Breaking down bollard requirements by use and regulatory body

A frequent point of confusion in streetscape construction project planning is parsing out whether bollards are necessary or required.

Owners and specifiers of such projects are likely familiar with the visual and decorative role bollards can play, and they probably also know there are instances when certain kinds of bollards are mandatory and not optional.

But any search for certainty on the subject will reveal that straight answers are still hard to come by. The myriad standards or mandates that end up influencing bollard specification exert that influence indirectly.

Read more to learn about:

  • Industry standards’ and government regulations’ use of the term “barrier” vs. “bollard”
  • How the adoption by government institutions of certain industry standards create barrier requirements which are de facto if not explicitly de jure
  • What applicable ASTM testing methods mean for bollard installation and bollard spacing requirements
  • The ways that public accessibility legislation can drive bollard placement requirements

Use this article to get a better idea of the regulatory patchwork you’re grappling with. To see how this subject fits into bollard specification more broadly, read our in-depth guide here.

Cast iron bollards outside the entry of a mixed-use commercial and residential building.

Are bollards required by code?

A short answer is no, not normally.

Municipal building or traffic safety codes tend to be vague in this regard. Often using the term “barrier,” the codes only reference bollards when they list examples of barrier types. Fences, walls or portable fixtures like jersey barriers also are examples of what constitutes a barrier.

Depending on the nature of a construction project, an applicable building code may mandate the installation of barriers for the purpose of pedestrian safety or protection of assets.

This is where crash-rated bollards come in. A crash rating means a bollard design has been tested to withstand certain vehicle impact conditions. This is described more fully below.

But it isn’t only local authorities (and therefore, local codes of ordinance) that require crash-rated fixtures on certain projects. States and the federal government sometimes require crash ratings for bollards installed as part of streetscape projects as a condition of their award of grants to help cover construction costs. Our advice: Try to pin down as soon as possible whether municipal statutes are in play. A lack of certainty on this point can potentially lead to an incorrect specification. At best, you’ll need to resubmit designs and specs. At worst, you take delivery of products you paid for but cannot use.

How crash ratings determine bollard dimensions and spacing requirements

ASTM F3016 and F2656 define the testing methods that derive crash ratings.

We summarize these in broad strokes below, but if your project requires fixtures that meet crash ratings, you should always consult the full text of the standards.

ASTM F3016 assesses how well a fixture withstands the impact from a 5,000-pound vehicle traveling at low- to medium-speeds (from 10 to 30 miles per hour).

The term to know is “penetration ratings.” A P1 rating means bollards do not allow a vehicle to pass more than one foot past the boundary they create. A P2 rating denotes penetration of four feet or less. Specific project requirements should dictate which penetration rating is needed.

Stainless steel safety bollards on school grounds.

ASTM F2656 covers more intense impacts from vehicles up to 15,000 pounds traveling from 30 to 50 miles per hour. A more complex standard, F2656 also contains penetration ratings, but the ratings are described in two categories.

ASTM originally developed the “M”-ratings to cover bigger vehicles at higher speeds. The F2656 standard also features “K”-ratings, which refer to testing criteria initially developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for barriers that protect sensitive government sites.

Penetration distance under the “M” and “K” ratings are very similar; ASTM assumed the publication and maintenance of “K” ratings once the U.S. Department of Defense stopped doing this on its own.

The ASTM standards note that bollards should be spaced such that there are no more than 48 inches between the inside edges of neighboring bollards. No standard suggests the best height for a bollard. BollardsUSA manufactures safety bollards from 31.5 inches to 48 inches tall. It is worth noting that crash-rated bollards require more intensive installation involving pouring concrete below ground. This makes them a more costly option. Owners and specifiers should understand whether they really need crash-rated bollards, or if “protection” can be achieved simply by creating a visual barrier. If it’s the latter, you can save money because decorative fixtures are easier and cheaper to install.

Other ways the law impacts bollard selection and installation

Crash ratings are not the only way that local, state and federal statutes have a hand in determining how bollards fit into a construction project.

Here’s a quick summary:

Any government institution that has imposed upon itself a mandate to build to International Building Code standards must install barriers that meet IBC requirements in any location the code specifies.  Remember that “barriers” in this case — and in every case listed below — includes bollards.

The same is true for any public institution that has bound itself to meeting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes. NFPA requires barriers to protect outdoor storage containers of flammable or explosive material, as well as above-ground pipelines or other similar infrastructure.

Any environment subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules must have safety bollards installed according to provisions in the OSHA act. You’ll find these in parking lots or beside loading docks, for example.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects accessibility to any building or space owned by any government entity, as well as private commercial and non-profit organization properties employing 15 or more people. ADA rules pertaining to bollards or other barriers state that these cannot be placed in a way that would obstruct access along designated pathways.

A little-known precursor to the ADA, the Architectural Barriers Act, also prohibits the placement of barriers in a way that restricts accessibility. This 1968 law covers federal sites as well as any other private or non-profit entity that received federal funding for construction projects.

As you can see in the latter two examples, owners and specifiers must also know where they can and cannot place bollards or any barrier irrespective of whether a project requires them.

Once you know what you need, tell us and we’ll build them

In addition to providing products that meet your project’s functional criteria, the BollardsUSA foundry team offers more product customizations so you can be sure that the fixtures you install look as great as they perform.

Request a quote here, or contact us if you want to talk in more depth about your project.

And we love an old-fashioned phone call, too. A real person answers when you dial 1-502-554-1178.