Defying Gravity with Elegance: A Guide to Designing Steel Floating Staircases (AS1657 Compliant)


Floating staircases have long captivated our imaginations with their ethereal beauty and sense of defying gravity. But for structural engineers, the true magic lies in the meticulous calculations and intricate engineering that bring these architectural marvels to life, especially when adhering to the rigorous guidelines of AS1657.

In this blog, we'll take you on a journey through the fascinating world of steel floating staircase design, demystifying the process while ensuring compliance with AS1657, the Australian Standard for fixed platforms, walkways, stairways, and ladders. Buckle up, and let's explore the steps to crafting a masterpiece that's both breathtaking and structurally sound.

Australia Floating Hanging Staircase Design Reg 126

1. Understanding the AS1657 Framework:

Before diving into the design, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the relevant sections of AS1657, particularly Part 1 (Design principles and general requirements) and Part 4 (Stairways). These sections detail essential parameters like:

  • Minimum tread depth and riser height: For comfortable and safe ascent, AS1657 stipulates a minimum tread depth of 225mm and a maximum riser height of 200mm.
  • Handrail and balustrade requirements: To ensure safety and prevent falls, specific heights and material specifications for handrails and balustrades are outlined.
  • Live and dead load calculations: Accurately calculating the anticipated loads on the staircase, including people, furniture, and potential snow accumulation, is vital for determining the necessary steel structure and foundation strength.

2. Conceptualizing Your Floating Vision:

With the AS1657 groundwork laid, let your creativity soar! Consider the overall aesthetic of your space and the desired functionality of the staircase. Will it be a minimalist masterpiece or a sculptural statement piece? Will it connect two floors or gracefully spiral upwards? We received many enquiries about staircase, and the challenge was to find the good balance between the maximum wall width and the maximum tread width. In this example, we were advised that the client can only allow for max 90mm, which is the width of the timber studs and prefer the maximum 900mm treads.

To an engineer, having only 90mm element supporting a 900mm treads is a challenge. In the past while I was working in UK, they typically fixed into concrete or block walls. It is impossible to fix into timber stud walls so we have to use structural steel. Fortunately, we were told hat as long as everything is hidden within the walls and visually unobstructed, it's ok. We have adopted SPACEGASS in the finite element analysis.

3. Engineering the Steel Symphony:

Now comes the technical magic. Structural engineers will translate your vision into a robust steel framework capable of sustaining the staircase's weight and ensuring its structural integrity. This involves:

  • Choosing the right steel: Selecting the appropriate steel grade and profile based on load calculations and desired aesthetics.
  • Designing the support system: Whether anchoring the staircase to the wall, using tension rods, or creating a self-supporting structure, the support system needs to be meticulously engineered.
  • Considering vibration and deflection: Steel floating staircases can experience slight movement under load. Engineers will account for this through strategic reinforcements and dampening mechanisms.
Australia Floating Hanging Staircase Design Reg 126 modern open AS1657

4. Safety First: Integrating AS1657 Safeguards:

Throughout the design process, remember that safety is paramount. Implement the following AS1657-compliant features:

  • Non-slip treads: Opt for materials like textured steel or timber with anti-slip coatings to prevent slipping, especially on stairs exposed to the elements.
  • Adequate lighting: Ensure proper illumination on the stairs and landings to minimize the risk of accidents.
  • Emergency egress considerations: If the staircase is a primary escape route, factor in emergency lighting and ensure it meets all relevant AS1657 requirements.
SPACEGASS finite element analysis on staircase

5. Bringing Your Vision to Life:

With the structural calculations complete and AS1657 compliance ensured, it's time to witness your vision materialize. Collaborate with skilled fabricators and welders to bring your steel masterpiece to life. Remember, precision and quality craftsmanship are key to achieving a safe and stunning staircase.

SPACEGASS finite element analysis on treads AS1657
The Final Step: Revel in the Reward

As you ascend your very own steel floating staircase, a sense of accomplishment and awe washes over you. You've defied gravity, embraced creative expression, and adhered to the highest safety standards. Your staircase is not just a functional necessity; it's a testament to your vision, the engineer's ingenuity, and the meticulous adherence to AS1657.

Remember, this blog is just a starting point. Consulting with a ArchiEng structural engineer experienced in AS1657 compliance is crucial for ensuring the safety and structural integrity of your steel floating staircase. With careful planning, expert execution, and a commitment to safety, you can create a breathtaking architectural masterpiece that elevates your space in every sense of the word.

So, go forth and conquer the world of steel floating staircases! Just remember, always do it with safety and AS1657 in mind.

If you have very similar design where you wish to construct a 900mm treads floating staircase within a 90mm timber stud walls, you can purchase the package by contacting us quote "Floating Staircase".

Interior Design Floating Staircase Reg 126 stringer treads

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