Australia’s National Bushfire Building Regulations Part 1

01 Jun
2020

It wasn’t long ago that the country faced what many people believed to be the worst crisis that Australia has ever suffered. Lightning strikes caused fires to sweep across the southeastern part of the country, burning over seven million hectares of dry land that had been experiencing severe drought. 3,000 homes were destroyed and thousands of people had to evacuate and seek shelter.

It can take months, and even years in some cases to rebuild after a bushfire. Plans for building have to be drafted, costed, and then approved. There are insurance assessments that must be made, boundaries to redraw, and land to clear. Services such as water and electricity have to be reconnected. The biggest decision that homeowners must make during these times is whether they are willing to stay even if it means that they could risk losing everything again.

SGS Economics & Planning has estimated that at least 2.2 million Australian households live in areas that are at extreme risks of being destroyed by bushfires. Often, people choose to live in or near the bush simply to feel close to nature and have a quiet home. After the fires and before the pandemic expert builders and architects had been holding seminars on how to rebuild in towns throughout New South Wales where the fires wreaked havoc on homes and buildings. Many people are still coming to grips with what happened earlier this year. 

Australian bushfires have their own season and last year the temperatures in certain areas reached record highs. However, the deadliest bushfire crisis on record actually took place in 2009 throughout the state of Victoria. 173 people were killed and the day is now known as Black Saturday. It was after Black Saturday that Australia’s national bushfire building regulations were upgraded. 

Building sites are now assessed or fire risk according to six attack levels. These levels range from BAL-Low to BAL-FZ (extreme risk) or flame zone sites. At the latter, there are likely to be high levels of radiant heat and ember attacks. Direct contact with flames is very likely.  Any plans that exist in flame zones have to be approved in advance to ensure that every aspect of a home is certified as non-combustible. Things such as metal bushfire shutters are now considered mandatory.

However, with millions of Australian homes in areas of moderate to extreme fire-risks, meeting current standards can feel daunting and sometimes, impossible. 

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