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Housing : June 2009
Photo courtesy CFA Public Affairs The new building standard will apply throughoutVictoria because of the state government’s decision to declare the whole state a bushfire prone area. However, the majority of homes in Victoria will have little or no risk of bushfire attack, which means in many cases the requirements of the new standard won’t apply. According to theVictorian Building Commission, 80 per cent of the building permits issued inVictoria in 2008 would be assessed as being BushfireAttack Level-LOW(BAL-Low). These will therefore require no specific construction requirements. The BAL is based on a number of factors including the Fire Danger Index, the slope of the land under the subject building and the adjacent vegetation, types of surrounding vegetation and its proximity to any building. ‘The cost-saving or increase for each building will be entirely dependent on the site classification required under the newAustralian Standard,’ saysMike Harding, HIA national manager, codes and standards. ‘The old standard (adopted in 1999) had only three categories for construction, and the new standard has six. The BAL is determined by the site HOUSING JUNE 2009 classification and ranges from BAL-Low where no additional building requirements are necessary, to BALFlame Zone, where extensive additional building work will be required.’ No specific building products are mandated in the new standard, as a range of products may be included in the design process and some materials or systems in the higher risk categories may require fire testing. Instead, sites will be assessed according to risk, and then the relevant construction methods will be determined according to the final site classification. ‘Obviously the construction requirements increase in stringency as the level of exposure increases,’Mike says, ‘to the point where external elements such as roofs and walls in Bushfire Attack Level 40 and BAL-Flame Zone may be required to be tested.’ According to theVictorian Building Commission, under the new standard, new homes at risk of bushfire may be required to have: • roofs, verandahs and decking made from non-combustible material Right: Mike Harding, HIA national manager, codes and standards. 11 • wall and roof joints sealed against ember attacks • windows protected by noncombustible shutters and/or 4mm to 6mm toughened glass • door frames that are tightly fitted and made from fire-resistant timber, with a weather strip at the base. Mike says that due to the extreme and unpredictable nature of bushfires, the new standard still gives no guarantee