New construction requirements coming for houses in WA bushfire areas

New construction requirements coming for houses in WA bushfire areas
New construction requirements coming for houses in WA bushfire areas

A recent announcement from planning minister John Day has noted that new building standards are going to be put on homes being built in bushfire areas, under new construction standards.

The Building Code of Australia and the Australian Standards AS3959 will identify mandatory provisions for properties being built in bushfire-prone areas under new planning schemes across Western Australia.

The new guidelines are open for public comment, however the plan is for the standards to apply from May 2015, and will apply to all properties in areas mapped by the government as bushfire-prone or within 100 metres of one hectare or more of bushland.

“If land intended for development is located on a bushfire map or close to a large area of bushland a bushfire hazard assessment will be required,” Day announced.

“The assessment will identify the bushfire risk level and the Australian Standards to be applied when the new home is constructed.  These standards are used in many jurisdictions across Australia and include requirements such as the placement of ember screens over evaporative air-conditioner units, window screens and appropriate construction methods."

The measures look to reduce the severity of the effect of a fire on a home.

Part of this will be the introduction of uniform state-wide maps, explained Emergency Services Minister Joe Francies, led by the Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, based on the Keelty Report into the Perth Hills bushfires.

These will be available to the public.

The WA Planning Commission, at the same time, released the State Planning Policy and Planning Guidelines on Bushfire Risk Management. These are all available for public comment, and look to provide both government and developers guidance when planning developments in these areas.

This may cause an extra hoop for developers to jump through, with the current draft suggesting that some developers will be required to supply a Bushfire Management Plan prepared by a fire consultant, jointly endorsed by a local government and authority responsible for emergency services.

It also notes that: "Any planning proposal or development application that will result in the introduction, or intensification, of development in an area that has an extreme bushfire hazard level and/or requires construction standards of BAL-40 or BAL-FZ shall only be supported if it is unavoidable development."

New developments will be required to provide the highest achievable protection, and where earlier strategic planning has not been seen to address bushfire risk, "assessing greenfield or infill development will require the exercising of statutory planning discretions."

It notes that this may include situations where new risks are identified, requiring planning measures to be taken where they have previously been unexpected.

Subdivisions may also be implicated.

The public consultation period on the State Planning Policy closes on 4 July, while the guidelines' commenting period closes on 1 August.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

Western Australia Construction Planning

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