Industry Alert - Air Conditioners on Balconies

28 June 2017

A serious safety issue with apartment balconies has been identified by members of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS). 

In order to maintain the aesthetic appearance of a building, air conditioner condenser units are often installed on upper storey balcony floors so that they cannot be seen from the streets below or from adjacent buildings. The issue with this is that when they are installed close to a balcony balustrade, they can often facilitate climbing by children who could then fall over the balustrade with tragic consequences. 

In relation to the restriction of the location of an air conditioner condenser unit or other fixed items that could facilitate climbing in proximity to a balcony balustrade, AIBS believes the National Construction Code is not adequately clear in respect of the acceptable construction manual and deemed to satisfy provisions and there are also issues of clarity with the mandatory performance provisions on this topic. 

Further, AIBS believes there is confusion as to if this is a safety in design issue with implications arising pursuant to health and safety legislation in Australia, a compliance issue or both. 

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is responsible for the maintenance and development of the National Construction Code which includes the Building Code of Australia through the Building Codes Committee (BCC). AIBS understands that the BCC has resolved to review the adequacy of balustrade heights which has been identified as priority work for the ABCB through the next financial year. 

AIBS will participate and contribute to that process with a view to ensuring the ABCB’s review also includes barrier integrity issues such as the proximity of climbable elements

This communique has been developed to provide an awareness for State & Territory regulators, stakeholders in the design and construction industry, property managers, and the AIBS membership and building surveyors who may choose to alert relevant persons on finding situations where there may be risk so those responsible can mitigate the risk according to their responsibilities.