an inspection of your car porch roof done for you. Based on the setback requirements, you are able to fence up the balcony with a 1m tall railing/ glass panels or what is more commonly known to professionals as a highly porous tempered glass parapet.
If you are feeling a little more environmentally friendly, you can always have a natural balcony that fulfils the fundamentals of a sustainable architecture design. If you have a party wall separating you and your neighbour’s boundaries (especially for those who have one side of the car porch roof abutting the neighbour’s boundary), you might want to do the same with your balcony, supposing that you would want your own privacy as well. What you can do then is to install a fixed screen, often a lightweight one with a height not exceeding that of 1.8 metres along the boundary line that is shared with your adjacent neighbour. Common properties that will encounter such situations would include that of semi-detached and terrace houses.
Some typical materials that are used would be glass and louvres, although metal is also widely used. But if your neighbour does not have the intention to build out an open-to-sky balcony like you, this step can be skipped should you decide not to have it installed as a statement of making good with your neighbours, though you should always seek approval from your neighbour to not do so.
Walk-out balconies are mostly considered to be a form of privilege and associated with the luxury of space. This is not only common with houses, but if you have not already realised, hotel rooms or even for cruise ships, a balcony stateroom would cost you much more than that of a normal cabin without one. Households that live in landed housings are already sitting at the top of the privileged list of residential housing types in Singapore, being highly exclusive as they make up only 5% of the housing pool. Outdoor spaces have long been a luxury given to those who can afford bigger spaces and especially in today’s context where work-from-home situations are pretty much a default, having such a space to yourself where you can get your fresh air and enjoy the feeling of sunlight basking on your skin is a privilege that many would want to have. While others are trapped in their homes, owners of outdoor spaces at least have a space to go out to, as their form of respite and private sanctuary, when things at home or online get too overwhelming.
To conclude, we are in no way promoting that each landed household should have their own walk-out balcony to avoid household matters when they get too staggering. You should not have to build a balcony just to escape your problems. But what we are suggesting is that a walk-out balcony will allow you the access to breathe fresher air and have a change in environment to spur better productivity in the comfort of your own home, especially in such trying times. And if you already have this idea in mind, then all is good to go. We’ll be thrilled if you would also share the result of your construction. As always, if you have any burning questions that you would like to have answered by our team, you can reach out to us here. We’ll see you in our next Insights article!