REPLACEABLE PANEL FENCING SYSTEMS AND METHODS

Replaceable fence systems, methods, etc., include at least first and second vertical posts, a bottom rail coupled to the first and second posts and typically having a channel on an upper surface of the bottom rail, and a removable top rail positioned above the bottom rail and coupled to the first and second posts and having a channel on a lower surface of the top rail. The posts and rails are configured to replaceably accept, retain and disgorge replaceable fence panels, typically using a plurality of connection joints that permit the panels to be held at differing, adjustable heights and angles from one post to the next. Each of the channels can include a flexible centering insert configured to accept a variety of thicknesses of replaceable panels.

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Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority from United States provisional patent application No. Ser. No. 60/854,542, filed 25 Oct. 2006, which is incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all their teachings and disclosures.

BACKGROUND

Manufactured fences have been known for many years. However, conventional fencing systems typically do not permit the easy replacement of fence panels in order to address durability, appearance and/or design issues. Furthermore, conventional fencing systems typically are designed to use fence panels of a fixed thickness and do not permit the use of fence panels having a variety of thicknesses. In addition, conventional fencing systems typically do not conform to changes in the level of terrain while maintaining the fence panels in a desired position.

One or more of these and/or other issues are addressed by the embodiments discussed herein.

SUMMARY

The present systems, devices and methods, etc., are related to replaceable fences. The replaceable fence systems include at least two posts, typically vertical, each typically comprising at least one lower connection joint and at least one upper connection joint, each connection joint attached to or integral with the vertical post and/or a replaceable fence panel. For each vertical post, at least one lower fence panel support element is configured to attach to the lower connection joint and to releasably hold a lower portion of at least one replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post. For each vertical post, at least one upper fence panel support element is configured to attach to the upper connection joint and to releasably hold an upper portion of the replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post. The replaceable fence panel includes the lower portion and the upper portion, wherein the replaceable fence panel is configured to be releasably held, respectively, by the lower fence panel support elements and the upper fence panel support elements at a desired height and desired angle determined individually relative to each of the vertical posts. In this and other embodiments, unless expressly stated otherwise or clear from the context, all embodiments, aspects, features, etc., can be mixed and matched, combined and permuted in any desired manner.

In another embodiment, the systems, methods, etc., include at least first and second vertical posts, a bottom rail coupled to the first and second posts and typically having a channel on an upper surface of the bottom rail, and a removable top rail positioned above the bottom rail and coupled to the first and second posts and having a channel on a lower surface of the top rail. The posts and rails are configured to replaceably accept, retain and disgorge replaceable fence panels, typically using a plurality of connection joints that permit the panels to be held at differing, adjustable heights and angles from one post to the next. Each of the channels can include a flexible centering insert configured to accept a variety of thicknesses of replaceable panels.

In one aspect, the systems, devices, methods, etc., herein can include a replaceable fence system, comprising: at least two vertical posts each comprising at least one lower connection joint and at least one upper connection joint, each connection joint attached to or integral with the vertical post; for each vertical post, at least one lower fence panel support element configured to attach to the lower connection joint and to releasably hold a lower portion of at least one replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post; for each vertical post, at least one upper fence panel support element configured to attach to the upper connection joint and to releasably hold an upper portion of the replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post; and the replaceable fence panel comprising the lower portion and the upper portion, The replaceable fence panel can be configured to be releasably held, respectively, by the lower fence panel support elements and the upper fence panel support elements at a desired height and desired angle determined individually relative to each to the vertical posts.

The lower fence panel support elements can comprise the two ends of a bottom rail extending between the two vertical posts, the bottom rail comprising a channel disposed in an upper surface of the bottom rail and sized to receive the replaceable fence panel, and the upper fence panel support elements can comprise the two ends of an upper rail extending between the two vertical posts, the upper rail comprising an upper channel disposed in a lower surface of the upper rail and sized to receive the replaceable fence panel. The lower and upper connection joints each can comprise a substantially round joint extending away from the vertical post and configured to join with a corresponding socket or channel in a side of the replaceable fence panel. The substantially round joint can be a substantially round ball, a substantially round disc or otherwise as desired. The connection joint can be vertically moveable relative to its vertical post to be positioned at multiple heights along the first vertical post such that the desired height and the desired angle can be variable relative to each of the vertical posts and can be set differently for each of the vertical posts.

