The summer warmth together with hot winds and an abundance of drying vegetation creates optimal conditions for bushfires, which are a threat throughout Australia especially from Southern Western Australia along the southern and eastern flanks through to southern Queensland.
Archicentre Australia says it is important that precautions be taken by home occupants to minimise the risk, particularly those living near areas of bush or open paddocks.
Residents should ensure trees and shrubs close to the house are trimmed from subfloor vents and do not overhang the roof or gutters and that gutters are kept clean of debris such as leaves and twigs.
Gardens should be kept moist and areas of grass near the house or boundary fences should be checked to ensure they are not overgrown.
The national architect’s advisory service says if there are areas of concern on neighbouring properties and you are unable to contact the owners or unaware of them, report the matter to the local council.
Archicentre Australia director Peter Georgiev says landscaping features can slow the momentum of a bushfire.
“These include rivers, lakes, dams, swimming pools, irrigated or green summer crops, orchards, vegetable gardens, water rich tree species, sporting ovals or tennis courts.
“Some tree species, including native and imported species, have been classified as bushfire-resistant and can be used as wind breaks and barriers.”
He says the risks can also be mitigated through sound architectural design principles.
“Engaging with an architect when planning a new home or additions to an existing residence ensures that conversations regarding defensive design can stretch beyond those outlined by Australian Standards; so sound design principles are incorporated to mitigate the bushfire risk.
“This means that each home can appropriately respond to each of their respective environments.”
Houses are classified through Australian Standard AS3959 as being in low, medium, high or extreme bushfire attack areas, or as being in the flame zone.
Peter Georgiev says there are always sensible design precautions to be taken regardless of there being few if any statutory requirements – i.e. no requirements for the low category, and the flame zone category is always subject to separate assessment by authorities.
“By way of brief guidance, for the medium, high and extreme categories of bushfire attack, the National Constriction Code (NCC) and Australian Standard 3959 set out levels of acceptable construction. There are always opportunities to design beyond these standards and specific to the environmental circumstance.
“Non-combustible materials are generally acceptable, but some species of timber are sometimes restricted. It’s a complex area for design consideration – testing for architects let alone home renovators or para-professionls.”
He says roofs can be tiled or sheeted. All roof types must have junctions sealed and be fully sarked.
Roof lights are not a good idea in his opinion.
Eaves must be enclosed and gaps sealed. If timber is used in the high risk category, it must be ‘fire retardant treated’.
Gutters and downpipes should have metal leaf guards. Systems for water retention can help protect the eaves and dampen flying debris which may gather during fire. By connecting them to a recirculating sprinkler system the wetting time can be prolonged.
Archicentre Australia has prepared a Bushfire Design Guide, which can be viewed at –
For more information go to www.archicentreaustralia.com.au
This media release has been written and distributed by:
Peter Georgiev, Director
Level 1, 9 Strathalbyn Street,
Kew East, VICTORIA, 3102
Phone: 1300 13 45 13 | 03 9859 9950