KidScreen Blog

Social Change and the Built Environment

Social Change and the Built EnvironmentThe issue of falls from windows gained prominence in the United States about 40 years ago, coinciding with a growing number of children living in high rise apartments.

Public education programs in the mid-1970s had an immediate impact, reducing the number of falls by 50% within two years. However, the highest reduction was achieved with the introduction of mandatory window screens in the 1990s, which in New York alone reduced the number of falls by 96%.

In Australia, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead undertook research into the issue in 2008, when staff became aware that falls from windows and balconies had become an increasing cause of injury.

They formed a Working Party in 2009 and invited input from experts in related fields such as building regulations, planning, government and product safety to work together to address the growing problem. The Working Party recognised one factor was the increasing trend for more young children to live in multi-storey buildings.

While currently approximately one in ten children live in an apartment in Sydney, estimates predict in coming decades more than half all residences could be in strata buildings. The results of the 2016 census found that high density residential developments now make up more than a quarter of Australian housing.

The Working Party also noted that many of the children living in strata buildings were under the age of five, and their families tended to be renting rather than owning the premises. Given these changes in social conditions, any measures to improve child safety had to come from several angles, particularly if the issue of safety was to be addressed in both old and new buildings and both owners and landlords.

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