We’ve Got Your Back, Awning Inspections Over Public Spaces

Did you know that awnings are part of the buildings to which they are attached? This makes them the responsibility of the owner of the building, even when an awning is located over a public footpath.

An example awning structure is shown in Figure 1 for reference.

Figure 1 – Typical awnings structure example

Awnings provide protection from the elements such as sun and rain, noting that the structural components of awnings are generally out of sight and therefore out of mind. If awnings are not maintained, they will increasingly pose a public health hazard, especially if a catastrophic structural failure occurs.

In response to recent accidents involving the collapse of awnings over public lands (e.g. shopfront, dining areas etc.) in Australia and to discharge their duty of care obligations, many local government Councils have implemented processes to ensure that awnings are structurally assessed regularly.

Awnings with an unusual design or which do not allow the structural connections between the awning and supporting structures to be easily inspected can be particularly high risk as their condition cannot be easily ascertained.

Dilapidated awnings are a potential public health hazard and the building owner may be liable for the injury or death of a person due to a defective awning. To mitigate this risk, it is recommended to have engineers inspect and advise on the structural integrity of awnings, and where necessary, to advise on repair, rehabilitation or replacement for Council approval.

Typical risks encountered with awnings that can contribute to structural failure include

  • Defective anchorage systems (at poor installation or due simply to deterioration);
  • Deteriorated steel elements;
  • Wall cracking;
  • Concealed support connections that cannot be easily inspected; and
  • Other construction related deficiencies.

Table 1 – Summary of key stakeholders

Stakeholder Recommended Action

Implement policies and inspection programs that aim to strike a balance between thoroughness and practicality to achieve the maximum stakeholder engagement and the maximum reduction in risk of awning collapse.

This may include the development of awareness programs for building owners, the development of procedures to determine the structural adequacy of awnings, and the development of ongoing inspection programs.

Engineers / Designers

Engineers and designers should consider the following factors when designing the awning:


  • Structural adequacy for all loads, including cyclic loading and design life, as well as taking into consideration environmental issues such as wind, temperature and rain;
  • Designing a structure that does not require regular inspection to ensure its safety;
  • Ease of inspection (particularly for critical areas of support);
  • The potentially corrosive environment (i.e. coastal or high rainfall locations);
  • Whether the installation can comply with the designer’s instructions (e.g. can the drilled hole be completed without drilling into re-enforcement steel?); and
  • Whether bolts through concrete support members can be used instead of insert type anchors in critical areas of support.
Contractors / Builders


The principal contractor should implement an effective quality assurance (QA) system to ensure the procedures for installing anchorages comply with the design specification. This includes inspection of the anchorages prior to loads being applied. The QA system may also include conducting proof loading on anchors (this is particularly important for insert type anchors designed for ‘pull out’ loads).


Person Installing Anchors

Workers installing anchors should be trained in the correct installation method as specified by the anchor manufacturer. If the installer is unable to install the anchor effectively, a suitably qualified engineer should provide guidance on alternative anchorage systems to be used.

Building Owners / Managers

Existing Awnings

Awnings should be regularly inspected and maintained.

Where the awning has a support system that cannot be readily or easily inspected, parts of the awning may need to be removed so that an adequate inspection can be completed with minimal risk to the inspector or members of the public.

Where there is a likelihood that the awning will collapse, the awning should be repaired, or removed and replaced with a new awning, giving consideration to the design elements mentioned above.


Awning Alterations

Never make structural alterations to buildings, or attach additional architectural features, unless the building designer or an engineer provides written certification. This includes the addition of signs, sails, hoardings or other attachments to a structure.

Local government authorities should also be consulted about requirements for building additions.

If engineering certification is required to confirm the structural adequacy of an awning structure, the recommended procedure is outlined in Table 2.

Table 2 – Typical inspection process for awnings over public spaces

Stage Description

Stage 1

Initial Inspection

  • Determine the dimensions, likely age, external configuration, existence of main support walls, drainage from the gutter and any other relevant information.
  • If there are inaccessible elements, then a forensic inspection may be required.

Stage 2

Detailed Inspection (If Required)

  • Awning is propped / structurally secured for forensic inspection.
  • Areas of roofing and/or lining will require removal to allow determination of the sizes and condition of the structural elements.
  • An area equivalent to 4 to 6 bricks of the parapet / front wall masonry will should be removed around the areas where tie-rods penetrate the masonry.
  • Sketch the framing and connections of the structural elements and measure members sizes, current structural condition etc.

Stage 3

Engineering Report

  • Based on measured member sizes, assess the structural risk of the awning.
  • Detailed instructions will be prepared for any rectification work including corrosion protection.
  • Substantial rectification works may require a Development Application to be submitted to Council.
  • At this point a report will be prepared advising the Client of the status of the awning and of any repairs to strengthening of or replacement of structural elements that are considered necessary (or further calculations recommended).

Stage 4

Engineering Calculations (If Required)

  • If the structure appears compromised, engineers will recommend to calculate the structural capacity using AS1170, AS 4100, AS 4600, AS 3600 and AS 3700 as required.

Stage 5

Final Inspection (If Required)

  • A final inspection will be carried out on any rectification work and on the make-good work in order to ensure that the structural integrity of the works is to the required standards and is accordance with all drawings, sketches, specifications and instructions issued by the engineer.

Stage 6

Certification (If Required)

  • Certification with regards to structural adequacy can be issued once the final inspection has taken place.


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