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Building in bushfire prone areas

Bushfire prone areas are subject to special building controls.

Building controls reduce the risk of ember attack during a bushfire. They also improve fire protection for homes.

Find bushfire prone areas

You can find out if your property is in a designated bushfire prone area by creating a report with VicPlan.

The report includes:

  • property details
  • bushfire prone area status
  • a map showing the bushfire prone area relative to the property.

Buying or selling property

If you're buying or selling property, the vendor must state if the land is in a bushfire prone area.

Building in a bushfire prone area

If you want to build in a bushfire prone area, you must use special construction methods.

You will need to show that the building will comply with bushfire construction methods before a building permit can be issued.

Please note that bushfire construction requirements do not guarantee protection from a fire front.

Building and renovating

If you're planning to build or renovate in a bushfire prone area, you should consider:

  • choosing a suitable building site
  • using bushfire resistant building materials
  • building close to water resources
  • management of vegetation around the building.

Certain parts of the building need special attention, including:

  • flooring systems
  • supporting posts, columns, piers and poles
  • external walls
  • windows
  • external doors
  • vents and weep holes
  • roof covering, eaves and fascias
  • roof lights
  • roof vents
  • roof-mounted evaporative cooling units
  • gutters and downpipes
  • service pipes (water and gas)
  • verandahs and decks.

You should also make sure emergency vehicles can reach your property and have a water supply for fire-fighting.

Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) measures how much a building may be exposed to bushfire.

It assesses:

  • possible ember attack
  • radiant heat
  • direct flame contact.

It also determines the level of protection needed. A property must be assessed under Australian Standard 3959 to determine its BAL.

BAL assessment

An independent consultant can check Bushfire Attack Level. They must understand:

  • the Building Regulations
  • Building Code of Australia
  • AS 3959: Construction in Bushfire Prone Areas
  • Planning and Environment Act 1987.

An owner or applicant may also assess the BAL. However the relevant building surveyor will need to be satisfied that the BAL has been assessed correctly.

Check with your building surveyor first to see if your assessment will be accepted.

How the BAL is measured

A BAL is measured in increments of radiant heat (expressed in kilowatts/m2).

The ratings are:

  • Low: Not enough risk to justify specific construction requirements.
  • 12.5: Ember attack. (BAL 12.5 Construction Requirements).
  • 19: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by travelling embers. Heat flux risk. (BAL 19 Construction Requirements).
  • 29: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by travelling embers. Increasing heat flux. (BAL 29 Construction Requirements).
  • 40: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by flying embers. Together with increasing heat flux and with increased chance of flame exposure. (BAL 40 Construction Requirements).
  • Fire Zone (FZ): Direct exposure to flames from fire, along with heat flux and ember attack. (BAL FZ Construction Requirements).

You must keep all BAL measures maintained.

Bushfire shelters and bunkers

A private bushfire shelter (or bunker) is a last resort option to take refuge in while the fire front passes.

It is not a requirement to have one on your property but you should carefully consider having one as part of your bushfire survival plan.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) recommends that you follow the new warning systems and leave early.

Shelters and permits

Private bushfire shelters up to 30m2 do not need a planning permit unless you need to remove protected vegetation.

However, private bushfire shelters do need a building permit and you must get this permit before starting the build.

Private bushfire shelters must follow the requirements set out in the regulations.

These include:

  • safe access to the shelter
  • safe exit of the shelter
  • maintaining reliable conditions in the shelter.

You should also prepare your property before each fire season according to the CFA’s Plan and Prepare recommendations.

Get a building permit for a bushfire shelter

To get a building permit you must either:

  • buy a shelter that has accreditation from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee
  • apply to the Building Appeals Board for a determination. They will decide if your non-accredited bushfire shelter complies with the regulations
  • get an Engineers Certification from an independent registered fire safety engineer. This shows a building surveyor that your shelter meets the requirements.

Using any other buildings or a non-accredited bushfire bunker is a high-risk action. It may also need a planning permit.

It is recommended to get a building practitioner's advice before buying a bushfire shelter.

Beware of suppliers selling unaccredited bushfire shelters. If you feel a supplier has been unreliable, call Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 558 181.

Need help?

Contact Building Services and we will get back to you.

Or call our Building Services team on 9298 8000.

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