Bushfire – Building in the Flame Zone
Do you want to build close to, or right next to native bush?
In that case be prepared to for a lot of extra effort and cost. Both in the house design, material cost and bushfire extras.
Dealing with Regulations
There is no shortage of regulations from various federal, state and local government bodies that need to be considered. These include:
- The Building Code of Australia (see fire safety)
- Australian Standard 3959 (construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas)
- Local Council Fire Maps
- Local Fire documents
- Local Environment Plan which may conflict with your need to have a cleared buffer area
- Local Fire Brigade Requirements
Build a Bunker?
Well you could aim for a bunker like structure . . . but who wants to live in a real bunker with minimal windows?
You may still be at risk in a bunker like house, last fire season a lady died in an earth covered house in Victoria.
Bunker like structures can still have ‘weak points’, particularly at windows and doors, where embers and flames can penetrate the building.
Things To Consider
Ive already talked about the things you need to Upgrade for BAL 12.5 but in the flame zone you will need to ramp it up even further.
- Bushfires can generate cyclonic strength winds, so the whole structure and the roof fixings need to be stronger.
- It will help if the building is lower to the ground both to avoid the wind, and allow embers to pass over.
- Any areas where embers can collect and weak points should be avoided, that includes roof ridges.
- The cost of providing stronger windows and fire shutters could add $4-5,000/sqm.
- Avoiding windows entirely on the direction that the fire is likely to come from.
- Providing hard landscaping and walls as buffer zones.
- Ensuring all external materials are non combustible.
- Adequate Water Tanks and sprinkler systems.
A final bill for Fire Upgrades of over $100,000 or more is likely.
A Few Final Thoughts
- Your house is still ‘Fire Resistant’, more resistant than the BAL 12.5 Standards, but not ‘Fire Proof’.
- To be effective some of the precautions like fire shutters and sprinkler systems need you around to be fully effective.
- Will you have the confidence to stay at home in the face of an oncoming bush fire, a seriously scary prospect.
- If you do stay have you got a good Plan B, such as a separate underground fire shelter, late evacuation is frequently a deadly choice!
See Bushfire for more Posts