The connection joints can allow the corresponding rail to rotate in both a horizontal and a vertical direction. The channels in each of the bottom rail and the upper rail can include a flexible centering element configured to accept and center a plurality of thicknesses of replaceable panels. The flexible centering element can comprise an insert comprising a flexible strip material attached to the corresponding channel, can comprise the walls of the channel or be otherwise configured as desired. The flexible strip material can comprise rubber, metal or plastic. The vertical posts can comprise a vertical channel can be coupled to the corresponding connection joints.

A mounting plate can be coupled to a bottom end of each post. The mounting plates can be configured to provide multiple connection angles between the mounting plate and the corresponding post. And a top cap can be coupled to a top end of each post. The replaceable fence system can further comprise, a middle fence panel support element comprising a middle rail positioned between the lower and upper fence panel support elements, the middle rail can be coupled to the vertical posts, and having a channel on both a lower and an upper surface of the middle rail. The middle rail channels can include a flexible centering element configured to accept and center a variety of thicknesses of replaceable panels. The lower fence panel support elements and the one upper fence panel support elements can be integral with the replaceable fence panel and project from the replaceable fence panel into corresponding detents in the vertical posts. The system further can comprise a plurality of different replaceable fence panels having at least one of different widths, materials or aesthetic features.

In another aspect, the present methods, systems, etc., include a replaceable fence system, comprising: first and second vertical posts; a bottom rail having a channel on an upper surface of the bottom rail configured to accept a variety of replaceable fence panels; a top rail positioned above the bottom rail and having a channel on a lower surface of the top rail configured to accept a variety of panels; first and second articulating connection joints respectively coupling the bottom rail to the first and second posts; and, third and fourth articulating connection joints respectively coupling the top rail to the first and second posts. The articulating connection joints can allow for multiple connection angles between the corresponding rail and post in both a horizontal and a vertical direction, and can allow for multiple connection heights between the corresponding rail and post. The connection joints can comprise a ball and socket feature, the posts can be configured to provide multiple connection points for each of the corresponding articulating connection joints, and the posts can comprise a vertical channel can be coupled to the corresponding articulating connection joints. The system can further comprise a middle rail positioned between the bottom and top rails and having a channel on both a lower and an upper surface of the middle rail configured to accept a variety of panels; and fifth and sixth articulating connection joints respectively coupling the middle rail to the first and second posts,

In another aspect, the present devices, etc., provide connection joint for a replaceable fence system, comprising a substantially round joint extending away from a base, the base configured to slidably engage a vertical channel in at least one of a fence post or a corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the base can be held at a plurality of heights within the channel, and the substantially round joint configured to releasably engage a detent in the other of the fence post and the corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the fence post or replaceable fence panel can be held at a plurality of angles, both horizontal and vertical, relative to the base. The base can be substantially square or rectangular and the substantially round joint further can comprise two substantially opposed projections extending substantially laterally from the round joint such that the weight of the replaceable fence panel bears on the projections. The substantially round joint can be a substantially round ball, a substantially round disc or otherwise as desired.

In a further aspect, the present devices, etc., provide fence posts and/or replaceable fence panels comprising at least one connection joint, the connection joint comprising a substantially round joint extending away from the fence post, the substantially round ball joint configured to releasably engage a detent in a corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the replaceable fence panel can be held at a plurality of angles relative to the fence post. The plurality of angles can comprise both horizontal and vertical angles, and the connection joint can be slidably engaged to the fence post to slide substantially axially along the fence post such that the replaceable fence panel can be maintained at a plurality of heights along the fence post.

