New building code requirements designed to prevent window falls adopted into the National Building Code of Canada 2020

With more than 400 children ending up in emergency rooms across the country each year due to falls from windows in houses, the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services helped to lead changes in the National Building Code of Canada 2020. The result of this change in building codes is safer windows in newly built single-detached homes across the country.  

The changes limit how much a window can open on the second storey of newly built single-detached homes. The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes developed the change in response to a code change request from the City of Calgary. The updated building code requirements will come into effect when they are adopted by the provinces and territories.

“Limiting how far a window can open is one more tool that we have in our efforts to prevent these falls from happening. It is important to note that from what we see in the emergency room, window falls can happen anywhere and anytime, particularly at home. It is also important that caregivers have a look around their home and ensure that their space is safe,” says Dr. Jonathan Guilfoyle, an emergency physician at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“This change is another step forward for building safety in Canada,” said Kevin Griffiths, Chair, Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. “We’re pleased that the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services initiated this change and it’s an example of the positive impact that participating in the code development process can have on Canadians coast-to-coast.”

Prior to the recommended building code changes, there were no restrictions for single-detached homes on how much a second-storey window could open or how close to the finished floor an openable window could be positioned. There were also no guidelines about installing devices that permanently restrict window openings for single-detached homes.

Now, a single-detached home with an openable window that is six feet or more above ground (e.g., on the second storey), must be installed at least three feet from the finished floor, be protected by a guard, or have a device in place to limit how much the window can open. The code changes are not a retroactive requirement- existing windows may not have these safety features.

“While these changes will ensure a safer future, the risk of falls remain very real, especially during spring and summer,” said City of Calgary Chief Building Official Ulrik Seward. “Guards and window opening control device hardware are available, which are an easy way to restrict the opening of your existing second-storey windows and minimize the risk of accidental falls.”

The City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services reminds Calgarians to safeguard against window falls by:

·       Supervising your children

·       Installing a safety device such as a guard or window opening control device hardware that restricts window opening to 4” (10 cm)

·       Closing and locking windows with low sill heights when small children are in the house

·       Moving all furniture away from windows

Remember: screens are NOT safety devices. They are designed to keep bugs out, NOT to keep children in. They are not durable and can be removed easily.

For more information on how to prevent window falls visit