Building standard safeguards against future bushfires

Friday, 28 February, 2020

Building standard safeguards against future bushfires

Recent bushfires that ravished parts of Australia have highlighted a need to safeguard the safety of Australian lives and buildings. In recognition of this, and as a measure to protect Australian homes and businesses from future bushfire events, on 17 February the Australian Government and Standards Australia announced that they would jointly fund access for all Australians to AS 3959:2018 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas until 30 June 2021. The move follows the devastation of recent bushfires and provides access for those communities rebuilding in bushfire-prone areas. The partnership waives the access fee for AS 3959:2018, a key standard referenced in the National Construction Code, available through Standards Australia’s distributors.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews MP, described the move as a simple and practical means of offering assistance, and one that formed part of a broader range of measures that are being provided through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. “Australians who are rebuilding their lives or planning new construction following the recent devastating bushfires should not have to worry about the cost of ensuring that their families are protected under the latest bushfire standard,” Andrews said.

“We are pleased to be able to work with Standards Australia to ensure that this key standard is made available to everyone during the critical planning and rebuilding phase,” Andrews said. “I would also like to thank our peak standards body, Standards Australia, and its distributors — for making this initiative possible.” AS 3959:2018 specifies requirements for building construction in bushfire-prone areas and is designed to improve these buildings’ resistance to attack from burning embers, flame contact, radiant heat or a combination of the three.

“This is a difficult time for many individuals and communities,” said Standards Australia Chief Executive Officer Adrian O’Connell. “When the scale of the disaster became apparent, I wanted to make sure that Standards Australia was directly contributing to the broader Australian response,” he added. “I am very proud that we have been able to announce this.” The announcement follows months after Standards Australia introduced a new distribution and licensing framework geared towards providing more options for delivering access to Australian Standards.

Launched last year, Standards Australia’s ‘Distribution and licensing framework policy’ has been a key part of Standards Australia’s funding support initiatives. “When we announced our new distribution and licensing framework in November, being able to announce a partnership like this so quickly is a significant achievement for all involved,” O’Connell said. “I would like to thank Minister Andrews and her Department for working with us over the last few weeks to make this happen.

“It’s the nature of Standards Australia to support our nation and having control over our content has given us the opportunity to do this,” O’Connell said. Regarding the impact of the bushfires on the built environment, O’Connell commented: “Everything that we’ve heard so far is telling us that houses built to the standard performed well. We’re currently looking for data about how AS 3959:2018 homes held up and working with relevant committees to support their ongoing work to help in this rebuilding phase.”

AS 3959:2018 will be available to all Australians as a PDF, with Standards Australia expected to make a further announcement on access points in the coming weeks.

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