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House Australian Building Codes Standards

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Question:

Discuss About The House Australian Building Codes Standards?

 

Answer:

Introducation

The report presented hereinafter focuses on the critical assessment issues of the residential building whose technical details have been provided to peruse against the set standards of fire safety. The dominating reference document in this case will be the Building Code of Australia part 2 (BCA, 1996) section 3.7. Notably, the report pursues various elements in the house against the given provisions to ascertain full compliance and ensure the structure to be put in place satisfactorily complies with the requirements. Besides, it should be noted that the assessment is done prior to building establishment to ensure all critical elements are designed as per the given provisions as far as fire safety is concerned. In fact, the purpose of this report is to uncover the critical assessment issues that will assist Council in their assessment of the application for the building under relevant requirements. Therefore, the report provides a written assessment of the given site and demonstrates whether or not the building complies with the established requirements. Admittedly, we looked at a proposed initial development site located along Weetalibah Road, Northbridge and assessed an application for a renovated dwelling (being a Class 1 Building). The site had been identified as being impacted by bushfire attack from nearby significant vegetation and was within 100 meters of the interface. The management was primarily accompanied by the application of the relevant bushfire protection measures for the building and within the property boundary. Therefore, in a nutshell, the assessment aims at providing the local council with an actual scenario from the field (as far as bushfire remains a great risk). Certainly, therefore, the report also provides a substantive material to the local council especially for future similar assignments to be undertaken. Notably, the given project presented provides a crucial case study that can be used as a yard stick to ensure that in all future assessments, some of the policy implementation gaps are progressively sealed and that emerging issues are dealt with accordingly.

 

Site Description

The site where the building is seated, as mentioned earlier, will be along Weetalibah road, Northbridge. There is a nearby vegetation specifically shrubs. The residential building was in existence but it became necessary to implement some fundamental renovations which shall comply with the bush fire protection standards. In the recent past, bush fire incidences have arisen forcing the local authorities to comb through the area and ensure that all developers and owners of buildings, BCA class notwithstanding, fully comply with the requirements such as AS 3959 and BCA part 2 section 3.7. However, amendments have been made in order to conform with the current realities. 

Bush Fire Site Assessment

Table 1: Summary of Assessment

Building Element

Fire safety parameter

Assessment remark

Access routes and exits

For quick exit and egress

Satisfactory

Provision of Fire safety services

Strategic points and corners in the house

Plans underway; sufficient provision

House seating arrangement

Based on the wind direction and strength 

Appropriately done

Structural integrity of wall-fire resistance

The brick work provided in the drawing is sufficiently resistant to bushfire crossover

Choice of material is above reproach

Rear extensions

Must discourage unnecessary reach to the overhanging nearby branches 

Done to the required standards especially in minimizing excessive heat wave penetration

Roof sheeting

Material selected to be fire resilient

Material selected is within the standards

Roof gutters

To minimize bushfire climbing to roof

This is satisfactory

Fascia board

For more, check section titled “Construction”

Okay

Downpipes

Material selected be in conformance with the standards

Okay

External walls and finishing

Must be redundantly fire proof

Was done as recommended

Window frames

Fireproof material and minimized opportunities for more gaps

Design as recommended

Carport structure

As per the give standards

Okay

Balustrade

As per the given standards

Okay

Timber posts

The timber fences up to carport roof is over 350-450 high

Okay

Security gate

The height of the gate, as checked in the design, complies with the minimum provision in this area

Okay

Drive way

Built of concrete

For better fire proofing; this is okay

Sandstone paving

This is preferred due to its inability to spread fire

Okay

Brick retaining wall for the externals

Achieve redundancy in fire safety

As recommended

Box gutter

Provides no chance for gaps or unnecessary

Okay

Construction installation

For this section, check the section under: Construction

Okay

Bedroom location

Upstairs to minimize risk of horizontal fire spread

Okay

Existing windows

The frames built of non-combustible material preferably metal

Okay

Child proof safety

Protecting the minors from accidental collapse especially during evacuation

Okay

 

Bush Fire Protection Measures

The house seems to be enclaved in a nearby vegetation on the northern part while southern part access from the main road is made possible. The access path is free of loose materials that can hinder effective movement in and out of premise. However, site demarcation, although not included in the designs, must either be solid wall or metal grill fence to minimize crossover fire (TAS, 2017 & 2019). Therefore, as can be seen from the design plans, this is satisfactorily done to ensure minimal interaction of the nearby vegetation cover and the adjacent buildings.

