A Story of Horror & Hope: How a Family Home Survived a Bushfire
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When calamitous fires tore through Kangaroo Valley, NSW, in January 2020, Nick Turner’s home was directly in their path. But having planned for the inevitable when constructing his bushfire-resilient home, he felt ready. His home has a robust off-grid power system, water tanks and is constructed out of bushfire-resistant materials.Mitigating Bushfire Risk in AustraliaIn Australia, “extremely high temperatures and extreme fire weather causing bushfires are two of the biggest extreme weather challenges,” says Julie Firkin, director of Julie Firkin Architects. Firkin’s design for a bushfire-resistant house was featured by the Bushfire Homes Service following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, and Firkin has taught extensively on the subject. “In addition, we are facing more extreme rainfall events causing floods, increasing tropical cyclone intensity in northern areas and more droughts in southern areas. We also need to consider that extreme sea levels are occurring more often, causing coastal erosion and inundation.”“Architecture in Victoria [a state in Australia] has definitely responded to the threat of bushfire after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires with the introduction of a new Australian Standard AS 3959–2009 (which is country-wide) for construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas. This standard sets out a way to quantify the risk of bushfire on a site. It then lays out corresponding minimum construction standards that will mitigate the level of bushfire risk,” Firkin says. There are also state-specific provisions. “Since 2017, changes to the Bushfire Management Overlay (Victoria Planning Provision 44.06) have come into effect, which will substantially change whether it is possible to build new homes at all in some bushfire-prone areas. For example, on a small site adjacent to the large area of a national park, it may not be possible to achieve the necessary setback from a potential flame source which could engulf a building, and this is now considered an unacceptable risk to human life,” she says.
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