In still a further aspect, the present discussion provides methods of making, using, adjusting, etc., a replaceable fence system. Such methods can comprise, providing at least two fence posts; placing a first replaceable fence panel between the two fence posts and releasably connecting the first replaceable fence panel to the two vertical fence posts to create a fence; permitting the fence to remain in position as a fence for an extended period; removing the first replaceable fence panel from the two fence posts; and, placing a second replaceable fence panel between the two fence posts and releasably connecting the second replaceable fence panel to the two vertical fence posts to create a fence.

The methods further can comprise providing at least one additional fence post and placing at least one additional replaceable fence panel between one of the first two fence posts and the additional fence post. The first replaceable fence panel can be placed at a different height and a different angle relative to the intervening fence post compared to the first replaceable fence panel. The different height(s) and the different angle(s) can be effected via a connection joint comprising a substantially round joint releasably connecting the fence post and the replaceable fence panel. The substantially round joint further can comprise a that can be base can be substantially square or rectangular and at least two substantially opposed projections extending substantially laterally from the round joint such that the weight of the replaceable fence panel bears on the projections. The substantially round joint can be slidably connected to at least one of the fence post and the replaceable fence panel and the different height between the panels can be effected by sliding the substantially round joint to the desired level.

These and other aspects, features and embodiments are set forth within this application, including the following Detailed Description and attached drawings. In addition, various references are set forth herein, including in the Cross-Reference To Related Applications, that discuss certain systems, apparatus, methods and other information; all such references are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all their teachings and disclosures, regardless of where the references may appear in this application.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of a top/bottom rail according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 2A is a side view of a base plate of a post according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 2B is a top view of a base plate of a post according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 3 is a side view of a top cap for a post according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 4A is a side view of a post according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 4B is a top view of a post according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIGS. 5A-C are various plan views of an articulating connector joint according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 6 is a side view of a fence system according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 7 is a top view of a fence system according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 8 is a side view of rail connection angles according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

FIG. 9 is a side view of a non-articulating connector joint in a fence system according to an embodiment of the devices, methods and systems herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present devices, methods, etc., herein provide approaches for replaceable fencing. In one aspect, the replaceable panel fencing systems discussed herein comprise a post and panel support system that can be used to create fences, railings, gates, doors, dividers, enclosures and other similar uses. The system comprises rigid or semi-rigid rails, tongues, projections (or other panel support elements) that hold replaceable fence panels such as full panels and pickets of various styles, materials, and thicknesses. The panels are mounted with a connection joint between the post and panel that rigidly or variably holds the panel to the post, at a set or variety of angles and/or heights. The rails and posts are configured to cooperatively permit easy replacement of panels held by the rails and/or posts, and to maintain the panels in a desired position despite changes in the level of the terrain (e.g., up or down), angling from one panel to the next, or otherwise as desired.

The posts, rails and connection joints of the system may be constructed from a wide variety of materials or combination of materials. These include, but are not limited to: various alloys of steel including mild steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel; various alloys of aluminum; plastics; fiberglass; rubber; and other materials that can hold the weight and load of a wide variety of panels. The various materials can be produced in a variety of ways including, but not limited to: roll-forming, extruding, casting, cold or hot forming, welding, gluing, molding, and milling.

Referring to the exemplary embodiment in FIG. 1, the rails 10 of the system may be configured to hold a wide variety of thicknesses and types of fence panels and pickets without permanent fasteners (releasable fasteners can be used if desired). Fence panels 12 may include, but are not limited to: wood, plastic, glass, fiberglass, metal, stone, stucco, foam and laminated boards, panels, pickets, and any combination of these. The rails 10 may have a flexible centering element such as the sides of the channels 13 or an insert 14 within channel 13 that holds different thicknesses and types of panel material 12 securely in the rails. The flexible centering insert 14 is typically either the channel itself or a rubber, plastic, metal or other flexible strip material attached to the rail 10 that conforms to the fence panels 12. The lower (or bottom) support elements may be configured to hold the panel off the ground and provide drainage of water from around the panel material. The upper (or top) support elements hold the panel securely and may be removable for panel replacement. Optional middle rails add strength and allow for multiple combinations of panels to be used.