Notably, in summary, the siting details are provided in the table 2:

Table 2: Siting Details of the Proposed Development

Location

Northbridge

Title no:

N/A

Developer/Owner

XYZ

Intended use /Current use

Residential

BCA Building type

Class 1a

Water utility

Based on daily consumption

Access from main road

Weetalibah Rd, Northbridge

Other Particulars

Intended for renovation for total compliance

Property access arrangement

As mentioned earlier, the building premises can be accessed mainly via the main road from the southern side. The access paths are made in such a way that quicker access is guaranteed especially in firefighting situations. Sharp corners must be minimized and instead straight and direct access paths be promoted. The loose material that may be present on the road surface must be eliminated otherwise it will hinder free movement (Cheney & Sullivan ,2008)

 

Construction

The construction, as envisaged in the design, must be in tandem with the acceptable standards by the local council. Hence from the study of the plans, the following can be deduced vis-à-vis the available sectional requirements as per AS 5939:

  • The gaps between the doors, windows and other openings are to be protected using draught excluders
  • The bush fire shutters are permanently fixed to the building with gaps not exceeding 3mm.
  • The assembly of these openings are therefore protected to minimize accidental failures due to fire attack
  • Provision of shielding is a key requirement; such that construction requirements as far as fire safety is concerned is minimized.
  • As for flooring, seemingly fireproof tiles are to be used. Besides, preference should be for the raised types
  • The walling design especially on the external envelope is encouraging; this is to pursued further by constructing using materials that are non-combustible.
  • For fencing; a part from using brick walls which may be expensive, timber fencing can also be used but they should be the type that can resist bushfires and disallow spread to other areas
  • The joints are to be such that minimal gaps would result. Currently, as the joints are done, there is a greater risk of fire spread due to unnecessarily high number of gaps.
  • The sheet roofs, as checked in the design, complies with some of the provisions however: The parts and accessories must be made of materials that do not easily catch fire since some level of fire resistance is key
  • At the junction of the roof and wall, there has to be seals done to prevent gaps that compromise fire resilience of the building; normally the embers can easily jump into the interiors courtesy of these gaps. However, room ventilation must not be affected by this. The engineer or designer will have to establish a realistic balance between these two. Notably, from the technical building design, it is clear that fascia and eaves lining have been used to cushion against the mentioned bush fire.
  • Additionally, roof ventilation for both gable and vents must be fitted with ember guards and they are to be non-combustible
  • The assessment also envisages the use of solar collectors. Therefore, for that case, gaps must completely be sealed

Water and utility services

This is to be provided in plenty so to ensure during firefighting situation, fire is brought under effective control. The pool water can be used as a last option hence this should be included in the plans for bushfire mitigation (Standards Australia ,2009).

Landscaping

Th type, construction, location and maintenance of the same are considered in this case. From the layout plans, seemingly, the building is to be seated in a gently sloping landscape. This will allow proper drainage and minimize the amount of earthwork as an initial preparation for the foundational seating area is reduced in scope (BOM, 2010). Therefore, in a nutshell, landscaping be done to support the following:

  • Prevention of flame interference on both interiors and exteriors
  • Significant reduction in fire spread
  • Filtering of the embers such that they are dispersed elsewhere away from the building. In fact, design must be such that accidental jumps of embers onto dwelling are resisted and adequate distancing between dwelling and vegetation cover is to be encouraged.
  • Orientation of building will have to follow the common direction of wind relative to bush/vegetation cover
  • Wind breaking capability of the nearby trees. The ecological relations between the dwelling and the nearby trees must be cordial and organic. Rather than trees to catalyze the fire spread, they can be used as powerful wind breaks to minimize the spread of fires to other areas. Therefore, this can be incorporated smoothly
  • Branch overhung must be minimized regardless of how far they are from the dwelling. Regular pruning and pollarding be encouraged

Layout Options

There are a number of layout options that are presented; out of which the best that fits the building category and client’s requirements should be selected. In the given plans space utilization seems to be a top priority. auditing, space economy must be a key issue worth considering in the design. From, the layout plans, the trees to be planted are designated towards one end of the building premise. This is encouraging so that risk of fire spread is minimized. Therefore, as a precaution, the boundary between the dwelling and the trees must be well maintained (RFS, 2012). Additionally, trees that are to be planted at the front side of the dwelling must be spaced correctly and limited to a number that may not wreak havoc should fire break out unexpectedly.

