Construction standards, especially for residences, have rapidly been changing in recent years, with a focus on safe, environmentally-friendly housing. Factors such as whether your home falls within a bushfire prone area, and the need to comply with regulations relevant to sustainability concerns, means that it is essential that your builder is up-to-date with the latest building and safety standards.
The most significant changes in the construction industry of the past five years has to be those brought in after recommendations made at the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. This commission examined the circumstances surrounding the terrible events of Black Saturday, as well as looking at what measures could be put into place in case of future bushfire events.
The Australian Windows Association (AWA) has put out a unique and comprehensive guide to new bushfire-ready safety standards. These standards concentrate on protecting homes against a fire front, and are categorised depending on your home or region’s level of bushfire risk.
The reallocation of areas in Victoria based on their proneness to bushfires, as well as vulnerability to ‘bushfire attack’, is based on a region’s Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). You can obtain a free report on the status of your property through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website. Your BAL is based on a number of factors, including geographic location, level and type of local vegetation, and the slope on your property. There’s more on this at the as3959 website, which gives dedicated information on these new standards. Though daunting to consider at first, this six level categorisation is vital in planning any build or renovation, and is ultimately tailored to your region, local habitat, and safety.
The BAL even at a minimum outlines the need for the basic framework of doors and windows to be constructed ideally by metal frames, or bushfire-front-resistant timber. Metal components can be constructed using steel, aluminium or bronze; if you decide to use timber, it needs to meet specific safety standards outlined in the AWA’s guide. Specifications change according to the height of the door or windows from the ground – there are different standards for ground floor versus first floor windows, for example – and provisions have been made for standards to vary and change as research into the effect of bushfire fronts on buildings evolves. These safety standards are a step in the right direction, but as we live in a world with a changing climate, the need for constant research and vigilance remains vitally important.
The research into the safest materials for constructing your home can be daunting. There are, however, many resources out there from unbiased government organisations – these are listed in the links provided below. Steel Window Co. will provide our expert recommendations when you are working on your build, but we also recommend you talk to a number of different organisations and businesses when planning your project in an area that has bushfire risk. Local knowledge and awareness of standards are key to your having a safe and secure home, and contribute to a strong sense of community.
Some further resources for your research, as well as the resources included in this article are: