Category Archives: Bushfire attack level

All things relating to BAL

Minor BAL post correction…

In my last post about the BAL quote I mentioned that we had an independent BAL inspection that confirmed  the BAL for our lot was 12.5 instead of 40. I also said that it was a bit premature because the builder didn’t even ask to see the inspection report.

Well, this is where I say I was wrong! What really happened is James sent the inspection report to the builder months ago and it went with the application to the CDC. So, in the end, totally worth it after all!

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BAL variation

Before I launch into a spiel about the BAL quote, I just want to say THE PLANTS ARE STILL ALIVE. I will offer photographic evidence for those not convinced. Actually, the plants are looking really healthy. The Christmas Bush has turned this lovely glossy green colour. Its early days yet, of course, but at least they didn’t die straight away. That would have been embarrassing.

I’m sure you can all remember that we need to get certain things in place to satisfy our Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). In our land contract the BAL was rated at 40, which put us in a panic. In the end, we had the land independently assessed and it came back at BAL 12.5. We breathed a sigh of relief.

Well, I’m here to admit that it was actually a bit of a waste of money. The builder has simply given us an invoice for all the things required to meet BAL 12.5 and nobody has asked to see our independent assessment. I guess a better strategy is to wait until there is an actual fight to be had and then go and get the assessment. Oh well. The one thing it did do was put our minds at ease, so for that it was worth the money.

Here is what we need to get to satisfy a BAL of 12.5. A lot of it was already included in the build price.

  • concrete slab on the ground, included
  • external walls must be leaf masonry, concrete or stabilised earth, included
  • no external leaf cladding of sheet material permitted where it is less than 400 mm above adjacent ground level, noted
  • provide 110 mm weepa vents including stainless steel spark arrestors to entire home, $780
  • provide stainless steel spark arrestors to externally ducted kitchen rangehood, $85
  • provide 25 aluminium flyscreens with aluminium flymesh to all openable windows, $1250
  • provide fire-retardant Merbau door frames to entry and laundry external hinged doors in lieu of standard (excluding stained finish), $650
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened glazing to lower portion of windows only to home office and home theatre windows, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened glazing to dining room and leisure room stacking doors, included
  • aluminium stacking/sliding doors to remain closed if occupants are not present or in the event of a bushfire threat, by owner
  • provide drought excluders to entry and laundry external hinged doors, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened clear glazing to entry and laundry door, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened clear glazing to front entry sidelite, $80
  • provide seals to top and sides of garage panel lift door to prevent the entry of embers, $520
  • provide fully sarked roof construction, included
  • provide spark guards to whirlybird on roof, $87
  • all roof lights and associated shafts shall be sealed with non-combustible sleeve/lining, by owner (we don’t have any roof lights)
  • eaves shall be enclosed with fascia or gaps between rafters being sealed, included
  • provide expanded gutter guards (leaf stoppers) to all gutters and valleys with a flammability index no greater than 5, subject to council request, by owner
  • all service pipes for water and gas supplies to be buried to a depth no less than 300 mm, included

Total: $3452

The builder had put $8000 in our contract as provisional allowance for all of this, so at this point we were getting change back.

Although this is all we need to satisfy the BAL rating, we went ahead and asked for a few more things:

  • provide 1 hinged aluminium flydoor with aluminium flymesh to laundry door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $425
  • provide stacking flydoors with aluminium flymesh to dining room stacking door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $700
  • provide sliding flydoor with aluminium flymesh to leisure room sliding door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $550
  • provide expanded gutter guards (leaf stoppers) to all gutters and valleys with a flammability index no greater than 5, subject to council request, $3069

Total: $4744

So, all up we’re at $8196. Definitely no change back.

Not too bad. I nearly fell over when I saw the gutter guard quote but I don’t fancy getting up on our two storey roof to put it in later.

I've come down with the shingles

Update on our BAL

On Thursday the man from Bushfire Hazard Solutions went out to assess our block and give a second opinion on the BAL rating. We provided him with the Master Plan illustrations from Bunya, as well as the map of the our land release. These two illustrations show that the reserve immediately across from our block would have a footpath running through it, which suggested to us that it would be “managed land”. He questioned Bunya about the reserve for us, in particular how it would be planted and took that into consideration.

He got back to us on Friday with the results: even when he took a very conservative approach to the assessment he has given the block a rating of BAL 12.5. This is great news and certainly more believable than the original rating of BAL 40. We had been quoted $24 000 to satisfy BAL 40. BAL 12.5 will come in at $8000. So, a huge saving of $16 000!

It has cost us $120 for the assessment and verbal recommendation and it will cost us about $240 more to get a report written to submit to the CDC with our development applications. Possibly the best few hundred dollars we’ve spent so far.

Here is a photo of what the reserve immediatelyy across the road from us looks like today. I took the photo standing about where the boundary of the land is.

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This is what the reserve looks like byeond the road.

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The man that did the assessment for us also gave us a document with what the house will need to satisfy BAL 12.5 so I’ll let you know what that includes a little later on.

Where did my BAL come from?

You should be aware of the fact that your new house will have to comply with various Australian Standards if you ever want to receive an occupation certificate allowing you to live in it.

In 2011, the Building Code of Australia was packaged together with the Plumbing Code of Australia and is now known as the National Construction Code. This hefty document sets out minimum standards for all building and plumbing installations right across Australia. The aim is to regulate the health, safety and amenity of buildings. As such, the codes are revised every so often to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest know how.

I’m sure you can remember that in late January and February 2009, a series of devastating bushfires swept through parts of Victoria and many people lost their lives and homes. After the dust had settled, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was set up with the task to investigate the cause and make recommendations. In the end they made 67 recommendations, one of which was directed at the Building Code of Australia. This resulted in some changes being made to Australian Standard: 3959 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas 2009 (AS3959).

AS3959 now includes a requirement that all new or modified buildings reduce the risk of ignition from ember attack.

To do this, sites are assessed and assigned a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). Each level corresponds to a particular level of risk. The standard also sets out what you would then need to do to mitigate or reduce that risk to an acceptable level. There are 6 BAL ratings. You can read all about them here.

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Most likely, your local council will have assigned a BAL rating to the site before you’ve purchased it. It’s probably in your land sales contract, but you could always ask the developer or your council directly for it.

For most of us, what we really want to know is how much is it going to cost? Well, depending on your BAL rating, the size of your house and your builder the answer could be a lot. Our land sales contract says our lot is a BAL 40. We were quoted $24 000 to make the two story house comply.

The problem we have is that the numbers aren’t adding up. Just looking at the site, I think a BAL 40 seems a bit extreme. There are some trees, but I wouldn’t say we were living next door to a forest or anything! I’ve since discovered that your BAL rating is often assigned to the whole development, not your individual lot, sometimes even before it has been cleared for subdivision. Suddenly, I want a second opinion!

So, after a bit of a google, I found an independent assessor who is happy to go to our site, have a look around and give us his/her opinion on what the BAL rating should be. If it’s good news, we can pay a second fee and they will prepare a formal report to go with the development application. Hopefully, in the long run it will save us some dollars. We are expecting to hear back from them this week, so I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

If you’re interested in how the BAL rating is assigned, or would like to give it a go yourself, you can download the BAL Risk Assessment Application Kit.