Monolith and
Totem Signage

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There is no better way of making your mark and showcasing your brand than implementing a prominent Freestanding Totem or Monolith sign at your commercial property. Astra Signs are able to manufacture to any scale, dependent on site position & planning permissions. This sign type is ideal for providing immediate recognition of your business, providing the essential information required on the customer journey.

Our monolith signs can be single-sided, double-sided, flat, curved and triangular or we can develop a  completely bespoke design including any internal illumination required. Additional specialist elements  may be integrated into the structure such as a High resolution Digital Screen. 

Freestanding Totems & Monolith Signage

When considering any planning application for signage, thought should be given to how it is viewed  within the street scene. One sign on its own may have a minimal impact however many signs together  may add to a negative and confusing street scape. Astra signs employ competent, trained sign  designers whom may offer clear guidance on an individual illuminated signs based on its own  individual environment.

The terminology of Totem and Monolith in the signage community is somewhat ambiguous at Astra  Signs we tend to describe these as a freestanding sign in excess of 2.5m in height that is detached  from a building and is supported by one or more structural Steel sections which are architecturally  similar to the design of the sign.

What is the current standard that applies to the Manufacture of Totems and Monoliths?

BS 559 is the current British Standard for the Design, project management, manufacture, installation,  inspection and maintenance of signs, excluding road traffic, safety, fire safety, trackside railway or  airside airport signs. This British Standard specifies requirements for the design, project management,  manufacture, installation, inspection and maintenance of interior or exterior signs compliant with  European standards for safety and sustainability. It applies to illuminated and non-illuminated, fixed or  portable signs, and to advertising or decorative devices using the same techniques, including digital  display. It applies to interior or exterior, permanent, illuminated or non-illuminated sign elements.

As a Totem or Monolith sign is manufactured using a combination of components with differing  thermal expansion and there are further considerations and processes covered by individual  standards as detailed: 

BS 7671, Requirements for electrical installations – IET Wiring Regulations  

BS EN 1090-2:2008 Execution of steel structures and aluminium structures. Technical requirements  for the execution of steel structures  

BS EN 1396, Aluminium and aluminium alloys – Coil coated sheet and strip for general applications – Specifications  

BS EN 1991-1-4, Eurocode 1 – Actions on structures – Part 1-4: General actions – Wind actions  (including the National Annex)  

BS EN 50107-1, Signs and luminous-discharge-tube installations operating from a no-load rated  output voltage exceeding 1 kV but not exceeding 10 kV – Part 1: General requirements  

BS EN1997-1 for Geotechnical design 

BS EN1997-2 for ground investigation and testing

How is the Totem or Monolith Designed?

The proposed signage is subject to various stages of graphic and structural design, a Sign Designer  is not a Structural engineer and as such all Totems and Monoliths are subject to the requirement for  structural calculations by a qualified company with adequate Insurance cover. 

Initially the proposed Installation position in the UK is reviewed as each area is subject to differing  wind loadings. The imposed wind load for an external sign or an internal sign that is subjected to wind shall be calculated in accordance with EN 1991-1-4 such that the sign withstands the wind load at the  site of installation.

The maximum allowable deflection is +/- 0.02*(sign height) subject to there being adequate clearance  to other structures. The temporary deflection of the sign or part of the sign shall not cause any part of  the sign to fail, be dislodged, exceed the sign material plastic limit or become unsafe during its service  life.

Is Astra Signs Ltd Qualified for BS EN 1090?

Yes, Astra Signs Ltd currently hold a Certificate of Registration for BSEN 1090- 1:2009 + A1:2011

How does EN1090 effect the sign manufacturer when designing a Totem or Monolith?

As with many Standards there is no specific reference within the Standard to directly relate to the sign  industry. Therefore, it is the inference within the textual body of the standard that implies the inclusion  of sign and sign related products that the industry may supply.

BS EN 1090 specifically relates to the welded fabrication of steel & aluminium structures which are  bolted down (freestanding) or secured to a building structure and subject to any load.

How do you determine what is covered by the Standard?

Common sense needs to be applied rather than adhering to the absolute fact. In simple terms one has  to consider the consequence of damage or injury to human life if the structure were to fail. By applying  this logic, it is reasonable to say that a small freestanding structure measuring say 2000mm x 500mm  set within an area away from pedestrian traffic is not likely to cause serious damage or injury to human  life if the structure were to fail. However, a freestanding structure measuring 5000mm x 1500mm set  within an area close to roadways or pedestrian pathways is more likely to cause serious injury if the  structure were to fail.

The Standard not only applies to freestanding structures but any structure that is secured to a building  fabric to provide support for a sign fabrication to be affixed upon it. Therefore, any steel or aluminium  fabrication i.e., bracketry or ladder-frames that are subject to any load must be manufactured in  accordance with BS EN 1090. It must be stressed that the risk of damage or injury to human life must  be the key factor to determine compliance with the Standard.

To be accredited to BS EN 1090 is a stringent undertaking and entails the traceability of materials used,  the qualifications of the welders and welding procedures and the subsequent paper trail to demonstrate  compliance to be able to UKCA mark the product. 

Once the signage is completed the documents regarding construction must also be manged in  accordance with the standard as detailed: 

a) BS/EN 1090 compliance records

b) UKCA Marking records

c) Certificates of Conformity

d) Appropriate electrical markings as specified in BS EN 50107 Parts 1 and 3, as appropriate

e) As- built construction drawings

f) COSHH datasheets

What if there is a requirement for the delivery to many sites across the UK?

In the case of multiple site installations basic wind speed (Vbmap m/s), effective type of terrain,  elevation and distance to coast or open water, where applicable, shall be agreed with the purchaser also Consideration shall be given to the possibility of snow load and the necessary action taken.

When the signage is in the Design stage how is the impact on the Environment managed?

Throughout the process the sign designer, manufacturer and installer shall consider all aspects of  environmental issues associated with sign making, including

a) Raw material sourcing, carbon footprint, shipping miles and recycling at end of life

b) Optimal design for material use and minimising waste

c) Optimal design for energy efficiency

d) Energy efficient production methods and factory

e) Minimising the use of hazardous materials or processes and effective material recycling rather than disposal

 f) Energy efficient transportation

How is a Freestanding Sign Foundation developed?

As these signs are Freestanding they will also require adequate Foundations – in determining the type  and dimensions of foundations for a free-standing sign consideration shall include, but may not be  limited to: 

a) the founding material

b) ground water depth

c) existing trees

d) location of existing buried services

e) frost depth

f) Bases may require reinforcing to accommodate bending effects in the concrete

g) The maximum bearing pressure is dependent upon specific site ground conditions.

h) Typically, firm clay has a minimum safe bearing capacity of 76kN/m2 whilst unidentified made up ground could be less than 38kN/m2.

i) Concrete foundations shall be designed for the effects of factored loading.

j) When calculating foundation bearing stress the eccentric load effect shall be considered.

k) Where holding-down bolts are used, they shall be designed for the effects of factored loading and be anchored into the foundation by use of suitable anchor plates or by an embedded steel cage compliant with ETAG 001. 

l) Expanding and resin grouted anchors may be used, provided that it can be demonstrated that the required performance can be achieved in accordance with manufactures recommendations

m) Base plates shall be either tightened down to the top of the foundation or, if raised off the top of the foundation for the purposes of levelling, shall be grouted beneath. Correct Torque measurements should be documented for future Inspection. 

n) Welded mesh reinforcement to be calculated and specified by design engineer.


As with all of our installations, we would advise on a full site survey prior to any work being carried out. To discuss your plans for you totem signs, contact us today to discuss your requirements at