Briefly about Bush Fires & Design

With Christmas just around the corner yet another year has flown by. And I am still sitting here procrastinating weather or not I should start a blog. A blog to encourage business as we establish ourselves in this new amazing location, a blog to get stuff off my chest (there is a lot in there) and voice my opinion (I have a few of those too) or a blog just to share what I know and see in the world around me.

Design is our passion. We design buildings and we construct those buildings to ensure our clients have a beautiful and functional canvas to create a home out of. I’d like this blog, my blog, to showcase what we do, how we do it and what makes us tick. Or not. I’d like to teach you and share with you what i know, and learn a few new things myself along the way. 

Today, as I sit in my makeshift office at the dining table of our Tent House, a 40m2 Luxury Canvas Tent temporary structure, waiting for my new studio to be weather proof, the view across Pittwater to the western foreshore national park and the rising summer temperatures reminds me that bushfire season is here.

Even if you are not building in a Bush Fire Rated Zone where specific construction requirements are warranted, there are things to keep in mind if you're in the early stages of planning and designing a new home or embarking on a major renovation in bushfire prone areas where stray embers travelling great distances can start secondary fires.

No matter how well designed and built a home is there are few things that will keep a roaring fire at bay. Choosing the right materials, elements of construction and systems suitable to meet the requirements of the building regulations and standards applicable in you area is important. Your local council website will have up to date legislation and easily accessed checklists available.

When deciding on a design for your home take into consideration the level and ease of maintenance the building and landscaping will require to keep you safe. Using materials, techniques and features that are flame resistant and reduce the risk of fire doesn’t necessary have to change the looks of your dream home, but incorporating them into your plans can help manage the maintenance and reduce the impact of bushfires. 

A simple, uncluttered building design will prevent embers from getting caught in nooks and crannies. The ever popular raked metal roof will allow for cross ventilation and ample light to enter the building giving the interior a sense of space, whilst the sloping roof allows leaves and twigs to slide off the edge rather than accumulate creating a fire hazard. Installing metal gutter guards is essential but regular cleaning is still necessary. Rooftop sprinkler systems and extra water tanks connected to a generator can also be planned in but must be regularly maintained to ensure reliability. 

If you are building on a steep or sloping block your house design can be constructed underground or bermed into the side of the hill to offer extra protection from the elements and a place to take shelter in the event of fire. The thermal mass of earth and concrete or masonry will stabilise the internal environment and serve as strong retaining walls. A steel frame above ground is a non-combustible, solid choice that will engender a feeling of confidence and security in times of bushfire threats. 

Large spans of glass can be protected using metal retractable shutters or stainless steel screens that keeps embers and insects in check. Large verandah overhangs and eaves are proven weak links in bushfires, retractable shutters and perforated metal awnings can help protect from sun, glare and wind as well as embers and radiant heat.

Fire is a natural event in the Australian landscape and is essential for the life cycle of many native species. However, it’s impact on the landscape can be catastrophic. When planning your garden its important that you select appropriate species to help manage the bushfire potential and protect your home. Using plants that have high moisture and salt content and low oil content whilst separating all flammable elements using gravel, rock edging and stone paths will prevent a fire from taking hold. Regular maintenance, such as ensuring there are no overhanging branches on the roof, no litter, especially bark around the trees and regular mowing of lawns is important. Fire resistant native trees planted away from the house can provide shade and protection from the wind which may slow the movement of a fire down. 

So, here I am! I just wrote my first blog and I really enjoyed it albeit the rather serious subject choice. Stay safe, bushfire safe, and enjoy the coming months of the best an Australian summer has to offer.