In brief - Proposed changes designed to prevent tragic incidents

The Australian Building Codes Board has released the draft of the BCA proposed to commence in May 2013. The amendments relate to safe access and movement. BCA 2013 includes new provisions for openable windows and horizontal balustrades to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls.

The proposed changes are in response to several tragic incidents in Sydney where children have fallen from windows.

Openable windows to be fitted with screens or locks

Barriers or locks are required to be fitted on openable windows in early childhood centres and in habitable rooms of residential buildings (including apartments and multi-storey homes) where windows are more than two metres above the ground.

Openable windows will be required to be fitted with a screen, or the window opening will be required to be limited to 125 millimetres to prevent children from falling from heights. The Australian Building Codes Board estimates that 80 per cent of windows will be fitted with locks and the remaining 20 per cent with screens.

Balustrades designed to prevent children from climbing

Where the floor of a veranda, mezzanine or the like is more than two metres above the ground (rather than the current standard of four metres), balustrades are required to be non-climbable. Therefore, any horizontal elements between 150 millimetres and 760 millimetres above the floor must not facilitate climbing.

A concession is proposed to be given for balustrades between two and four metres above the floor so that the handrail may be kinked inwards by not less than 150 millimetres, making it difficult for children to climb the balustrade.

Degree of slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces to be specified

Presently the BCA requires stair treads to have a slip resistant finish or a non-skid strip near edges, however, the level of slip resistance required is not specified. Slip resistance values in AS/NZS 4586 Slip resistance classification of new pedestrian surface materials are proposed to be adopted.

Buildings constructed in flood prone areas must resist flotation, collapse and movement

New standards are proposed in the BCA 2013 for construction of new buildings and alterations and additions to existing buildings in flood prone areas. The changes are specific to classes of buildings where people may sleep, reflecting the life safety purpose of the changes.

There is a new BCA 2013 standard entitled "Standard for Construction of Buildings in Flood Hazard Areas" together with an explanatory book. Buildings must be designed and constructed to resist flotation, collapse or significant permanent movement as a result of flooding. There are also new BCA definitions for defined flood events and flood levels, flood hazard areas and flood hazard levels.

This article is only short summary of the proposed BCA changes and further changes are proposed.

New proposals for changes can be submitted by 1 February 2013 for consideration as part of future BCA editions.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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