We can build homes to survive bushfires, so why don’t we?

We can build homes to survive bushfires, so why don't we?
A house the author designed with the perforated shutters to protect against bushfires, built to BAL-29. Andrew Halsall

There is a growing public perception that building to the Australian Standard for construction in a bushfire-prone area – AS 3959:2009 – is unaffordable.

This can be attributed to published construction cost premiums applied to each of the six bushfire attack levels (BAL) outlined in AS 3959, from BAL-Low, BAL-12.5, BAL-19, BAL-29, BAL-40 to BAL-FZ (Flame Zone). The source of these costings is the Australian Building Codes Board’s Regulatory Impact Statement for AS 3959:2009.

This costing matrix, which has been represented on various state and local government websites around Australia such as City of Swan, in Western Australia, puts the extra cost of complying to the standards as up to A$20,885 for a “base home”.

These premiums have been derived from simplistic calculations where, for example, fibreglass fly screen mesh is upgraded to stainless steel ember mesh, or float glass is replaced with toughened safety glass. ….


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