Access all areas: hatches may be the answer
09/10/2011 - In industrial, commercial and residential buildings there are always areas that require access but where it is difficult to do so, hatches provide the solution. Arthur Chan
Roofs and ceilings for example, areas that tenants may be unaware of, but building officers and property owners inevitably need to access for safety and maintenance requirements. How can you ensure you can enter these difficult areas safely? The use of hatches may be the answer.
The practicality of hatches is that they allow convenient, and occasionally, hidden access to particular locations. Muller gives the example of building maintenance.
"Hatches can provide access to air-conditioners and vents so you can execute maintenance - and if you want to go to roof terrace areas, hatches can do this too," Muller said.
He says hatches are important since they play a part in the overall safety of a building. There are now safety restrictions on how people can access their roofs.
"A few years back there was a law that said that for any building higher than six metres, you're not allowed to access the roof of the building with a ladder on the outside of the building," Muller explained.
Legal pressures aside, it is also considered best practice in safety that roof access be limited to professionals. Furthermore, since most commercial buildings are over six metres in height, it means hatches are the ideal and commercially-viable option when it comes to access to roofs, ceilings and other difficult areas.
In regards to the safety of a hatch, it is important to consider how people will use it. Muller says for example, to access a roof, a hatch might require steps. For outdoor areas with strong winds, handles are a safe addition.
"Also, if a hatch is outdoors, there are key lock systems integrated in some hatches that prevent people from coming in," Muller said.
Whilst hatches may be a practical solution to difficult access areas, there are many others considerations that should be in place. Muller says that the specifics of a hatch will differ according to its location, positioning and purpose.
"You need to consider what it [the hatch] is going to be used for. If it's only for general access, if might not need to be too big, but if you need to convey maintenance equipment, this may change," Muller said.
He said architects and construction officers should ultimately look for three things in a hatch - material, durability and insulation. Each of these have important implications.
"There are a huge range of materials, like stainless steel, aluminium etc. that should be considered when choosing a hatch. There are even cyclone-proof hatches with particular standards that are common in Cairns and cyclone-prone areas," he said.