If you’re the owner or manager of an apartment building, then your glass balustrades could be deemed unsafe under a new Australian Standard (AS).
AS 1288: 2021 Glass in Buildings: Selection and Installation, was introduced in 2021 in response to the lack of clarity in the previous standard and is now incorporated into the national construction code (NCC).
This means a new standard for the glass balustrades in apartment buildings, to ensure they’re fit for purpose and safe for residents - to prevent any risk of falling through or climbing over.
What is a balustrade?
A balustrade refers to a barrier along stairs, balconies, ramps, raised levels and terraces, with a railing usually supported by posts or panes of glass.
While they can be part of an architectural design, the main function of a balustrade is to provide safety - where there is a drop between levels of ground of one metre or more, a balustrade is required to prevent falls.
Glass balustrades are a great option for many building barriers - they provide a safe barrier, while giving a clear line of sight and optimizing views and offer a much more appealing aesthetic than bars or poles.
According to the new standard, to reduce the risk of someone falling balustrades need to be at least 1 metre high, with no openings greater than 100mm at the base of the barrier, or 125mm at other openings. They also mustn’t be climbable - another reason glass is a great material for balustrades.
Glass balustrades at a height of 5 metres or more require a certain kind of laminated safety glass, and for new buildings, the AS 1288:2021 will need to be considered in the construction of balustrades, in accordance with the NCC.
What does this mean for existing balustrades?
As a rule, the NCC is not generally retrospective, meaning it doesn’t apply to existing balustrades. However, given the risks around unsafe balustrades, there are some areas of grey to be considered.
In a recent case, an apartment owner succeeded in taking her owners corporation to the NCAT Appeal Panel, as there was evidence of prior knowledge of their apartment’s top floor courtyard balustrade being deemed unsafe.
So, in situations where there is a clear risk to safety, the AS 1288:2021 could be brought into effect so that balustrades are fit for purpose and effective in keeping residents and visitors safe. If an expert opinion is given deeming a balustrade is unsafe, then an owners corporation needs to act on this advice.
The new standard also looks at the installation of barriers - for example if balustrades are installed via spigot, core drill fittings or point-fixed, they must comply with the NCC and adhere to new load guidelines for these types of barriers.
Peace of mind
Unsure about the safety and compliance of your existing balustrades? Speak to our expert team about an audit of your building’s glass barriers for peace of mind.
Contact us here.
We sincerely thank our Gold Partners Express Glass for this editorial.