Building Amendment – Specific Use Bushfire Protected Buildings

Tuesday October 4 2016 by VBA

Research and understanding of bushfires is generating significant improvements in safety and as that knowledge and expertise advances so do the regulations required to ensure consistent application for all buildings but especially those used by our more vulnerable community members.

On 6 September, the Building Amendment (Specific Use Bushfire Protected Buildings and Other Matters) Regulations 2016 were made to apply bushfire performance standards. They relate to the construction of new and significantly modified (by more than 50 per cent of the original volume of the building) ‘specific use bushfire protected buildings’.

‘Specific use bushfire protected buildings’ include schools, kindergartens, childcare facilities, aged care facilities and hospitals in designated bushfire prone areas in Victoria.

The changes to commence from 30 September 2016 will require such buildings in designated bushfire prone areas to:

  • undergo a risk assessment for potential exposure to bushfire attack;

  • be built to construction standards according to the assessed risk; and

  • to be built to minimum construction standards to better withstand ember attack.

The regulations reduce the vulnerability of these buildings to bushfire ignition from ember attack, radiant heat and flame contact, at a level that is appropriate to the building’s assessed risk of exposure to bushfire attack.

Applying the regulations will increase the likelihood of a building surviving a bushfire. This means that the risk that the building could injure individuals inside or nearby (if unable to evacuate in time) is minimised. Risk of damage to vulnerable use buildings is also reduced, avoiding or minimising reconstruction costs. The potential costs of disruption for users of these buildings (such as the costs of relocating aged care residents) is also likely to be reduced.

The likelihood of the spread of bushfire to other nearby buildings is also minimised reducing the potential for social disruption and supporting the community by avoiding the loss of important social infrastructure to ensure it is available when most needed.

The proposed regulations apply to:

  • new ‘specific use bushfire protected buildings’ in a designated bushfire prone area in Victoria;

  • newly constructed parts of an existing ‘specific use bushfire protected building’; and

  • newly constructed parts and existing parts of an existing ‘specific use bushfire protected building’ if the building is modified by more than 50 per cent of the original volume of the building. In this case, both the existing building as well as the newly constructed parts of the building will need to comply with AS 3959. This would likely involve some retrofitting parts of the existing building.

‘Specific use bushfire protected buildings’ in a designated bushfire prone area that are not significantly modified, will not require retrofitting to comply with the proposed regulations.

Ministerial Direction No. 3 (Bushfire Provisions for Buildings of a Public Nature) issued by the Minister for Planning on 1 February 2010 (under section 30 of the Project Development and Construction Management Act 1994) already requires Government departments and public bodies (including statutory authorities and state-owned corporations) to comply with AS 3959 when constructing or making significant modifications to buildings of a public nature, including public hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, assembly buildings such as schools, early childhood centres, preschools, public halls and aged care buildings (public construction).