How Asian Market Changes Affect Your Investments

Our global economy operates across borders and continents, so now more than ever that you can see your investments fluctuate as a result of political and social activity in far-off regions of the wo...

News Company - avatar News Company

Conservation scientists are grieving after the bushfires -- but we must not give up

Glossy black cockatoo populations on Kangaroo Island have been decimated. But a few precious survivors remain.FlickrThat a billion animals may die as a result of this summer’s fires has horrifie...

Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University - avatar Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University

A familiar place among the chaos: how schools can help students cope after the bushfires

School will start on a somewhat sombre note this year. Some schools will still be shrouded in smog from the bushfires. Some students will be grieving the loss of property, animals or even family and f...

Rachael Jacobs, Lecturer in Arts Education, Western Sydney University - avatar Rachael Jacobs, Lecturer in Arts Education, Western Sydney University

Prisoner numbers in Australia have decreased, but we're not really sure why yet

Prison rates have stopped increasing for the first time in seven years. In fact, they've decreased by 1%. from www.shutterstock.comThe latest release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Prisoners i...

Hilde Tubex, Future Fellow, Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia - avatar Hilde Tubex, Future Fellow, Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia

Unbuilding cities as high-rises reach their use-by date

Implosion is the most dramatic way of demolishing a building but it's also the most wasteful and hazardous.Luke Schmidt/ShutterstockWe are entering a new world where skyscrapers and other huge buildin...

Norman Day, Lecturer in Architecture, Practice and Design, Swinburne University of Technology - avatar Norman Day, Lecturer in Architecture, Practice and Design, Swinburne University of Technology

Cousin took a DNA test? Courts could use it to argue you are more likely to commit crimes

DNA from relatives could be used in sentencing offenders.MR Yanukit / ShutterstockHow similar do you think you are to your second cousin? Or your estranged great aunt? Would you like to have people as...

Allan McCay, Law Teacher, University of Sydney - avatar Allan McCay, Law Teacher, University of Sydney

You think this is a witch hunt, Mr President? That's an insult to the women who suffered

US President Donald Trump has tweeted 'Witch Hunt' approximately once every three days since his inauguration two years ago. The Crucible (1996)/IMDBSince his inauguration on January 20, 2017, US Pres...

Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland - avatar Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland

Preventing suicide in nursing homes is possible. Here are 3 things we can do to make a start

More than 50% of nursing home residents experience symptoms of depression.From shutterstock.comSuicide among nursing home residents is a major concern. Between 2000 and 2013, around 140 Australian nur...

Briony Murphy, Research fellow, Monash University - avatar Briony Murphy, Research fellow, Monash University

View from The Hill: Morrison should control that temper in Liberal climate debate

Scott Morrison’s Monday salvo against the NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, one of the Liberal progressives on climate change, was gratuitous and inept.Quizzed about Kean’s claim that t...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Australia's threatened bats need protection from a silent killer: white-nose syndrome

Three North American little brown bats with signs of white-nose syndrome, which is virtually certain to hit Australian bats without further action.KDFWR/Terry Derting, CC BY-SAWe already know how dead...

Christopher Turbill, Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology, Western Sydney University - avatar Christopher Turbill, Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology, Western Sydney University

Bran Nue Dae review: exceptional singing and music obscure the political heart of this classic Australian musical

Thirty years on, Bran Nue Dae still feels relevant. Prudence UptonReview: Bran Nue Dae, by Jimmy Chi and Kuckles and directed by Andrew Ross for Sydney FestivalAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander re...

Bronwyn Carlson, Professor, Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University - avatar Bronwyn Carlson, Professor, Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University

CSIRO wants our laws turned into computer code. Here's why that's a bad idea

The very nature of law is that it's ever-changing and open to interpretation. from www.shutterstock.comMost of our laws are dense, obscure and effectively unintelligible for most people (even some law...

Joe McIntyre, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of South Australia - avatar Joe McIntyre, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of South Australia

A brain transplant for one of Australia's top telescopes

The 22-metre radio dishes of the ATCA telescope are 30 years old but still work just fine.John Masterson, CC BY-SAOne of Australia’s top telescopes will receive an A$2.6 million upgrade to help ...

Ray Norris, Professor, School of Science, Western Sydney University - avatar Ray Norris, Professor, School of Science, Western Sydney University

What makes a good psychologist or psychiatrist and how do you find one you like?

We all struggle from time to time, but many people benefit from seeing a therapist.Hi, I have mental health issues and I would like to know what makes a good or bad psychiatrist, psychologist or neuro...

