Build or rebuild with timber in a BAL-rated location? Yes, free information is available.

Home » Build or rebuild with timber in a BAL-rated location? Yes, free information is available.

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With the devastating results of recent bushfires top-of-mind for may Australians, thoughts turn to designing and building to minimise the potential risk of damage to homes in areas that may be affected in future. While it may seem logical that building a bushfire resistant structure would preclude the use of wood and wood products, this is not the case.

 

Forest and Wood Product Australia Limited (FWPA), the industry body that resources WoodSolutions, has updated resources to help re-build resilient homes in bushfire-prone areas. A program of workshops and further informational resources will be rolled out over the coming months in fire affected communities.

 

These free resources include a comprehensive design guide, Building with Timber in Bushfire-prone Areas, a calculator that allows people to estimate the BAL of their site and an expert advice service through which people can seek answers to their bushfire design-related questions.

 

“Timber framing and wood products in other applications for residential construction in BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) rated locations may be used, subject to the requirements of Australian Standard AS3959 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas,” explained Boris Iskra, a structural engineer with additional fire qualifications, who is the National Codes and Standards Manager at FWPA).

 

Developed and refined over many years, the Australian Standard AS3959 Construction of buildings is bushfire-prone areas reflects the latest in building and materials science, technology and systems. The standard is a consensus-based document that is referenced by the National Construction Code.

Designing to ‘build out’ the effects of bushfires, the requirements of the Standard seek to minimise the risk of ember, radiant heat and even flame damage. With appropriate design decisions, that meet the requirements of AS 3959, attractive timber homes can be built, using sustainably sourced wood and wood products both inside and out.

Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL) are calculated to assess the degree of risk of bushfire attack of an individual building site. There are six BAL ratings and each has specific construction requirements relating to the materials that may be used, and how they are used, in residential construction.

Timber can be used for house framing and all interior applications, including flooring, skirting, architraves and cabinetry in all BALs.

“Understanding what is required for each BAL is actually quite straightforward,” said Iskra.

A key requirement of the Standard is to limit the size of gaps to reduce the potential entry of burning embers as well as to protect the occupants and building from the effects of radiant heat from a bushfire.

Through woodsolutions.com.au, FWPA provides a range of resources to help designers, builders and owners enjoy the aesthetic, functional and environmental benefits of wood in BAL locations, while meeting the requirements of the Australian Standard.

These free resources include a comprehensive design guide, Building with Timber in Bushfire-prone Areas, a calculator that allows people to estimate the BAL of their site and an expert advice service through which people can seek answers to their bushfire design-related questions.

“I encourage people to go to the website and look at the resources,” said Mr Iskra, “it would be a great pity if people missed out on gaining all the advantages of wood just because they didn’t have the information about how to use it in ways that comply with the Standard.

If you are a design or construction professional and would like to register your interest in attending FWPA seminars in selected bushfire-affected areas, please contact Eileen Newbury, FWPA’s National Marketing and Communications Manager by email eileen.newbury@fwpa.com.au.

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