Building for bushfire
By Alex Wood
By Danielle Warfe
22 October 2018
Living near the trees is pretty special, but it also means a bit more attention is needed to ensure your building has some protection from bushfires. If you’re looking to build and think you might be exposed to the risk of bushfire, here’s what you’ll need to consider to make sure your building is designed and constructed to resist bushfire attack.
Are you at risk?
Generally, if you’re within 100 m of bushfire-prone vegetation more than 1 hectare in area (e.g. unmanaged forest, scrub, grassland), you’re in a bushfire-prone area and are at some level of risk from bushfires. If you’re in Clarence or Hobart council areas you can check whether you’re in a bushfire-prone area on theLIST, by selecting the planning scheme overlay in the maps view: this will be extended to other councils with the implementation of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme.
What’s your level of risk?
If you’re in a bushfire-prone area, you’ll need to have your Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) determined by an accredited bushfire assessor, and there’s a list of them on the Tasmania Fire Service website. Your designated BAL will dictate the features required for your building to reduce the chance of ignition from bushfire attack, and your designer will incorporate these into your project design.
Does your building need bushfire measures?
Yes, if it’s a dwelling, a public accommodation building (such as a guesthouse or resort), a factory, a school or public assembly building, a healthcare or aged care building, or an outbuilding within 6 m of any of the above. If it’s a shop or office then no, it’s not required to be designed and constructed to resist bushfire attack but you may still choose to incorporate bushfire measures for insurance purposes.
What bushfire measures will you need for your building?
This will depend on your BAL designation, the type of building it is, and where it’s located on your site, but the minimum features you’ll need to consider will be:
- access for a fire appliance,
- a fire-fighting water supply, and
- a hazard management area around the building.
Dwellings, accommodation buildings and outbuildings within 6 m of these will also need design consideration of:
- building shape and type of footings,
- bushfire-resistant cladding and roofing,
- placement of windows and bushfire screens or shutters, and
- metal pipes for all exposed pipework.
These requirements are detailed in the Director’s Determination – Requirements for Building in Bushfire-Prone Areas.
What extent of building work requires attention to bushfire-resistance?
New buildings, work that requires a building permit, and notifiable work greater than 20 m2. Internal alterations are not subject to bushfire requirements.
What documents will you need for building approval?
- A Bushfire Hazard Management Plan and report, which specifies your BAL designation and how the bushfire hazard is proposed to be managed around your building, and is prepared and certified by your accredited bushfire assessor.
- An emergency plan if your building is any of those mentioned above, other than a private dwelling.
- Design documentation detailing the bushfire-resistant features required for your specific BAL designation. If you’re in a BAL-40 or BAL-FZ area of greater bushfire risk, your design will need to be a performance solution developed in consultation with the Tasmania Fire Service.
This should get you started, but the Tasmania Fire Service has lots of useful information on their website, particularly their Building for Bushfire guide and Water Supply infosheet, and you can always contact us for further advice specific to your situation.