Jade Sheen, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, Deakin University - avatar Jade Sheen, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, Deakin University

More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed in Australia since the start of the bushfire season. More will certainly be destroyed before the season ends in March.

Could these houses have been built to better withstand fire?

Read more: 'This crisis has been unfolding for years': 4 photos of Australia from space, before and after the bushfires

Quite probably. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Australia’s building regulations need reforming to ensure homes are made more fireproof.

Appropriate building codes are about weighing costs and benefits. Only analysing the reasons buildings were destroyed will tell us if more needs to be done.

Performances standards

Not all buildings are created equal. Newer buildings will generally be more fire-proof than older ones, due to building regulations having been improved over time.

In particular, national building requirements for residences in bushfire-prone areas were improved after the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria, in which 173 people died and more 2,000 homes were destroyed.

A house in Flowerdale, Victoria, destroyed in the 2009 bushfires. About 80% of houses in the small town were lost, along with 10 lives. Raoul Wegat/AAP

Buildings are regulated by states and territories but governments have recognised the value of nationally consistent building codes through the National Construction Code. This code, among other things, sets minimum standards for the design and construction of new buildings on bushfire-prone land. (What land is deemed “bushfire prone” is defined by state and territory legislation.)

The National Construction Code is “performance-based”. It doesn’t specify how a building must be built, but how a building must perform. This means innovative designs, materials and construction methods can be readily approved.

A residential building on bushfire-prone land, the code states, must be designed and constructed to “reduce the risk” of ignition from a bushfire, appropriate to the risk from bushfire flames, burning embers, radiant heat and intensity of the bushfire attack.

The risk to which a building is expected to be exposed depends on the individual site and conditions such as vegetation type and density, and slope of land. Properties are assessed and given a “Bushfire Attack Level” (BAL) rating by inspectors.

There are six BAL levels that classify the severity of potential exposure to bushfire. The highest – BAL FZ – is for buildings exposed to an extreme risk, such as a house surrounded by trees that could produce direct contact from flames.

Lower BAL levels take into account risks from burning debris, ember attack and radiant heat. The lowest deems the risk insufficient to warrant any specific construction requirements.

Construction details for each BAL cover building elements such as floors, walls, roofs, doors, windows, vents, roof drainage systems, verandahs, and water and gas supply pipes. For example, fire-resistant timber may be required for floor framing, or windows may be required to use toughened glass.

Balancing competing interests

Are the requirements of the National Construction Code good enough?

If the aim is to minimise the number of buildings damaged or destroyed in extreme fire events, the answer is no.

But that’s not the aim. Like most government regulation, the code requirements are about balancing competing interests.

All building regulations are subject to cost-benefit analysis. They must demonstrate a “net cost benefit” to the community – that the cost of compliance will be less than the benefit delivered to the general community.

It’s a cold calculation about the risk and potential cost of homes being destroyed in bushfires versus the more certain costs involved in requiring all homes to be built to more stringent building codes.

Government policy treats potential property loss as a matter for owners to address through property insurance. There’s no reason to expect this to change any time soon.

Learning from experience

If the cost of building destruction in bushfires turned out to be greater than the cost of more stringent building requirements, there would be a strong rationale to improve the regulations. This is why post-fire analysis is so important.

A prime example is the royal commission into the causes and costs of the Black Saturday fires.

The commission’s final report made a number of recommendations for changes to the National Construction Code. These included new provisions to:

  • make protection from ember attack a performance requirement
  • address the design and construction of private (underground) bushfire emergency shelters
  • include design and construction requirements for non-residential buildings, such as schools and aged-care centres, in bushfire-prone areas.

All governments agreed to the first two recommendations, which were promptly implemented in the National Construction Code (in 2010).

The recommendation about non-residential building was not implemented at the time because governments considered that planning laws would not allow these types of buildings to be built in a bushfire-prone area.

However, the 2019-2020 business plan of the Australian Building Codes Board (which administers the National Construction Code, includes a “bushfire provisions for non-residential buildings” project, so it is reasonable to expect changes to the code in future.

Read more: Bushfires won't change climate policy overnight. But Morrison can shift the Coalition without losing face

This season’s fires may also provide impetus for other changes to the construction code. One key factor that will be worthy of research is the age of the buildings destroyed.

Depending on how many homes lost were built after 2010, it might be argued that changes made after the 2009 Victorian fire have been insufficient to keep up with evolving conditions.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/australian-building-codes-dont-expect-houses-to-be-fire-proof-and-thats-by-design-129540