The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has announced the release of a Performance Standard for the design and construction of private bushfire shelters.

The standard aims to provide a tenable environment for occupants during the passage of untenable conditions in a bushfire to help lower the risk of serious injury or fatality.

The standard is based on available technical data, the input and judgment of a multidisciplined expert reference group and consultation with a range of stakeholders. However, the ABCB says the standard and private bushfire shelters are not stand alone solutions to protect people in bushfires.

The Chairman of the ABCB, Graham Huxley, says: "the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission identified that there were no standards for the design of private bushfire shelters and recommended that a standard be developed for future referencing in the Building Code of Australia."

In September 2009, the ABCB announced its intention to commence work on the development of a national standard in terms consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

"The development of this Standard proved to be complex primarily because we could find no similar standards available internationally. We appear to have effectively created the world’s first standard for private bushfire shelters," Huxley says.

Performance Requirements will be included in the public comment draft of the next edition of the BCA to be released in June 2010 and published in early 2011.

The ABCB is also preparing a research strategy including into areas where gaps in knowledge exist in respect to bushfire shelters. Outcomes of this could be to supplement design flexibility through the further development of the acceptance criteria and the potential for ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ building solutions.

A Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement on the new standard has been commissioned and is expected to be released mid-2010.