New rules to protect kids in high-rises

Australian building codesApart­ments and multi-storey homes are about to get a little safer for chil­dren thanks to a rule change around win­dows in new buildings.

The Aus­tralian Build­ing Codes Board has ruled that all win­dows in new homes and apart­ments that are more than two metres off the ground must be either fit­ted with win­dow locks that stop the win­dow being opened more than 125mm (12.5 cm), or must have rein­forced screens to pre­vent chil­dren from fall­ing from a height.

The changes will be included in the National Con­struc­tion Code from May 2013.

The Aus­tralian Build­ing Codes Board estim­ates that own­ers and build­ers will choose to fit 80 per cent of win­dows with locks, and the remain­ing 20 with rein­forced screens. Its research priced win­dow locks from $20 — $70 each, and strong screens from $130 a square metre, put­ting the aver­age cost of a suit­able screen at $130.

Ron De Vere, a pro­ject man­ager with the Aus­tralian Build­ing Codes Board, says the decision was made after wide con­sulta­tion with industry, and with fire author­it­ies across the nation.

De Vere said an eco­nomic ana­lysis that took into account the cost of installing locks and screens versus society’s cost of treat­ing chil­dren who had fallen from win­dows showed that the broader cost-benefit of the changes was around zero.

How­ever, “the board was swayed by the risk to chil­dren and the danger of chil­dren fall­ing out of build­ings”, he says. “It’s a bit like the pool safety issue, the child drown­ing … the value of a child’s life is so crucial.”

Danny Cass, a pro­fessor of pae­di­at­ric sur­gery at the Children’s Hos­pital West­mead, has wel­comed the changes say­ing the recog­ni­tion that chil­dren could access win­dows and eas­ily climb or fall out of them was a win for commonsense.

Before, they thought a kid couldn’t climb that high but … they often pull things up to it, or beds are placed next to it,” Cass says.

Just a like a pool safety fence though, chil­dren will only be pro­tec­ted when adults remem­ber to lock the win­dows and check that the rein­forced screens are in good order.

The board backed away from an ini­tial pro­posal to man­date win­dow guards for win­dows two stor­ies or above in all domestic dwellings.

It also a decided against that a pro­posal to increase to one metre the min­imum floor-to-sill height of open­able win­dows in rooms that are four metres from the ground outside.

The min­imum floor-to-sill height will effect­ively remain at 865mm as the cur­rent pro­vi­sions require a bar­rier of 865mm be in place to any open­able win­dow that is more than four metres from the ground, and it is com­mon prac­tice to place the bot­tom of the win­dow at that height, using the wall itself to cre­ate the barrier.

The floor-to-sill height require­ment will remain even where a lock­able or remov­able device or screen is in use – in case the device or screen is inad­vert­ently unlocked or removed. How­ever, the min­imum height from ground level at which the window-to-sill or bar­rier rule comes into play will drop from four metres to two metres after evid­ence showed ser­i­ous injury can hap­pen when a child falls from just two metres.

The changes will come into effect from May 2013, a time­frame the board says will allow industry to pre­pare for the changes.

An aver­age of one child a week is taken to hos­pital in Aus­tralia after fall­ing from a win­dow. Accord­ing to fig­ures from the Children’s Hos­pital West­mead, 80 per cent of chil­dren who have fallen from a win­dow have sig­ni­fic­ant injur­ies, and four out of five chil­dren who fall from win­dows are aged under five. For inform­a­tion on keep­ing your kids safe near win­dows, click here.

Cass says the next chal­lenge is mak­ing win­dows in exist­ing hous­ing and apart­ment stock safer for chil­dren. Cass is part of a work­ing party on child falls at the Children’s Hos­pital West­mead. The group will meet again this month to explore fur­ther recom­mend­a­tions for exist­ing properties.

Story by Car­o­lyn Boyd, source: www.domain.com.au

About 

Jhai is an award win­ning Inter­net Mar­ket­ing Real Estate Agent for Eld­ers Toongab­bie and Kings Langley. After run­ning his own inter­net mar­ket­ing busi­ness he has now set his own sites for the real estate industry. He observed that 90% of real estate agents did not know how to mar­ket them­selves online. Jhai is now fixed on one goal. To teach real estate agents that they can mar­ket online so much bet­ter than they cur­rently are.

Since then he has been con­sist­ently quoted in the Sydney Morn­ing Her­ald and Real Estate Busi­ness online. He is a reg­u­lar guest blog­ger on TheHomePage.com.au, shar­ing his expert­ise of mar­ket­ing aspects for the Real Estate Industry. His biggest pas­sions are his wife, mar­tial arts, dogs and most of all property.

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