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DESIGN matters Bushfire resilient design DESIGN matters Bushfire resilient design

Bushfire resilient design


Before you design your home,
Andreas Sederof details his experience of the updated Australian Standards a site assessment will need to
for bushfire resilient design in Victoria with a recent rural new build. be undertaken to ascertain
your property’s Bushfire
Words Andreas Sederof Attack Level (BAL)

After the devastating 2009 bushfires in at a BAL level of FZ (Flame Zone), while the external cladding materials can vary from gutters, allowing leaf debris to be blown off
Victoria, the state government introduced lowest are BAL-LOW. Most properties will highly fire resistant materials like AAC readily. Leafless gutters and downpipes with
a six-category Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) fall under this latter level. block work through to corrugated iron and leaf diverters are a good idea. Provision of
zoning scheme. The scheme is accompanied In my experience, the designer needs in some cases very dense bushfire resistant adequate water storage is another example
by Australian Standard requirements for to balance design freedom and the most hardwoods. Many of these dense hardwoods of sustainable self sufficiency and bushfire
building design and materials performance, suitable materials against the bushfire can be used quite successfully provided they protection measures working hand in hand.
ranging from ember protection at the low risk category of the site. It’s important to are balanced to the site’s BAL. Windows Let’s face it: the lower the fire risk achieved
levels to fire-rated construction at the highest. stress that “passive” bushfire protection and glazed doors, due to their relatively by design and careful site maintenance, the D
Each new residential building, alteration mechanisms, such as mandated construction low thermal properties, are approximately safer you and your building will be. The bushfire resistant house built
in Musk by Sunpower Design.
and addition in Victoria has to meet these methods and material selection, have five to six times more vulnerable to radiant It has a BAL site rating of 40.
regulations. The rest of the country has now priority over “active systems” like roof heat when compared with other external Andreas Sederof is a building designer and a
adopted these Standards. It’s important to talk sprinklers and pumps. History has construction materials. Windows are also director of Sunpower Design, a Melbourne-based
to your building designer or architect to ensure repeatedly demonstrated that active systems vulnerable to airborne debris launched consultancy and design practice specialising in Getting glazing right for requirements for bushfire protection
the latest regulations are incorporated when can fail in an emergency due to inadequate during a firestorm. A solution for this is integrated solutions for energy efficiency and bushfire-prone builds (but may not provide your desired thermal
designing your home. water supply, insufficient maintenance and to place metal shutters over the windows, sustainable building design. In much of Australia, summer means high performance). It’s still possible to have
Andreas Sederof from Sunpower Design power failures. These systems require you either sliding or hinged. Aluminium clad, www.sunpowerdesign.com.au bushfire risk. Windows can be a weak timber window frames even in fairly
has recently designed a home in Musk, regional to be present to activate them, which is of no double glazed and thermally broken window point in the ability of the building envelope high fire-risk areas; there is a small list of
Victoria, to comply with these new standards. benefit if you decide to leave early or the day frames are available on the market that easily More information: to withstand bushfire, so when you’re Australian hardwoods that will meet higher
It will be profiled in Sanctuary 15, but here’s a before. meet BAL 29 requirements and perform well www.buildingcommission.com.au building in a fire-prone area, it’s important BAL requirements, including Blackbutt
preview of his experiences: When you’re designing a home for bushfire thermally in both summer and winter. [Ed The Building Commission publishes to consider framing materials, glazing type and Spotted Gum.
resistance, the ability to withstand the note, see the boxed text on the opposite page information about the BAL ratings as well and other window treatments carefully to Windows are available in the market
It’s important to design new and renovated temperature (radiant heat) of the fire and for more information about windows.] as a PDF guide for homeowners looking maximise your house’s chance of making for BAL 40 in timber (Paarhammer),
country properties with the latest bushfire ember resistance are the most important I recently designed a home in Musk, to retrofit their homes for better protection it through if that terrible day arrives. For aluminium clad timber (Miglas) and
prevention measures, but at the same factors to consider. Minimising bushfire Victoria, with a BAL rating of 40. The design from bushfires. windows, the new Australian Standard aluminium (Trend) and there are also
time we can incorporate best practice fuel around the home is also critical. Most solution includes tilt panel concrete walls requirements range from installing thicker bushfire shutters available on the market
environmentally sustainable design. house fires start sometime after the fire facing the aspects that have to cope with www.builditbackgreen.org/bushfires toughened glass to bushfire shutters or for BAL-FZ — Anna Cumming
These two objectives can have a symbiotic front passes through. Roof vents and other the most severe wind and heat conditions, Created by Green Cross Australia, the Build bushfire-approved window frames.
relationship. roof penetrations require special cowls in this instance from the north to the south It Back Green website is designed to help In Sanctuary 12, we profiled a house More information:
Before you design your home, a site and screens to protect the roof space from west. The aluminium framed double-glazed Victorian communities recovering from the in bushfire-prone Neerim East, Victoria. – ReNew magazine windows buyers’
assessment will need to be undertaken to smouldering embers. The best way to ensure windows and the tiled concrete deck with Black Saturday bushfires rebuild their homes Although the build predated the BAL guide: www.renew.org.au/buyers-guide
ascertain your property’s Bushfire Attack that cinder penetration does not become steel pergolas work both aesthetically in an affordable and sustainable manner. scheme, the owners’ choice of 6mm – Window Energy Rating: www.wers.net
Level (BAL). This will determine the a problem is to incorporate high levels of and architecturally, while decreasing the toughened, double-glazed windows gives – www.paarhammer.com.au
construction and material requirements draught proofing into the design of the opportunity for cinder penetration. An on- www.wewillrebuild.vic.gov.au the house a head-start in terms of fire – www.miglas.com.au
that must be incorporated in the design building. This is also a feature of energy ground concrete slab is essential to prevent Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and resistance. Remember to choose your – www.trendwindows.com.au
and build. The BAL assessment takes into efficient homes, designed to prevent air flying embers from getting underneath Recovery Authority window frame material carefully too. – www.wildfireprotection.com.au
account a range of factors, including the Fire leaks and heat loss. the building; it also serves to maintain low Aluminium or steel frames meet most
Danger Index, land slope, and surrounding It’s also important to consider the internal temperatures – very desirable on
vegetation type and proximity to the most vulnerable external surfaces of a extremely hot bushfire days. Roof structures
building. The highest risk sites are assessed building. The selection of appropriate should ideally be pitched metal with no box

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