Two young children smiling

Increased Child-Care Centres above Entry Levels of Buildings

As people move towards higher density living there is a growing trend to provide child-care services in high-rise buildings.

In late 2014 the City of Sydney in New South Wales approved three new child-care centres with places for 240 children. It has been recognised that there are now more and more child-care centres being provided in high-rise buildings in the central business districts around the country and this presents as a significant risk if the unique needs of the occupants is not considered. As of 2014, the City of Sydney had at least 14 child-care centres located above ground level in inner city buildings. But it is understood that the Council approved some of these on the basis that enhanced evacuation provisions were imposed, that provided for a fire-rated refuge area to help the staff evacuate the children safely.[1] No doubt these were part of a robust fire engineering report, but it highlights that consideration of universal design principles not only benefits the children, but other occupants that might be in the building that could take advantage of any refuge floor or refuge area.

In Victoria, the Metropolitan Fire & Emergency Services Board (MFB) released a Fire Safety Guideline in 2003, which was recently updated in late 2014 to help address this growing trend. The Guidelines aims to “provide guidance to child care providers and building designers on the risks associated with the evacuation of children.[2] In terms of evacuating small children by a stairs the MFB also state that “Carers should be aware that when moving down a staircase, children will have difficulty coping with the steps as they have generally been designed for adult use.” Consideration of an accessible means of egress not only benefits those people with a mobility limitation, but also small children, parents of children and those staff attempting to evacuate a large number of small children as quickly as possible.

[1] The Sydney Morning Herald 2014, City to build three new childcare centres,, viewed 7 September 2015

[2] MFB Fire Safety Guideline GL-23, Child Care Facilities Located Above Ground Floor, Version 8, October 2014,, viewed 7 September 2014

Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

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