The maximum weight load for an apartment balcony is determined by the size of the balcony, the building material used, and the type of structural supports, according to city building code regulations.
Balcony Collapse Dangers
Chicago building codes enforce minimum and maximum weight loads for balconies, porches, and decks used for public structures, including apartment buildings. Maximum weight loads are determined according to balcony size, building materials, and structural supports. Strict regulations are enforced to prevent severe injuries and fatalities for multiple occupants. Research shows that a balcony collapse from a third-floor apartment building only provides a 50 percent chance of survival. As the height of the balcony increases, survival rates drop significantly with each floor.
In 2015, a balcony collapsed at a Berkeley, California apartment complex killing 6 students and injuring seven others. The balcony, located on the 5th floor, was holding a large group of people celebrating a birthday party. Following an investigation, the cause of the collapse was determined to be dry rot which compromised the structural integrity of the balcony. Further investigations showed that contractors attempted to cut building costs by using the wrong materials.
In 2003, a balcony collapse in Chicago marked the deadliest collapse in U.S. history. At the time of the collapse, there were at least 50 people, as well as beer kegs and ice chests on the wooden structure. The balcony was located on the 3rd floor of the apartment building. When it collapsed it took down lower balconies on the 1st and 2nd floors below, sending a total of 150 people crashing to the ground. The result was 13 deaths and 51 serious injuries.
An investigation showed that overcrowding, poor construction, and negligent building owners caused the collapse. The balcony was 11 feet wide, one foot larger than city codes permitted. It also had undersized lengths of wood used for flooring, inadequate structural supports, and screws that were too short to hold. Although Chicago city inspectors inspected the site more than five times, the owners were never cited for code violations.
Balconies collapse for a variety of reasons, but overcrowding and lack of adequate structural support are the main reasons. Slip and fall lawyers commonly see personal injuries such as lacerations, broken bones, and head injuries caused by loose balcony railings. If a railing gives way, a sudden fall from a 3rd, 4th, or 5th story balcony can easily result in death.