‘Bushfire-proof’ home test a flaming success

‘Bushfire-proof’ home test a flaming success

21 April 2010

published by www.batemansbaypost.com.au

Australia —    A new “bushfire-proof” home that could save untold lives in an emergency like Victoria’s devastating 2009 fires was put to the test at Mogo on Friday.

For more local news and photos grab a copy of the Bay Post or Moruya Examiner.

CSIRO scientists tested the specially constructed steel dwelling at the Rural Fire Service Training Facility south of Mogo on Friday, subjecting it to everything that could be expected from intense bushfires.

It was the 2009 Victorian fires and the shocking death toll that resulted that ultimately led to Friday’s test.

The CSIRO and the National Association of Steel Framed Housing Inc wanted to find out what affordable materials would give the occupants of a house the best chance of survival in such an event.

The Mogo facility is the only one in Australia with a bushfire flame front simulator, and it was for this reason that it was chosen for this potentially revolutionary experiment.

“This is a major leap forward in understanding how things behave in these types of situations,” CSIRO bushfire researcher Justin Leonard said.

This test may save untold lives if such a disaster was to occur again, and it was the first of its type. The “home” was constructed in two weeks in March, almost entirely of Colourbond steel and contained materials that are affordable for the average Australian homebuyer.

Data-gathering instruments were placed throughout the interior of the building, analysing the performance of the materials.

The building received a mixed score card after the event.

“The floors and roof performed well but, with the walling system, we have a bit of work to do,” Mr Leonard said.

“The insulation used wasn’t quite up to it, so it will have to be modified to really make sure it is safe. The plaster in the walls didn’t stand up to the heat as well as we would have liked.”

The test had been postponed twice in the lead-up, and one look at the inferno when it reached its full crescendo made it obvious why perfect conditions were necessary.

Onlookers would have assumed that no one inside the building would have survived the fire, and they would have been right, but this wasn’t the point.

“The doors and windows failed, so no one inside would have survived, but this was expected,” Mr Leonard said.

“What we were doing was trying to isolate certain parts of the house to see how they performed. We could have used the most expensive doors and windows, but we wanted to test the affordable options. Had the windows and doors held, there is every chance that the occupants could have survived.”

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