Following a number of serious bushfires across Australia, the Commonwealth Government introduced legislation to provide guidance for reducing the effects of bushfire on properties and its residents. These levels relate to different intensities that a home might experience during a bushfire and are referred to as Bushfire Attack Level or ‘BAL’ for short. It is important you know whether your property is in a bushfire prone area and how to manage any building works.
So, will this affect you and your home?
If you are planning on building or extending your home in an area that is identified as being bushfire prone, your home will be subject to certain planning controls and construction methods to improve the chances of survival should a bushfire occur. It is a good idea to check the BAL rating if you are planning to purchase land or property. This rating can significantly impact on the construction requirements for any future alterations to your home which may, in turn, affect the overall costs of any works.
There are 6 x bushfire attack levels that a property can be classified. These are;
BAL Low – the bush fire attack level is considered low. No specific construction requirements are needed. Basic property preparation is advised.
BAL 12.5 – there is a low risk of radiant heat but there is a chance of burning debris that may threaten the building. Specific construction requirements are needed for protection against embers.
BAL 19 – there is a moderate risk of attack by burning debris and increased risk of radiant heat. Specific construction requirements are needed for protection against embers and radiant heat.
BAL 29 – there is a high risk of an attack from burning debris and radiant heat levels can threaten buildings and some flame contact is possible. Specific fire protection construction products are required.
BAL 40 – very high risk of attack from extreme radiant heat, burning debris and potential flame contact, which can all threaten the integrity of the building. All buildings must be designed and constructed with specific fire protection materials that can withstand extreme radiant heat and potential flame contact.
BAL FZ (Flame Zone) – this is the most severe of the BAL ratings. Construction in this zone requires special protection measures which include drenching systems and radiant heat barriers as there is a significant risk of bushfire to the residents and the building.
How is each bushfire attack level determined?
Each Bushfire Attack Level is determined by several factors, including;
1. The region in which the land is located
2. The type of vegetation surrounding the property
3. The distance from where the home will be built/altered to the individual vegetation types
4. The slope of the property
What are the construction requirements for building in a BAL area?
Any home that is built within a bushfire prone area must comply with Australian Standard AS 3959 (Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas). AS 3959 will instruct what materials or construction methods can be used to protect the home against embers and radiant heat.
Some of these requirements may include;
• Use of shutters or screens (to stop embers from getting inside the house)
• Window glazing
• Minimum requirements of joints and walls
• Use of gutter guard
• Use of metal water and gas pipes and the protection of these exposed pipes
• Use of non-combustible roofing material
How can you find out what your land’s Bushfire Attack Level is?
There are several resources that can be accessed online to help you determine if your land is in a Bushfire Prone Area. An easy, quick source is to visit the DFES website; https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/regulationandcompliance/bushfireproneareas/Pages/default.aspx
Type in the address of your property and you can generally see if it is determined to be in a Bushfire Prone Area. A Section 149 (2) (5) certificate for your land can be obtained from your Local Council. This will also identify whether your land is in a Bushfire Attack Level area.
Once you have determined if your property is in a Bushfire Prone Area, and prior to Planning Approval and Building Permit, a BAL report must be undertaken to classify your property’s Bushfire Attack Level Rating (BAL Rating).