Balconies are great features to have on a building but ensuring the wellbeing of everyone using it by understanding the relevant balcony safety regulations is critical.
In this blog, we’ll help introduce you to some of the general safety rules and requirements. However, if you are thinking of installing a balcony or need to ensure regulatory compliance, please get in touch with the BIM Sydney team today for an onsite inspection and custom assessment.
Balcony Safety – The Basics
What is a balcony?
Balconies are elevated platforms that are typically attached to a building’s exterior. Often used to provide residents or visitors to a building an outdoor space to view the surrounding landscape, enjoy the fresh air or even react.
A balcony offers a lot of practical benefits but can also be used architecturally to add aesthetic charm as well as functionality. Various materials can be used in the creation of a balcony including but not limited to timber, steel and/or concrete.
Of course, due to their elevated height, strict safety regulations are required to keep everyone safe.
Introduction to Balcony Safety Regulations
The purpose of balcony safety rules is to minimise the risk of injuries, accidents, damage and even death related to the use of balconies.
State governments and local councils in Australia outline specific safety standards that all builders and building owners must comply with. It’s important to note that each region in the country has slightly specific safety standards. Nevertheless, broadly, they cover much of the same regulations and can generally be broken down into the following categories.
1. Structural Integrity
Balconies must be designed and built with adequate structural integrity to withstand the weight and loads it will be subject to. Whether this is people, furniture or other objects, balconies must be strong enough to support the weight. Even weather is an important factor when engineers consider the structural strength required for balcony safety.
A core component of balcony safety regulations is having appropriate barriers. Whether balustrades or handrails, these ensure accidents are prevented and falls/slips do not occur. The height and design of the barriers are both subject to regulation, which as mentioned can vary from state to state and territory to territory.
While balconies can be made from a variety of materials they must all meet the specific requirements in regards to strength, durability and resistance to wear and tear. General degradation, corrosion and other forms of damage can build up over time, so having a sufficiently hardy material used for your balcony is vital.
4. Building Codes
Balconies are fantastic additions to most buildings but they present a certain risk. That’s why they are subject to building codes and must comply with the general construction regulations of the state or territory in which they are being built. Remember that these codes are periodically reviewed and updated to reflect advances in technology, construction and safety practices.
Balcony Safety Across Australia
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) is a national set of guidelines outlining the technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings, including balconies. The Standards include specifications for building balconies, including AS 1170 (Structural design actions) and AS 1657 (Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders).
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) regularly reviews, updates and publishes the BCA through their website. We recommend you visit their website directly for the most up to date version.
Additionally, as we’ve mentioned a few times in this article, each state and territory in Australia has its own building authority and that governing body determines additional specific safety regulations related to buildings and balconies for the region.
To ensure compliance with your balcony, we highly recommend you familiarise yourself with the governing body for your particular home state/territory. To help you, we’ve included links and information here for your reference. Of course, if you’d like us to do all the work for you, just give the BIM Sydney team a call.
New South Wales
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment governs safety regulations in the state and can be found here.
Victorians looking for more information should head to the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) website here.
In QLD, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission outlines the requirements of building and balcony safety. Visit their website here.
The Building and Energy, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety governs compliance and regulatory requirements in WA. For more information, visit their website here.
Builders in South Australia can find more information regarding balcony safety regulations on the SA Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website here.
The Department of Justice – Building Standards and Occupational Licensing is the best point of call for Tasmanians looking for region-specific regulations. See their website here.
Australian Capital Territory
In the ACT, it’s the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate that provides regulatory standards for buildings, including balconies. Their website can be found here.
Last but certainly not least, is the Northern Territory’s Building Advisory Services, Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. Visit their website here.
The Role of Local Councils
Local councils may also have specific requirements related to balcony safety and all buildings within a council’s jurisdiction must comply with its regulations. For a detailed breakdown of relevant rules and standards, visit the website for your local council.
There are also a few industry associations in Australia that provide a variety of resources and information related to balcony safety and general building regulation. From the Master Builders Association to the Housing Industry Association, they’re always here to help developers, owners, and builders alike untangle the web that is balcony safety rules.
Consult with the Professionals at BIM Sydney
Building codes and balcony safety regulations can be complex and confusing. That’s why it’s always important to consult with reputable, experienced and expert professionals when considering whether a proposed or existing balcony is up to code.
Building inspectors and engineers provide highly valuable insights and use their knowledge of the current regulations to ensure that not only is your balcony safe but its users are kept safe too.
At BIM Sydney, we’re more than happy to consult on commercial or residential buildings to ensure that everyone is safe, compliant and enjoys peace of mind. To find out more, contact us today.