If you don’t fully understand the construction costs associated with building in a Bushfire Prone Area, the unplanned budget increases can feel like you are watching your money burn.
Australia has a long, and sad history of bushfire disasters. While there are a number of factors that contribute to the potential for a fire, there is one thing for certain: we must protect our properties and reduce the loss of life during such a threat. In 2009, the Queensland Government determined that design and construction methods must be regulated to ensure buildings are more resilient to the threat of bushfires.
Most planning schemes in Queensland contain an overlay map that details different levels of bushfire risk. Don’t assume that just because your block of land is not close to bushland that it is not in a bushfire zone. Ask your designer if they have checked the bushfire overlays of the town plan to see if your property falls within the zone. Better yet, get them to show you the overlay map just to be sure.
Once land is confirmed to be within a risk area, the building certifier must enforce the Australian Standard for the Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas (AS3959 -2009). This standard requires an assessment of a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) based on a property’s environmental surroundings.
Depending on the extremity of the BAL, certain construction methods and materials are required in order to protect against a potential fire hazard. The following list is an example of the sorts of impacts that a BAL can have on the design and ultimately, the cost of your home. It is not a complete list, but rather some key examples of design themes you will most likely discuss when building in a bushfire zone.
• Non-combustible floor and flooring or additional protection of the flooring system
• Timber deck design and protection of gaps between flooring and under floor
• Screening of weep holes in brick veneer construction
• Non-combustible walls and cladding and need for additional insulation
• Metal fly screen to windows
• Door and window shutters
• Roof sarking
• Sealing of all small openings like gaps under corrugations in the roof sheeting
• Fitting of mesh-made ember guards to any openings
• Metals fascia require addition fixings
• Gutters downpipes non-combustible
• Balustrades and handrails to be non-combustible
In addition to considerations of the building’s construction, like those listed above, external features might also be required such as buffers and cleared barriers installed around the building.
So, if you don’t like the thought of watching your money burn, do your homework to find out if you are in a bushfire zone BEFORE you start designing. Ask your building certifier.
To find out about the other issues that you should be considering at the design stage we suggest you read our story that could save you thousands Building Cost Saving Tips.