Extending the balcony season

As more and more people live in apartment buildings, the role of the balcony needs more scrutiny.

Many Ottawa builders, including luxury brands like Charlesfort, aim for the smallest sellable bit of concrete. Others, like Brocolinni, aim to provide exactly the “average” Ottawa balcony size. Alas, we see no sign of the inventiveness and livability of their latest Montreal buildings, where large and usable balconies are prominent.

In a number of US cities, and occasionally in Toronto, I see careful balcony crafting by developers, who provide lower floor units with balconies that are terraces, and gradually decreasing balcony sizes as the floors go up and the utility of balconies declines due to cold and wind.

The larger balcony spaces offers an additional amenity to lower floor units that may have lesser views. I notice Domicile  beefs up the ceiling heights and balcony sizes of lower floor units.

You have to look hard in Ottawa to find larger balcony spaces, but they are findable. Claridge on LeBreton Flats offers numerous variations in balcony size from the cigarette butt size to room for gathering around a table.


Ground floor walk-off balconies are also getting better, and useful.

Where the weather is really nice year round very big balconies are fun, but in Ottawa these balconies might darken the interiors:

Then there is the Bosco Verticale, written about extensively elsewhere on this blog:

I have seen balconies with giant venetian blinds on them to control sun and shading. And sliding trellises. And even double glass balcony railings, so with the push of a button one of the lower railings rises up on a track to sit atop the remaining glass railing, to completely enclose the balcony.

Back in Ottawa, I notice a pair of condos out near Hurdman, one of which permits folding acrylic panels on the balconies. Judging by the proliferation of these, residents feel extending the sitting out season is worth the cost. The second tower has … none.

The balcony enclosures shown above are not four season as they are not heatable; air must circulate to let the balcony cement dry. But when that early spring sun comes out, the glazing blocks the wind and makes stepping out joyous.


3 thoughts on “Extending the balcony season

  1. My limited experience in living in a downtown Ottawa Condo with a balcony is as follows:
    1) Netting is needed to prevent pigeons pooping on the balcony.
    2) Outdoor balconies are nice for fresh air, but traffic and street noise cancel this benefit at lower floor levels
    3) Glass enclosed balconies are nice for 4 season enjoyment,provided the windows can be opened, but south facing ones can be a furnace in summer.

    Overall having a balcony is better than not having one, even if it is used only occasionally

  2. Precisely. I had a second story condo; all the balcony surfaces were continually coated with soot from OCTranspo. Not usable, and made the room noticeably darker.

  3. Balconies are really the backyards of “apartment dwellers” (sorry, condo owners). Much like back yards they come in various sizes and charms. If one is concerned about using one’s “outdoor” space, that must be part of the selection process and decision making. Level, privacy, orientation size and access are all factors. Lower levels have the dust and soot issue, and higher levels are often too windy. But there is no doubt, stepping out, even if only seldom, gives one a great feeling, especially with a pleasant view.
    The wonderful “gardens” in the Italian examples are of course impossible in Ottawa, unless you transform the balcony into a winter garden, by enclosing it. This is an option obviously chosen by many Canadians. Developers will react to customer wishes, once a large enough proportion of condo owners or apartment renters make their views known. With the trend of passing on heating and cooling equipment and operating costs to individual units, balconies have also become handy functional “outdoor spaces”.

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