Referring to FIGS. 2A-2B, the posts 20 of the system may be configured to connect to the ground or other supporting structure in a variety of ways including, but not limited to: direct burial in the ground; set in concrete filled holes; and welded, fastened or bolted to a supporting structure. The posts 20 may also have a bottom plate 22 that bolts, fastens or is welded to a mounting plate that is designed to accommodate a wide variety of post placement angles.

Referring to FIG. 3, the posts 20 may accommodate a wide variety of top caps 30 including, but not limited to: pressed; cast; molded; machined steel, aluminum, or plastic. The top caps 30 may be attached to the posts 20 in a variety of methods including, but not limited to: glue, bolts, screws, pressed, or adhesive.

Referring to FIGS. 4A-4B, the posts 20 may be configured to allow the rails 10 to connect to the post at a variety of heights or levels. The posts 20 may have axial, e.g., vertical, channels 40 or other features such that a connection joint 42 or connection portion of the panel can slide into or connect onto the post at any desired point along the height of the post. In one embodiment, the joint 42 can have at least two opposed projections 44 extending substantially laterally from the round joint such that the weight of the replaceable fence panel bears on the projections.

At least two styles of connection joints/portions are available with this fencing system. Referring to FIGS. 5A-8, the connection joints may incorporate a ball connector device 50 with the ball 46 sized for a socket or other detent, the ball connector device 50 comprising a substantially round ball 46 extending away from a base 48 that attaches solidly and typically slidably to the post 20 at various locations and allows the rails 10 to be attached at a variety of articulated angles and/or heights to the post. The articulating connection joints 50 are designed to allow a connection from the rails 10 to the posts 20 at multiple angles which allows the system to accommodate a variety of terrain slopes and features, as well as a variety of layout configurations. If desired, ball connector device 50 can comprise a round disk 49 instead of the round ball 46. Other geometric configurations for the connection joint can also be usefully employed, such as rods, cylinders, cones, ovate projections, etc. Similarly, the base plate 48 can be rectangular or square, or any other desired configuration such as ovate, semi-spherical, etc.

Referring to FIG. 9, the system may also have non-articulating connection joints 90 that may be welded, screwed, bolted, glued, or other means of solidly attaching the rails 10 to upright posts 20 for situations that require them such as constructing gates or free standing divider panels with this system. In such systems, it may be advantageous to have set screw holes 70 or other positioning elements to enhance the attachment; typically the positioning elements are removable such as screws or bolts so that the positioning can be altered as desired. In situations where the position of the connection joint 50 is intended to be permanent relative to the post 20, then permanent positioning elements such as glues or welding can be useful. In addition, if desired, the joint itself can be non-articulating as in the upper right feature of FIG. 9, where rail 10 is welded to post 20 at weld 80 and configured to receive a replaceable panel(s) (not shown in this figure); typically, such welds or other permanent connections of panel support element to the post is at the connection of the lower panel support element(s) to the posts so that the panels can be removed and replaced by lifting and lowering, although other configurations can be used if desired.

The scope of the present devices, systems and methods, etc., includes both means plus function and step plus function concepts. However, the claims are not to be interpreted as indicating a “means plus function” relationship unless the word “means” is specifically recited in a claim, and are to be interpreted as indicating a “means plus function” relationship where the word “means” is specifically recited in a claim. Similarly, the claims are not to be interpreted as indicating a “step plus function” relationship unless the word “step” is specifically recited in a claim, and are to be interpreted as indicating a “step plus function” relationship where the word “means” is specifically recited in a claim.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that, although specific embodiments have been discussed herein for purposes of illustration, various modifications may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the discussion herein. Accordingly, the systems and methods, etc., include such modifications as well as all permutations and combinations of the subject matter set forth herein and are not limited except as by the appended claims or other claim having adequate support in the discussion herein.

