As winter gives way to springtime across Australia, the warmer temperatures are a welcome change for many after the cold season. However, the relentless Aussie heat also signals the imminent approach of the bushfire season.

Bushfire presents a clear and present danger for many regions across Australia with heavy vegetation such as the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Kinglake in Victoria or even Kersbrook in South Australia. Changes to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) implemented in 2011 hoped to increase the protection of homes located in these areas and regions with similar bushfire issues. These changes aim to increase the stringency around the selection of windows and doors along with other building materials for projects in bushfire-prone areas, hopefully reducing the risk of loss of life and damage to property within bushfire areas.

Architectural Window Systems (AWS) advises those designing, planning or specifying for a bushfire prone area or those involved in any way with windows or doors within a bushfire prone area to take precautions and maximise the safety of residents in every dwelling.

One of these precautions is the correct selection of bushfire rated window and door systems. What are bushfire rated window and door systems? How are they classified within the bushfire attack levels rating system (BAL)?

AWS explains that there are 6 BALs in the rating system, with each corresponding to a different level of risk and danger.

Bushfire Attack Levels (BALS) include BAL-LOW: Insufficient risk to warrant a construction response; BAL- 12.5: Concern of ember attack; BAL-19: Increasing levels of ember attack and airborne burning debris. Increasing danger from radiant heat up to 19kwm²; BAL-29: Greater risk of damage from airborne burning debris. Further risk from radiant heat exposure up to 29kwm²; BAL-40: Burning debris ignited by windborne embers and radiant heat exposure up to 40kwm². Likelihood of direct flame contact; and BAL-FZ: Direct flame contact from fire front & radiant heat exposure greater than 40kwm².

Protecting homes within BAL-rated areas

AWS suggests selecting an appropriate building site location, using suitable building materials, ensuring close proximity to independent water sources, managing vegetation surrounding the building, consistently clearing debris close to the building, allowing easy access to the home for emergency vehicles, and utilising only the most reliable, BAL rated windows and doors for high levels of protection. 

Architectural Window Systems has developed and tested a large range of aluminium windows and doors that have been certified to meet the BCA requirements for compliance under the Australian Standard AS3959-2009 for windows and doors in a BAL-40 bushfire zone.

AWS’ Elevate Aluminium and Vantage Residential ranges of BAL-40 rated aluminium windows and doors deliver unprecedented visual appeal, performance efficiency and functionality, while ensuring the highest standards of bushfire protection for Australian homes.