The Victorian Government has released its permanent bushfire regulations nearly three years after the black Saturday bushfres that ravaged significant parts of Victoria and took 173 lives.
The regulations which replace earlier ones from 2010 call for a minimum standard of BAL 12.5 for all construction in bush fire prone areas, in relation to ember control.
The BAL rating or bushfire attack level, is a system to grade the likely hood of bushfire attack on a particular building block .The low ratings will typically be for blocks that are lightly vegetated and reasonably flat. As the slope of the land increases the bal rating rises through BAL 12.5, BAL 29 to BAL 40 and to a maximum of BAL FZ Firezone.
Ember control has been the principal focus of the bushfire building regulations. The main differences in a BAL 29 building we recently constructed were all directed at controlling ember attack. Glass thickness, fire resiting timbers, screens over openings and metal pipework were all measures designed to limit the damage that emebers would do in the event of a bushfire.
The SouthAustralian Country Fire Service says ember attack is the greatest threat to buildings;
The entry of windblown sparks (burning embers) through unprotected openings is the principal cause of building damage during bushfires. These sparks start small fires, often well before the main fire front or many hours after, which develop rapidly and may eventually engulf or envelope the whole building if left unattended.
If a fire cant take hold in the building it is much easier to either fight outside or allow to pass.The new regulations make every home in a bushfire zone have a rating of 12.5 in relation to ember attack. I see this as a sensible and inexpensive move. Let me say that again the government just made a sensible and inexpensive move! Wow.
a sensible and inexpensive move
We have learnt little from our long history of bushfres in Victoria . Little regard was given to the 47 lives lost in the terrible fires of 1983 Ash Wednesday from a building perspective, as Builders like me rebuilt those homes with similar materials on similar sites. We changed nothing. Fortunately know we have decided to address the threat of bushfire across the state. Areas will be designated as bushfire prone and universal controls will see both new buildings and reasonable extensions to buildings brought into line with the regulations.
Having recently finished a BAL 29 home in one the areas affected by Black Saturday I was pondering waht would happen if this Feburary was another devastating fire season, or the feburary after? Did I build that home correctly? Will it withstand the inevitable ember attack? The regulations we followed make me very comfortable that every measure is in place.
Sadly another bushfire attack is inevitable given the life span of a new home and the regularity of bushfires across Victoria.
A full copy of the regulations is available at the Building Commission website