Parapets: A Permanent Multi-purpose Barrier

ParapetsWe all see parapets in our day-to-day lives. It refers to any structure that juts out above the roof or some other architectural structure.

Parapets are usually made of cement and serve as an extension of an existing wall. Since the area is not protected by roofing sheets, many builders choose to cover parapets with aluminium coping. This keeps water from seeping into the substrate of the building.

Parapets in the Past

When people think of parapets, the first thing that comes to mind is embattled parapets or panelled parapets. They are a common sight in England, especially among old churches and medieval castles.

Embattled parapets give old fortresses their distinct look. Placed atop the wall, the parapets are interspersed with crenels or gaps. These structures provide cover for archers while the crenels allow them to shoot their crossbows and arrows between the stone.

Perhaps the most famous example of embattled parapets is the ones found on top of the Tower of London. This fortress is a paradigm of medieval military architecture.

Modern Parapets

As the times change, so does the architecture. Now that England no longer has to worry about warring kingdoms and grizzled archers, the purpose of parapets have become less militaristic. They are still used primarily for safety, but also lends itself well as a decorative element.

  • Firewall parapets Building Act 1707 required the use of parapets to serve as a firewall. It first came into effect in the 1700s after fires swept the city of London. Modern building codes also required the use of firewall parapets to prevent the spread of fire from one roof to another.
  • Bridge parapets – Bridge parapets are permanent structures found atop bridges and other structures with a lot of foot traffic. They prevent people from falling.
  • Parapet roofs – Parapet roofs were originally made for use as a firewall, but they also have a distinct decorative element. They hid the appearance of a sloping roof by giving the illusion of a flat roof.
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Parapets are a truly multi-purpose structure. It improves safety and makes a building look more aesthetically pleasing.