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Trial by fire: testing a ‘bushfire-proof’ house design

Weather permitting, CSIRO scientists will ‘flame-test’ a steel-framed house near Mogo on the NSW south coast ON FRIDAY, 16 APRIL, to see how the structure withstands realistic bushfire conditions.

Constructed almost entirely from steel and featuring a non-flammable roof cavity, the house may provide a straightforward and affordable building option for bushfire-prone areas.

CSIRO bushfire researcher Justin Leonard says experienced fire researchers consider that a house constructed predominantly of steel should be able to survive in the flame zone of a real bushfire, assuming that windows or other external openings have not been breached.

The concept is that the entire non-combustible building façade, insulation and frame acts to protect the habitable space.

“The flame-test will also provide information for building policies relating to bushfire areas by providing supporting evidence for use by building authorities across Australia,” Leonard said.

The test house is a small low-rise building approximately 8m x 4m x 5m high and includes most of the features of a domestic house.

A range of bushfire conditions will be used in the test, from ember attacks to engulfing the structure in flames.

The test will be staged at the Eurobodalla Rural Fire Service Training Facility near Mogo in NSW – the only facility in Australia with a bushfire flame front simulator that enables testing of different materials in the open under realistic bushfire conditions.

Testing is being conducted in partnership with the construction industry body, the National Association of Steel-Framed Housing, the Bushfire CRC and with support from the NSW Rural Fire Service.

What: ‘Flame test’ of a potentially bushfire-proof building

When: Test is tentatively scheduled (weather permitting) to begin at 11.30am and to end at 3.30pm, on Friday, 16 April 2010

Where: NSW Rural Fire Service Training Facility on Bimbimbie Rd off the Princes Highway, 4 km south of Mogo, NSW.

Who: CSIRO bushfire researcher, Justin Leonard.