This video discusses what the phrase ‘open to the sky’ means, particularly as applied to occupiable outdoor areas.


Is this balcony "open to the sky"? And of course, we're not just talking about balconies, we can find ourselves asking this question about trafficable rooftops, like rooftop car parks, podiums, and all sorts of areas where we're exposed to the environment.

However, just about every time we get this question, the enquirer is looking at the definition for "occupiable outdoor area", which is a space "on a roof, balcony, or similar part of the building" that is subject to Part G6. And one of the criteria for being an occupiable outdoor area, is that you have to be "open to the sky". So we look at this from the perspective of occupiable outdoor areas. So you'll note from the definition for occupiable outdoor area that we have to be open to the sky, that's A, it's also somewhere accessible.

You can walk on it for reasons other than maintenance, and it's not open space, or connected to open space. And open space is shown by the following defined term is that bit of an allotment, or even a building, that you can walk on when you've left an exit and you're on your way to the road, hence the direct connection to the road. And, interestingly, you will also see that the "open space" definition uses this phrase "open to the sky" also. Now, in both cases, being open to the sky is a criteria for the definition.

You can't be an occupiable outdoor area, or you can't be an open space, if you're not "open to the sky". So what do we mean by "open to the sky"? Well, a lot of people that I talk to would say that not all of these balconies are open to the sky. The top one on the right, no question, you step onto it, there's sky above your head, that one is open to the sky. But some people talk to me and say the ones below, for every part of the balcony that you stand on, there's a balcony above, or it could be a roof, or it could be something else in other circumstances.

But a lot of people say, "I look up and I don't see sky, "and so I am not open to the sky". So when I'm faced with a question like this, what does a phrase mean? I like to look across the BCA, and think about what the phrase is seeking to achieve. The phrase "open to the sky" appears nine times in Volume One, twice in the definitions, that's the last two rows of this table, and it's used seven times in Volume Two for exactly the same reasons you see here in Part F4, to do with light, and ventilation.

So in the first two rows, Volume One, Part F4, or that's Volume Two, Part 3.8, talks about being "open to the sky", and it's saying that a window, or a roof light, that's used to bring natural light and ventilation into a building has to face outside, rather than inside. Windows and roof lights aren't like balconies, you can't walk on them, so we can't make a direct comparison, but we're getting this idea that being open to the sky is containing the idea about facing or being open to the outside.

The row in the middle becomes more relevant, because it's about something that you can walk on. F4.6 looks like this. F4.6 is about getting natural ventilation into a room, it could come through a window, it could come through another opening, so long as that window or opening is big enough that's And as long as the window opens to a space outside that can provide natural air, that's . Now phrase "open to the sky" appears here in Our window needs to face a suitably sized court or space, which is open to the sky, and just as you can walk on an occupiable outdoor area, you could also walk on a court or space that provides ventilation, so we're interested in these ideas.

Now refers to F4.7, which is about ensuring that your adjoining room has openings big enough to ventilate both rooms when you're doing borrowed ventilation, but it's and in this clause that's going to help us the most. And we can see that we're talking about spaces that are good for providing natural air, because they are outside the building. Now I can see that these are separate sub clauses, and therefore we need to be taking ideas from this rather than placing too much emphasis on it. But note in subclause B that an open veranda, or a carport, or the like, is good for providing natural ventilation.

The last time I was in a carport, I had a roof over my head, and indeed my front veranda is also roofed. And the last time I checked, the sky certainly is above my head, but also continues all the way down to the horizon. So in summary, when we're talking about being open to the sky, we're predominantly talking about being outside where natural air is. And I think that applies to all of the balconies that you see in this photo.

In the same way that an umbrella doesn't do a good job of stopping me from being open to the sky, the balcony above, or even some roofs, or awnings, don't stop these balconies from being open to the sky. Now, of course, you need to apply judgement , which is what we've been doing, in considering what this phrase means.

And when applying judgement , it helps to think about various examples, like these balconies. These balconies are set in, which is quite popular. So do these stop, these balconies, being set in, does this stop these balconies from being open to the sky? Well, I suggest that you wouldn't think twice about using the doors or windows opening onto these inset balconies for natural ventilation. So I also suggest that these are "open to the sky".

This is a different story though. The top balcony, that's open to the sky, no question. But if you look carefully, the balconies below are fully glazed, and these are often called Winter Gardens. And because they're closed in, they aren't open to the sky. Even if they're openable windows, I say they're still closed in. It's good for borrowing ventilation, but it's not open, these balconies are not "open to the sky' themselves.

It's when you apply this idea to the definition for occupiable outdoor areas, you get the idea that we're talking about spaces that are outside the building, but where you're still contained by the building. If there's an emergency, you have to go back inside if you're going to be able to get out. And if you consider what Part G6 is achieving, it's about providing a level of protection for occupants of occupiable outdoor areas.

People who are not in the building, but somehow contained by the building. Yet there's concessions, which are appropriate in Part G6 on account of being open to the sky, such as relaxed smoke hazard property provisions. So is this balcony "open to the sky"? Well, I say yes. If it's suitable for providing natural ventilation.