• Adrian Ramsay

Adrian Ramsay Design House: Building (and Rebuilding) Homes in Bushfire-Prone Areas


The fact that we can have the elevated ability to work remotely means that more people are moving from the city to rural surroundings on the outskirts of major cities, and with that… to bushfire prone areas. In many cases when homes have been ravaged by bushfire, many people want to stay and rebuild. In Victoria, ten years after the Black Friday fires, Kinglake now boasts one of the largest percentages of homeowners, 88%, in any city or town in the state.


The current legislation throughout the states, leave much to be desired in the legislative framework around the building industry; it’s skewed more to the cost-effective solution rather than bushfire-proof solution. Many experts agree this season’s conditions will be replicated and worse in seasons to come, so there needs to a serious overhaul on the way we build.

The positive spin on this is that there will be a forced slant to buildings that are sustainable in the long run. Buildings will have to meet requirements that can survive these devastating natural disasters or at the very lease protect their occupants.


Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessments


BALs have been a requirement for building in bushfire-prone areas for a few years now, although it’s not widely known. These standards need to be identified for any home being renovated or new builds in the areas affected most commonly by bushfires.

Once the area has been assessed then the design and material requirements will come into effect for any build in that area. Clearing and external considerations may also come into play in the landscape around the build.


Design and Materials


Steel


Steel frames are the big go-to. They are designed to resist ignition and provide no fuel to fire. The other bonus is a steel frame is extremely resistant to other elements in both coastal and rural environments.

Structural steel also has the benefit of being long-spanning, offering large open spaces within the design, and is flexible in the way it’s applied in design. Steel window frames, roof, and wall claddings are also resistant to the varied Australian conditions - not just fire. Flyscreens of stainless steel mesh also protect windows.


Timber


Many timbers are considered under the BAL to be ember and fire-resistant. They are usually dense, solid hardwoods. Some recommended that have undergone testing of various levels are Blackbutt, River Red Gum, Silvertop Ash and Spotted Gum. The density (or size) of the application needs to be considered when checking against the application.


Glass


Toughen, metal-reinforced glass is widely used by building designers and architects in homes built in extreme weather prone areas. Windows can also be protected by steel shutters.


Design


The position and directorial facing of the build will be taken into consideration moving ahead, especially in relation to the environment.


Building designers worth their salt will need to be educated on these new requirements as we move ahead to rebuild the loss and protect homeowners against more of these devastating natural phenomenon’s that occur in our country of extreme environments.

Protecting Homes Vs Stripping The Environment - The new Eco Home.


The upside of this horrific bushfire season is that building designers, architects and builders will need to get up to speed with the new requirements of design and materials to rebuild in bushfire prone areas. The other benefit is that most of the upgrades and new legislation will require building designers, architects and builders to use products and materials that are fire-resistant, sustainable and eco-friendly, innovation will be on the rise with new building design ideas and materials being designed and tested.


With the correct materials, selected trees surrounding builds will need to be stripped, and the environment can remain untouched in many ways. Fundamentally, it comes down to rethinking the fuel components of the house (and that directly surrounding it) to ensure a property can withstand the threat of fire.


Felling ancient and indigenous trees (and in turn fauna) from the surrounding perimeters of the build can be undertaken minimally to preserve the beauty and ecology of the land.

Backburning will be required only to protect large segments of national parks and bush lands as it used to be, not to protect the housing that has encroached into the surrounding our valuable and times vulnerable landscapes.


Steel, and cement along with ember and fire-resistant timber, and glass can be combined with other materials to make your home not only structurally sound and fire-proof, it can look amazing. Many of those materials also will make a home healthier to live in, easier to upkeep and maintain, and last for longer whether fires encroach or not.


Eco-Materials for Fire-resistance.


Why not give back to earth on your renovation or rebuild? There are many other products that can be applied to design that can give you satisfaction and confidence in your eco choices. We incorporate these other fire-resistant materials into our designs.


Mud-brick


Made from earth, water and straw it’s a great insulator and fire-resistant. It’s suitable for all climates, looks elegantly rustic, and the only upkeep it requires is water.


Rammed Earth


This material is fireproof, and a great temperature and sound insulator and absorber. It’s tactile and textured; it’s made from gravel, soil, and cement. It’s expensive, and it requires the correct engineing for the application. The upside is it’s suited to dry, bush-like climates, and will last many lifetimes.


Natural Stone


Limestone is fire-resistant, sound-absorbent and structurally strong. It is suitable for use in homes in any part of Australia and usually outlasts its inhabitants.


Concrete


It’s a mixture of aggregate or gravel and cement. It ages well, is strong, low maintenance and fire-resistant. It can be used anywhere in the home, inside and outside, anywhere in Australia.


While it’s man-made, we use it in conjunction with other environmentally friendly materials to reduce its carbon footprint. It does take time to harden and has to be sealed but once cured it’s almost indestructible.

If you are considering a new or rebuild, and you want any information or want to know more about our designs we would love to hear from you.

Contact Adrian Ramsay Design House.

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