Climbable Balcony Elements

By Ben Prentner, Assistant Building Surveyor

As the number of families moving into apartment buildings grows, many of them are built with exterior decks and balconies that incorporate cooling condenser units. If these units are placed too close to the balustrade, a small child may be able to climb on them, allowing them to climb over the barrier, potentially resulting in a disastrous fall.

For barriers, the National Construction Code (NCC) includes performance requirements and Deemed to Satisfy (DtS) solutions. However, it is unclear how to deal with fixed objects such as air conditioner condenser units.

“Where people could fall 1 m or more a barrier must be provided which must be continuous and extend for the full extent of the hazard; and be of a height to protect people from accidentally falling from the floor or roof or through the opening or an openable window,” Performance Requirement DP3 – NCC 2019 – Amd 1 Vol 1.

A barrier must be built in accordance with Table D2.16a, as stated in the DtS solution D2.16 (c). Part 3(c) defines situations in which a non-climbable barrier is necessary.

3. Barrier Climbability
Location Requirement
(c) For floors more than 4 m above the surface beneath in all other locations Any horizontal or near horizontal elements between 150 mm and 760 mm above the floor must not facilitate climbing

When designing an apartment, we recommend that the following be included to protect the safety of all individuals who use balconies, particularly when putting planter boxes on balconies, which are not regulated:

  • Provide screens with non-climbable elements around or in front of the air–conditioning condenser unit;
  • Provide a 900mm non-climbable zone from the top of the barrier, similar to that of a swimming pool barrier;
  • Install a steeply angled capping to the top of the unit to prevent climbing on to the unit;
  • Install the unit above the height of the barrier;
  • Ensure that there are no fixed items between 150mm and 760mm above the floor within a horizontal dimension of 900mm from the inside face of the barrier or in the case of the planter box on the outside that the planter box is not situated at an open joint between the glass panels, where that opening is greater than 10mm;
  • Ensure that any conduits, pipes and taps are also placed behind steep angled guards

 For more information on any of our services please contact or call 02 9281 8555.