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Balconies: They’re Great, Keep ’em Safe!

It’s great to have a balcony! They offer a welcome outdoor space, a breath of fresh air and a connection to the surrounding environment.

As well as their aesthetic appeal and utility balconies on high-rise buildings also hold significant risk. Over the last few years these risks have raised the focus on balcony safety.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal and functional utility, balconies must ensure the well-being of occupants and their guests. This means safety and compliance with building regulations is essential. From structural integrity to maintenance practices, maintaining balcony safety is paramount in creating secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy.

Here are some essential aspects of balcony safety and compliance with building codes and regulations.

Structural Integrity

It’s great to have a balcony! They offer a welcome outdoor space, a breath of fresh air and a connection to the surrounding environment.

As well as their aesthetic appeal and utility balconies on high-rise buildings also hold significant risk. Over the last few years these risks have raised the focus on balcony safety.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal and functional utility, balconies must ensure the well-being of occupants and their guests. This means safety and compliance with building regulations is essential. From structural integrity to maintenance practices, maintaining balcony safety is paramount in creating secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy.

Here are some essential aspects of balcony safety and compliance with building codes and regulations.

Compliance with Building Codes

Balcony design and construction must adhere to relevant building codes and standards to ensure compliance with safety regulations. In Australia, the Building Code of Australia (BCA) sets out requirements for balcony design, materials, dimensions, and load capacities to mitigate the risk of structural failure or collapse. Compliance with the BCA helps safeguard against potential hazards and ensures the structural integrity of balconies in residential and commercial buildings.

Maintenance & Inspections

Clearly, maintenance and inspections are crucial disciplines for preserving the safety, utility, appearance and value of a building.  In particularly, routine maintenance and inspections are critical for preserving the safety and integrity of balconies over time.

Regular inspections by qualified professionals can identify potential hazards, such as structural defects, corrosion, or deterioration of materials, allowing for timely repairs and maintenance.

Additionally, residents should be vigilant in reporting any signs of damage or deterioration to building management to facilitate prompt action.

Two high priorities for balcony maintenance & inspections are:

Waterproofing & Drainage

Effective waterproofing and drainage systems are crucial for protecting balconies from water ingress and moisture damage. Improper waterproofing can lead to water penetration which can compromise the structural integrity of the balcony and cause damage to the building’s interior.

Regular maintenance and inspection of waterproofing membranes, flashings, and seals are essential to prevent leaks and maintain the integrity of balcony structures.

Guardrails & Barriers

Guardrails and barriers are essential safety features that prevent falls from balconies and elevated platforms.

According to the BCA, balconies must be equipped with appropriate barriers that meet specified height and strength requirements to prevent accidental falls. Regular inspection and maintenance of guardrails and barriers are necessary to ensure compliance with safety standards and to address any issues, such as loose or damaged components, promptly.

Enhanced Safety Measures

To enhance safety, especially for families with young children, additional measures such as installing safety nets or shields can be considered. These can prevent objects from falling off the balcony and provide an extra layer of security.

Tenant Responsibilities

While building owners and managers are responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of balconies[1], tenants also play a role in ensuring balcony safety.

Residents should refrain from overloading balconies with excessive weight, such as heavy furniture or large planters, which can strain the structure and increase the risk of collapse.

Residents should also avoid engaging in activities that could compromise balcony safety, such as leaning over railings or overcrowding balconies during social gatherings.

All furniture on the balcony should be kept away from balcony balustrades to prevent children climbing.

All items including outdoor furniture should be secured in high wind conditions to prevent damage to balustrades or injury to people.

Here are some common “balcony” mistakes made by occupants of high-rise apartments:

  • Using harsh chemicals for cleaning balcony floor surfaces. These can cause discoloration, weaken material of harm protective coatings. Opt for mild cleaning solutions.
  • Ignoring signs like loose railings, cracks or signs of wear. These should be discovered in regular inspections but if noticed they should be reported.
  • Neglecting drainage issues – poor drainage can lead to water accumulation which damages floor materials and promote mould.
  • Over- watering plants on the balcony. Over-watering can weaken balcony structures, especially if water seeps into cracks or porous areas.
  • Having the wrong plants on the balcony. Inappropriate plants can lead to poor growth, overcrowding, and poor drainage.

Conclusion

Balconies are valuable outdoor spaces that enhance the quality of residential and commercial buildings, providing occupants with a connection to the outdoors and a place to relax and unwind.

However, ensuring the safety and compliance of balconies is essential to mitigate the risk of accidents and injuries. By prioritising structural integrity, compliance with building codes, and regular maintenance and inspections, building owners and occupants can create secure and enjoyable outdoor spaces that contribute to the overall well-being of residents.

For Exact FM safety is far more than compliance to regulations, it’s a commitment to the well-being of all who call a high-rise apartment their home. Contact Exact FM to find out how our Building Management services can make a difference.


[1] Sometimes in can be difficult to know who is responsible, Strata Community Association (NSW) has published a guide to these responsibilities which includes the responsibilities for balconies. It’s called “Who’s Responsible? A guide to common property”.

Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash. Photographer: Mila Kreuz