Claims

1. A replaceable fence system, comprising:

at least two vertical posts each comprising at least one lower connection joint and at least one upper connection joint, each connection joint attached to or integral with the vertical post;
for each vertical post, at least one lower fence panel support element configured to attach to the lower connection joint and to releasably hold a lower portion of at least one replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post;
for each vertical post, at least one upper fence panel support element configured to attach to the upper connection joint and to releasably hold an upper portion of the replaceable fence panel, thereby releasably holding the replaceable fence panel to the vertical post; and
the replaceable fence panel comprising the lower portion and the upper portion, wherein the replaceable fence panel is configured to be releasably held, respectively, by the lower fence panel support elements and the upper fence panel support elements at a desired height and desired angle determined individually relative to each to the vertical posts.

2. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein the lower fence panel support elements comprise the two ends of a bottom rail extending between the two vertical posts, the bottom rail comprising a channel disposed in an upper surface of the bottom rail and sized to receive the replaceable fence panel, and the upper fence panel support elements comprise the two ends of an upper rail extending between the two vertical posts, the upper rail comprising an upper channel disposed in a lower surface of the upper rail and sized to receive the replaceable fence panel.

3. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein the lower and upper connection joints each comprise a substantially round joint extending away from the vertical post and configured to join with a corresponding socket or channel in a side of the replaceable fence panel.

4. The replaceable fence system of claim 3 wherein the substantially round joint is a substantially round ball.

5. The replaceable fence system of claim 3 wherein the substantially round joint is a substantially round disc.

6. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein each connection joint is vertically moveable relative to its vertical post to be positioned at multiple heights along the first vertical post such that the desired height and the desired angle are variable relative to each of the vertical posts and can be set differently for each of the vertical posts.

7. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein each of the connection joints allows the corresponding rail to rotate in both a horizontal and a vertical direction.

8. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein the channels in each of the bottom rail and the upper rail include a flexible centering element configured to accept and center a plurality of thicknesses of replaceable panels.

9. The replaceable fence system of claim 8, wherein the flexible centering element comprises an insert comprising a flexible strip material attached to the corresponding channel.

10. The replaceable fence system of claim 8, wherein the flexible centering element comprises the walls of the channel.

11. (canceled)

12. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein each of the vertical posts comprises a vertical channel coupled to the corresponding connection joints.

13. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 further comprising a mounting plate coupled to a bottom end of each post.

14. The replaceable fence system of claim 13, wherein each of the mounting plates is configured to provide multiple connection angles between the mounting plate and the corresponding post.

15. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 further comprising a top cap coupled to a top end of each post.

16. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 further comprising:

a middle fence panel support element comprising a middle rail positioned between the lower and upper fence panel support elements, the middle rail coupled to the vertical posts, and having a channel on both a lower and an upper surface of the middle rail, wherein each of the middle rail channels includes a flexible centering element configured to accept and center a variety of thicknesses of replaceable panels.

17. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein the lower fence panel support elements and the one upper fence panel support elements are integral with the replaceable fence panel and project from the replaceable fence panel into corresponding detents in the vertical posts.

18. The replaceable fence system of claim 1 wherein the system further comprises a plurality of different replaceable fence panels having at least one of different widths, materials or aesthetic features.

19. A replaceable fence system, comprising:

first and second vertical posts;
a bottom rail having a channel on an upper surface of the bottom rail configured to accept a variety of replaceable fence panels;
a top rail positioned above the bottom rail and having a channel on a lower surface of the top rail configured to accept a variety of panels;
first and second articulating connection joints respectively coupling the bottom rail to the first and second posts; and
third and fourth articulating connection joints respectively coupling the top rail to the first and second posts,
wherein each of the articulating connection joints allow for multiple connection angles between the corresponding rail and post in both a horizontal and a vertical direction, and allow for multiple connection heights between the corresponding rail and post.

20. The replaceable fence system of claim 19 wherein each of the connection joints comprises a ball and socket feature.

21. The replaceable fence system of claim 19, wherein each of the posts is configured to provide multiple connection points for each of the corresponding articulating connection joints.

