With the bushfire season well and truly started, it might be timely to investigate the Australian Standard for building in bushfire areas, as well as doing research on suitable building materials if you are planning to build or extend in a bushfire prone area.
Each state government provides current and new development information for building in bushfire prone areas on their websites, e.g. the Government of Western Australia has recently announced a package of reforms to help protect lives and property against the threat of bushfires throughout Western Australia. These reforms introduce new requirements for people intending to develop and/or build in bushfire prone areas, including the need to assess a property’s bushfire risk and take additional construction measures to limit the impact of bushfires.
The Victorian government site states that ‘Victoria has one of the highest levels of bushfire risk in the world. The planning and building systems ensure that new development is more resilient to bushfire and supports communities to be more bushfire ready.’
The building requirements for house design and construction vary according to the bush fire attack level that a development falls into. The building requirements for each Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) are set out in Australian Standard: 3959 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas 2009 (AS3959).
Building sites assessed under AS3959-2009 as Bushfire Attack Level Flame Zone (BAL-FZ) are those sites considered to be most at risk of bushfire attack. In this zone, there is an extremely high risk of ember attack, i.e. burning debris ignited by windborne embers, and a likelihood of exposure to an extreme level of radiant heat and direct exposure to flames.
When protecting your home against bushfire, windows and doors are considered to be a weak link in the building envelope. It is therefore imperative to choose tested and compliant products suitable for each relevant level of the bushfire rating. The higher the BAL-level, the more stringent the requirements and testing of products.
Paarhammer had their windows (fixed, tilt and turn) and doors (hinged, French, sliding) tested and approved by independent NATA-accredited Exova-Warringtonfire for all bushfire levels including the highest, BAL-FZ, for use without shutters. These products received a number of Awards. Paarhammer have manufactured BAL-FZ windows and doors for buildings in the NSW Blue Mountains, Northern Beaches, and South Coast; the Victorian Mornington Peninsula, and High Country; Adelaide Hills in South Australia; and Tasmania to name a few locations. See a short video of the Paarhammer BAL-FZ bushfire test on the BAL-FZ product page.