Other Planning Matters

The nearby vegetation cover must be such that it is 10m away from the house from all rounds. According to the information provided, the actual distance is 100m. Admittedly, this is very safe; however, still precautionary measures must be instituted. This includes managing the growth of the bush; collecting the fallen leaves on a regular basis among others.

Other environmental values

There is need to inculcate values such as harmonized ecosystem where the nearby vegetation cover can play a major role in the entire ecosystem. Such benefits as purifying the air that is to be supplied to the dwelling are to be encouraged from this.

Riparian protection  

The natural waterways must be maintained and accommodated in the plans.

In summary, it can ostensibly be confirmed that the building design (presented for renovation) has satisfactorily complied with the majority of the provisions. Besides, it should be noted that implementing these provisions is only one step towards ensuring that the bushfire resistance and resilience of the building is improved tremendously. This must come along with proper management of the building and its premises especially in more bush-fire prone areas. Admittedly, the most effective management strategy is to isolate the fire hazards that are present in the building and its surrounding. Now, it should also be noted that there is no universal method to mitigate bushfire owing to its uncertainty. However, the above-mentioned provisions and recommendations are best suited for the given case. There is normally a slight difference in implementation of the bushfire protection measures between existing and new buildings. The former can happen in a continuous fashion but the latter will have to be established first with partial conformance to the set requirements as far as bush-fire risk management is concerned.

 

Recommendation

However, it is being recommended that the few areas that need improvement must be actualized before the renovations can be done. Therefore, the following measures can be pursued further:

  • Proper hazard management plan need to be tailor-made for these kinds of building. The owner and occupants must be trained and guided on how to implement the plan and it can be composed of the following action points:

-Clear trees that are nearing the house

-Remove fallen leaves from the compound, in the gutters and any other designated area

-If possible, promote planting of low flammability shrubs

-Cut, prune, pollard and coppice where necessary to control growth of vegetation

-Minimize use of wood as fuel especially for room heating; should be last option if need arises

-Regularly conduct walk downs to keenly spotlight the hazardous materials and have a mitigation program to execute

(ii) Water supply

Adequately provide water to all the strategic points. There should be sufficient water to put out any fires that may arise any time of the day. Therefore, minimum water capacity must be derived from the daily usage both in peak hours and off-peak  

Access to the building

This must be reviewed from time to time to ensure obstacles are cleared for smooth exit and entry into the building. However, security must be maintained as well. 

 

References

Australian Standard 3959. (2009). Construction of Buildings in Bushfire-prone areas. Council of Standards.

BCA. (1996). Building Code of Australia. Council of Business.

TAS. (2010). Bush Fire hazard management. Available at:  https://www.fire.tas.gov.au/userfiles/tym/file/131392_Building_for_Bushfires_web.pdf

RFS. (2012). Plans and Spaces for bush fire Construction. Available at: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/4691/Hunter-BFRMP.pdf

The Bushfire-Prone Areas Code Planning Directive No. 5.  Available at: https://www.planning.tas.gov.au

TAS. (2017). Planning. Advisory Note 20 Guidance on the Code and how to determine Bushfire-Prone Areas is available at: https://www.planning.tas.gov.au/library_and_ information/planning_advisory_notes

Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC), Department of Planning and Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia (FESA) (2010) Planning for Bush Fire Protection guidelines - edition 2. Published by WAPC & FESA

Cheney P & Sullivan A.(2008). Grassfires, fuel, weather and fire behaviour - second edition. CSIRO Publishing Collingwood, Australia

Environmental Human Resources Management Australia (2000) Baldivis Tramway Reserve Management Plan - Final Report for the City of Rockingham.

Standards Australia (2009) Australian Standard (AS 3959-2009) Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas.

Blanchi, R & Leonard, J (2008) Property Safety - judging structural safety. In ‘Community Bushfire Safety’. (J. Handmer, eds) CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne

Website 2010. (https://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_009194.shtml)

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