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Can Construction Keep Up with Australian Weather Extremes?
Building in a bushfire-prone area introduces a number of additional design, specification and construction parameters that cannot be ignored. It has been widely stated that these additional requirements can add extra costs to a new home, though it is important to note that there is usually more than one option available to designers and builders to meet the requirements of the building regulations and standards.
Take the example of windows, which have enormous significance in terms of the integrity of the building envelope when under attack from embers, radiant heat and flames. There are various options for windows and doors at BAL Low and up to BAL 29. Inevitably though, it is more challenging to meet BAL 40, where the radiant heat exposure is greater, having implications for all components of the window system.
Construction or retrofitting to achieve compliance with BAL 40 therefore requires the highest level of protection against ember attack and radiant heat. When specifying windows for a building in a BAL 40 rated area, designers, specifies and builders may believe metal window frames and the use of non-combustible metal bushfire shutters are the only option.
However, AS3959:2009 recognises other means of compliance for windows and it does not mean that traditional building materials such as timber and uPVC are prohibited.
Any window system that has been tested and complies with the requirements of AS 1530.8.1 for BAL 40 is acceptable for use in any BAL zone up to and including BAL 40. Note that the openable portion of the window is still required to be screened with corrosion-resistant metal screens as it is assumed the window may be left open at the time of a fire.
Recent developments and manufacturing of BAL appropriate construction materials have advanced the building industry in terms of safety and widened the options for homeowners. For example, a number of uPVC double-glazed window systems have been independently tested and comply with AS 1530.8.1 for BAL 40.
Anyone who lives in a bushfire prone area is expected be aware of their local bushfire attack level zoning and implement the requirements of AS 3959:2009. While constraints inevitably do exist in the range of product choices, there is nevertheless some flexibility in materials that can be used under the standard, so long as the product meets the requirements of AS 1530.8.1 for the appropriate BAL zone.
Manufacturers are also waking up to the fact that there is a growing market for products that can be used in bushfire prone areas. Constant development of key materials in order to provide the most fire resistant and fire-retardant alternatives will help safeguard homes and widen the options for construction.
Excerpt taken from original article by Vinyl Council of Australian Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan published on Sourceable. Read full article here.