Free resources including workshops and information are available for those considering building or rebuilding homes with timber in bushfire-prone locations.

With bushfires wreaking havoc across Australia, it’s important to design and build homes that minimise the potential risk of damage to the structure during a conflagration. Building a bushfire-resistant structure doesn’t preclude the use of wood and wood products.

Forest & Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA), the industry body that resources WoodSolutions, has updated resources to help rebuild resilient homes in BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) rated areas. A program of workshops and informational resources will be rolled out over the coming months in fire-affected communities.

These free resources include a comprehensive design guide, ‘Building with Timber in Bushfire-prone Areas’, a calculator to estimate the BAL of the site, and an expert advice service through which people can seek solutions to their bushfire design-related questions.

“Timber framing and wood products in other applications for residential construction in BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) rated locations may be used, subject to the requirements of Australian Standard AS3959 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas,” explained Boris Iskra, a structural engineer with additional fire qualifications, and also the national codes and standards manager at FWPA.

Developed and refined over many years, the Australian Standard AS3959 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas reflects the latest in building and materials science, technology and systems. The standard is a consensus-based document that is referenced by the National Construction Code.

The requirements of the Standard seek to minimise the risk of ember, radiant heat and even flame damage, enabling appropriate design decisions that allow attractive timber homes to be built using sustainably sourced wood and wood products.

Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL) are calculated to assess the degree of risk of bushfire attack of an individual building site. There are six BAL ratings with each having specific construction requirements relating to the materials that may be used, and how they are used in residential construction.

Timber can be used for house framing and all interior applications, including flooring, skirting, architraves and cabinetry in all BALs.

One important requirement of the Standard is limiting the size of gaps to reduce the potential entry of burning embers as well as protect the occupants and building from the effects of radiant heat from a bushfire.

Through WoodSolutions, FWPA provides a range of resources to help designers, builders and owners enjoy the aesthetic, functional and environmental benefits of wood in BAL locations, while meeting the requirements of the Australian Standard.

“I encourage people to go to the website and look at the resources,” said Iskra. “It would be a great pity if people missed out on gaining all the advantages of wood just because they didn’t have the information about how to use it in ways that comply with the Standard.”