Director of the Science and Technology and Environment Department under the Ministry of Construction Vũ Ngọc Anh. — VNA/ VNS Photo Thu Hằng
Director of the Science and Technology and Environment Department under the Ministry of Construction Vũ Ngọc Anh talks to the Vietnam News Agency about the protection measures and legal documents on ensuring safety at apartment buildings
Many tragic accidents related to apartment buildings’ balcony have occurred, could you tell us more about legal documents related to apartment safety requirements?
The Ministry of Construction has reviewed regulations and standards related to safety for apartment buildings. Regulations are stipulated in legal documents and they are mandatory. Meanwhile, standards are set and applied by investors.
Related to the safety of apartment buildings, we have national technical regulations on apartment buildings and on houses and public structures.
It is regulated that balconies’ handrails must have a minimum height of 1.4m if the building is more than nine floors and there shouldn’t be horizontal and diagonal bars from which children may cling. Furthermore, spaces between vertical bars must be smaller than a 100mm-diameter sphere.
In addition, handrails must be hardy enough to endure impacts without breaking or bending. These requirements, among others, are aimed to ensure safety for users.
When we work on the regulations and standards, we take into account technological factors as well as learn from international and practical conditions in Việt Nam. In general, the awareness of users is still the most important factor no matter how safe the facilities are.
Many families living in apartment buildings have installed protection nets or grilles on their balconies. Is this an effective solution to prevent falls?
Many families have installed safety nets or grilles as balcony guards. They are allowed to do this however, they should consider a few things before deciding to set up these protection measures.
A structure’s design must avoid falls to ensure safety but also needs to meet fire prevention and control requirements. The balcony is good for sunlight and ventilation purposes. This can serve as a means of escape if a fire occurs inside the apartment or the corridor.
Firefighters will have to use the balcony to access victims from outside. That’s why we have regulations on ensuring a balcony space so rescue force can access the scene in case of accidents.
Too high balcony railings may look not very aesthetical and affect rescue work. Nets or grilles made of hardy materials also make it hard for rescue forces to carry out their jobs. For this reason, families should consider nets’ materials and grilles before deciding to install them.
The most important thing still lies in the awareness of families themselves, especially those with kids or people with psychological difficulties.
Will the Ministry of Construction work on more solutions to enhance the safety of apartment buildings?
Many items that we buy come with instruction manuals, for example, a car or home appliances. They all have instructions before use.
Meanwhile, when we buy a more valuable asset like an apartment, we don’t have sufficient guidance on how to use it safely. For example, information like which part of the wall is made of concrete, plaster or has electricity lines running through it, which areas we can hammer a nail in that can tolerate heavy things. Homeowners should be better informed about the functions of different parts of the apartment.
They should also note things to avoid on the balcony, for example, not placing any items near handrails to avoid children climbing over them easily.
Many families use the balcony as a place to store stuff without noticing the risks if they have small children. Some families even use wires at a low height to dry clothes. Children can reach these wire to climb over the handrails.
Each apartment will be used differently by families so it requires special considerations from them.
The Ministry of Construction will continue to review regulations and standards and will pay attention to include them in legal documents so investors apply them in their projects. The ministry will work on the regulation that each apartment needs to have a guidebook on safety.
Following the incident of a child falling off an apartment, many have installed balcony safety nets or grilles. Will this be listed as criteria in the standards of apartment buildings?
Balcony safety must harmonise with fire prevention and control safety requirements. We can’t just cover the balcony up with nets or grilles.
The use of these is only a recommendation for families. Recommendations are not to be included in the regulations, which are mandatory. Therefore, the use of safety nets depends on the families’ demand.
They also need to consider nets’ and grilles’ materials to ensure aesthetics and safety. The firefighter force can advise people on this, for example, what types of netting materials can be cut to rescue victims. Apartment buildings’ investors or management board can also do communication work to raise the awareness of people.
People need to consider means of escape or rescue in the events of accidents before installing safety nets and grilles. They also need to find reliable, prestigious net and grille providers. — VNS