Trial by fire: testing a house design
Scientists have ‘flame-tested’ a steel-framed house near Mogo on the NSW south coast to see how the structure withstands realistic bushfire conditions.
Constructed almost entirely from steel and featuring a non-flammable roof cavity, the house has the potential to provide a straightforward and affordable building option for bushfire-prone areas.
CSIRO and Bushfire CRC 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.
See the CSIRO vodcast here
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,” Mr Leonard said.
The test house was a small low-rise building approximately 8m x 4m x 5m high and included most of the features of a domestic house.
A range of bushfire conditions were used in the test, from ember attacks to engulfing the structure in flames.
The test was 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 was 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.