22-25. (canceled)

26. The replaceable fence system of claim 19 wherein the channels in each of the bottom rail and the upper rail include a flexible centering insert configured to accept a plurality of thicknesses of replaceable panels.

27. (canceled)

28. The replaceable fence system of claim 19 further comprising:

a middle rail positioned between the bottom and top rails and having a channel on both a lower and an upper surface of the middle rail configured to accept a variety of panels; and
fifth and sixth articulating connection joints respectively coupling the middle rail to the first and second posts,
wherein each of the articulating connection joints allows for multiple connection angles between the corresponding rail and post in both a horizontal and a vertical direction.

29. A connection joint for a replaceable fence system, comprising a substantially round joint extending away from a base, the base configured to slidably engage a vertical channel in at least one of a fence post or a corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the base can be held at a plurality of heights within the channel, and the substantially round joint configured to releasably engage a detent in the other of the fence post and the corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the fence post or replaceable fence panel can be held at a plurality of angles, both horizontal and vertical, relative to the base.

30. The connection joint of claim 29 wherein the base is substantially square or rectangular and the substantially round joint further comprises two substantially opposed projections extending substantially laterally from the round joint such that the weight of the replaceable fence panel bears on the projections.

31-33. (canceled)

34. A fence post comprising at least one connection joint, the connection joint comprising a substantially round joint extending away from the fence post, the substantially round ball joint configured to releasably engage a detent in a corresponding replaceable fence panel such that the replaceable fence panel can be held at a plurality of angles relative to the fence post.

35. The fence post of claim 34 wherein the plurality of angles comprise both horizontal and vertical angles.

36. The fence post of claim 34 wherein the connection joint is slidably engaged to the fence post to slide substantially axially along the fence post such that the replaceable fence panel can be maintained at a plurality of heights along the fence post.

37-38. (canceled)

39. A replaceable fence panel comprising at least one connection joint, the connection joint comprising a substantially round joint extending away from the replaceable fence panel, the substantially round joint configured to releasably engage a detent in a corresponding fence post such that the replaceable fence panel can be held at a plurality of angles, both horizontal and vertical, relative to the fence post.

40. The replaceable fence panel of claim 39 wherein the connection joint is slidably engaged to the replaceable fence panel to slide substantially axially along the replaceable fence panel such that the replaceable fence panel can be maintained at a plurality of heights relative to the fence post.

41-42. (canceled)

43. A method of using a replaceable fence system, comprising:

providing at least two fence posts;
placing a first replaceable fence panel between the two fence posts and releasably connecting the first replaceable fence panel to the two vertical fence posts to create a fence;
permitting the fence to remain in position as a fence for an extended period;
removing the first replaceable fence panel from the two fence posts; and,
placing a second replaceable fence panel between the two fence posts and releasably connecting the second replaceable fence panel to the two vertical fence posts to create a fence.

44. The method of claim 43 wherein the method further comprises providing at least one additional fence post and placing at least one additional replaceable fence panel between one of the first two fence posts and the additional fence post.

45. The method of claim 44 wherein the first replaceable fence panel is placed at a different height and a different angle relative to the intervening fence post compared to the first replaceable fence panel.

46. The method of claim 43 wherein the different height and the different angle are effected via a connection joint comprising a substantially round joint releasably connecting the fence post and the replaceable fence panel.

47-49. (canceled)

50. The method of claim 46 wherein the substantially round joint is slidably connected to at least one of the fence post and the replaceable fence panel and the different height between the panels is effected by sliding the substantially round joint to the desired level.

Patent History

Publication number: 20100025649
Type: Application
Filed: Oct 25, 2007
Publication Date: Feb 4, 2010
Applicant: Gates & Gardens, LLC (Puyallup, WA)
Inventor: Donald Ward (Puyallup, WA)
Application Number: 12/447,161

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Hinged (256/26); Panel (256/24); Angle (256/27)
International Classification: E04H 17/16 (20060101);