Bushfires are a real threat to many communities throughout South-East Queensland. Although destructive, they has been a natural occurrence in the life-cycle of bushland for millions of years and are still an ever-present danger for citizens. As Brisbane and the outlying suburbs grow, construction companies move further into areas that are bushfire zones. In doing so, it is the obligation of these builders to adhere to the legal requirements for construction in these areas- namely the Planning for bushfire protection AS 3959-2009.
This legislation covers all of the requirements for all newly developed domestic and commercial constructions in bushfire territories. In the highest risk areas there are a range of measures that must be implemented when constructing new homes. Concrete slabs are required as they are non-combustible, as is the use of brick veneer or concrete for all exterior walls. Roofing, verandas, and decks must be constructed of similar non-combustible materials. Construction companies should also be aware that sealed wall and roof joints, aluminium blinds or shutters, and toughened glass are a necessity so be sure to ask your developer. They should also use fire resistant door frames, with weather strips, and metal as opposed to plastic for all external trimmings like gutters, pipes, and vents. As construction companies are required to comply with these regulations, the costs to build fire safe homes in these areas can become quite expensive. But if it is to make the difference between life and death, it is the right choice.
These residential building standards apply to all new homes or outbuildings, reconstructions and renovations, repairs to outbuildings such as garages and sheds, and any additions with 6 metres of a dwelling. These requirements to address bushfire protection for developments was introduced in 2002 and has possibly saved many peoples homes due to these extensive measures. It is worth mentioning that any subdivisions such as townhouse developments that were built prior to 2002 may not meet these stringent building requirements. It may be wise to contact the townhouse builders or your local council to check what construction guidelines were used when looking to buy a property in one of these bushfire prone areas.
Asset Protection Zones & Water Supply
Construction in bushfire areas requires the implementation of a range of preventative measures rather than just one simple fix. Another way to make developments more fire safe is to use an asset protection zone. The aim of this is to create a buffer and protect human life, property, and high value assets such as cars. By creating a buffer between the bush and the developments it helps to minimise fuel loads, reduce radiant heat levels, flame danger, and smoke surrounding the property. For new property developments, the buffer zone should be taken into account within the confines of the proposed site. Developments cannot pass this responsibility onto neighbouring land unless approved, and the clearing of land on neighbouring properties, national parks, or local council property cannot be undertaken without prior written approval.
Having an easily accessible water supply is also a key fire safety tool for developments in bushfire zones. Major fires can compromise the delivery of basic services such as electricity and water when needed most. As part of new developments, construction firms may need to outline the provision of certain services. Substantial water supply is required when firefighting and it is a good idea for construction companies to liaise with town planners to ensure adequate supply during a crisis.
For more information on bushfire safety visit the Rural Fire Service Website.