Are your windows safe?20 January 2010
In response to other recent industry circulars on the issue, Archers Body Corporate Management has undertaken a review of the requirements under the Building Code of Australia in relation to fall prevention from windows higher than 4 m from the ground.
With the tragic deaths in 2009 of a 5 year old on the Gold Coast and a 3 year old in Sydney, the issue of preventable falls from windows in multi storey buildings is again one of great concern.
The following is an extract from the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
Part 22.214.171.124 Balustrades or other barrier construction
a) The height of a balustrade or other barrier must be in accordance with the following:
(i) The height must not be less than 865 mm above the nosings of
the stair treads or the floor of a ramp.
(ii) The height must not be less than -
(a) 1 m above the floor of any access path, balcony, landing or the
(b) 865 mm above the floor of a landing to a stair or ramp where the
balustrade or other barrier is provided along the inside edge of
the landing is not more than 500mm long.
(c) 865 mm above the floor beneath an openable window
b) A transition zone may be incorporated where the balustrade or other barrier height changes from 865mm on the stair flight or ramp to 1m at the landing.
c) Openings in balustrades (including decorative balustrades) or other barriers must be constructed so that any opening does not permit a 125mm sphere to pass through it and for stairs, the space is tested above the nosing line.
d) A balustrade or other barrier must be designed to take loading forces in accordance with AS/NZS110.1.
e) For floors more than 4 m above the surface beneath, any horizontal elements within the balustrade or other barrier between 150mm and 760mm above the floor must not facilitate climbing.
In accordance 126.96.36.199 (a) (ii) (c), it is necessary that an openable window greater than 4 m in height from the ground has a balustrade or other barrier of at least 865 mm. The wall between the floor and the openable window constitutes such a barrier.
Despite the above, should any horizontal elements which facilitate climbing, such as a window sill, be present within the balustrade or barrier of a height between 150 mm and 760 mm from the floor, the width that the window may be opened must be restricted. Refer 188.8.131.52 (e).
While it is considered unlikely that the widows within your lot have been designed outside the requirements of the BCA, this compliance can be negated by the positioning of furniture. When an item of furniture is placed against a wall where a window is located, the height of the furniture will influence the effective height of the balustrade or other barrier to that window. For example, in the instance where a window is 865 mm from the floor and a chair with a height of 465 mm is placed underneath it, the effective height of the balustrade or other barrier is reduced to 400 mm. In such cases it is also necessary to restrict the width that the window may be opened.
Where the opening distance of a window is required to be restricted, the Building Codes Committee (BCC) has determined that a width of 125 mm is acceptable. This can be achieved by the installation of a lock or similar device.
Archers recommends that each owner inspect the windows within their lot to ensure they comply with the BCA.
Archers further recommends that you ensure that no furniture is placed by an openable window as to reduce the balustrade or other barrier to a distance less than 865 mm vertically or horizontally. If this is unavoidable, please ensure that the window is restricted in the width it may open.
Despite the above minimum requirements, there is still potential for a person to fall from a window and the chance of serious injury or death increases with the height of the window. If you have any safety concerns with the windows within your Lot and think that they may present a possible fall hazard, it is recommended that you consider restricting the width that your windows may open to the acceptable limit.
If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your Body Corporate Manager or consult with a building engineer.