The Australian Government introduced legislation to provide guidance to 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.
So, will this affect you and your new home?
If you are planning on building a new 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 planning to purchase land in a BAL area. This rating can significantly impact on the construction requirements for your home which may in turn affect the overall cost to build your new home.
There are 6 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 significant risk of bushfire to the residents and the building.
How is each bushfire attack level determined?
Each Bushfire Attack Level is determined by a number of factors, these being;
- The region in which the land is located
- The type of vegetation surrounding the property
- The distance from where the home will be built to the individual vegetation types
- 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 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?
A Section 149 (2) (5) certificate for your land can be obtained from your Local Council. This will identify whether your land is in a Bushfire Attack Level area.
There are also a number of resources that can be accessed on-line to help you determine if your land is in a bushfire prone area. Visit the NSW Rural Fire Service website and using the on-line assessment tool – Bush Fire prone land tool, you can enter your address and it will tell you if you are in a BAL area.