Bushfires in Australia are the new normal – Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island, Old Growth forests and farm lands throughout all States and Territories – houses, sheds, towns, wild life, farming stock, endangered flora……..

As architects we can only address a limited amount of the holistic damage – and assist in setting up future visions for sensible and sensitive rebuilding and repair.

For any building project to run smoothly, it’s vitally important to establish the ‘ground rules’ before you begin. A range of planning/development controls and a myriad of building regulations dictate what you can – and can’t – do, so it’s critical to understand them before starting any design work. Archicentre Australia design architects work with these things all the time but for the layperson they can be very confusing.

It’s especially important for anyone designing or building a home in a fire-affected area to be aware of the siting and construction requirements that affect new building work. In high-risk areas these requirements can influence the positioning of a building and/or the materials used for its construction. Even in lower risk areas measures may be required to reduce the risk of ember attack in advance of a fire front.

Simple precautions introduced during the design of a building – and enforced during construction – can make all the difference to the protection of life and property. Regular maintenance is also critical to ensure that these protective measures remain uncompromised.

It’s always important to make some early enquiries of the local authorities to establish what development controls or building regulations apply to a piece of land, but when building in a high fire-risk area it’s critical. Rigorous new construction standards have been introduced throughout Australia since Victoria’s Black Saturday fires in 2009 and modified in 2018 – so you can’t take anything for granted. The 2019-20 bushfire season challenged even the best examples of bushfire designed buildings – so this is a “watch this space” topic. 

Contact the local Council to get the most current information before you do anything and make sure everyone involved in the project is up-to-date with the latest regulatory requirements. Failing to understand them can result in permit issue delays and/or budget blowouts, both of  which will add to an already stressful exercise.