Why Bushfire Safety Windows Make Sense

For Australian home owners who live outside suburban areas, bushfires are real (and growing!) concern. The risk presented by bush fires appears to be on the rise, and this is why most smart homeowners have taken extensive steps to protect themselves and their property. Much can be done to mitigate the risk presented by bushfires, and the installation of bushfire safe windows is an important step in protecting a home.

The Risks Posed By Bush Fires

Not a year goes by without the unfortunate news of major bushfires in one or more parts of the country. While Australians prize the opportunity to live in close contact with the natural world, it presents unavoidable dangers due to the prevailing fire-friendly climate and vegetation. Even homes that are situated on clear land with an extensive separation from the nearest plants can be at risk. In a major fire, radiant heat on all sides can expose a home to enormous stress and make damage all but impossible to avoid. Wind-borne embers and other debris present further risks. Windows, doors, and other wall penetrations are especially vulnerable in bushfires, which is why builders and manufacturers have worked hard to create sturdy, fire-resistant options for use in high-risk areas.

Applicable Regulations

Australian building codes were significantly updated following the “Black Saturday” fires in 2009. AS3959-2009 was broadly adopted throughout the country. This new regulation specifies clearly-defined categories of bushfire risk, referred to as Bushfire Attack Levels, or BAL’s. The BAL of a given home is defined according to its position and the vegetation surrounding it, and possible BALS range from BAL-Low to Flame Zone. At higher BALs, more and more extensive protective measures are required, especially for doors and windows. Windows that are appropriate for the highest levels of bushfire risk have to comply with the stringent construction standards laid out in Australian Standard AS 1530.8.2.

What Window Manufacturers Can Do

The new regulations are formidable, but Australian manufacturers have risen to the challenge by producing some outstanding windows that meet (and even occasionally exceed) the mandates of the applicable laws. In order to comply with the rules and minimize the risks presented to homeowners, wooden window construction is relatively rare at higher BALs. (There are a few manufacturers that can supply wood windows that meet BAL-40 standards, though!) Aluminum and other stronger materials are the general rule for properties that suffer the greatest risks. Protecting windows with shutters and internal or external screens is also a common way to minimize bushfire danger, and many manufacturers supply integrated window systems that offer multiple protection strategies.

How To Make Smart Window Choices

As in most construction scenarios, working with reliable professionals is the best way for homeowners to protect themselves. Architects, contractors, and other building professionals throughout Australia are thoroughly familiar with the requirements of AS3959-2009, especially those who have extensive experience building in bushfire-prone areas. A property’s BAL needs to be carefully and accurately assessed prior to construction, and appropriate windows and accessories can be selected for the home. The homeowner’s responsibilities don’t end at installation, though. It’s vitally important to inspect and maintain windows properly in order to prevent them from deteriorating. Manufacturers who offer bushfire safety windows typically provide careful instructions for maintaining them properly; these should be scrupulously followed by the homeowner.

Any homeowner who recognizes the real threat presented by bushfires is advised to study the subject thoroughly before starting any major building work. While it’s possible to guarantee a home’s immunity to fire damage, the overall levels of risk can be reduced significantly. Bushfire safety windows are just one of the many products available to help keep Australian homeowners as safe as possible during bushfire season.