Australia — A purpose-built house constructed mainly with steel shows great potential to resist the extreme heat of an Australian bushfire as severe as those in Victoria in February 2009.
The National Association of Steel Housing (NASH) designed the test house to examine the resistance of steel framed housing to bush fire. The CSIRO undertook the flame testing of the low-rise house on 16 April this year; it was constructed with steel frames as well as steel outer walls, under-floors and roof cavities.
The test flames emulated the ferocity of an Australian bush fire, engulfing the house. The air temperature near the exposed face reached around 1100 degrees Celsius for two minutes during the flame immersion phase (see film coverage).
Initial assessments reported by NASH indicate that all steel elements appeared to have performed well and interior surfaces (mainly plasterboard with timber skirting and architraves) showed thermal effects but were basically intact. While preliminary recommendations were made for improving the steel construction, further in-depth research, led by CSIRO bushfire researcher Justin Leonard, will review the extensive data gathered from the test.
The test points to a potential for such steel fabrication to be an effective, low-cost solution for construction of fire resistant housing, particularly in bushfire-prone areas in Australia.
This test will assist with research into effective construction methods for building and re-building in bushfire regions. The aim is to meet new building codes introduced by the Royal Commission following the Victorian bushfires in February 2009. These new building codes specify that: A building that is constructed in a designated bushfire prone area must be designed and constructed to reduce the risk of ignition from a bushfire while the fire front passes.
“This means that the building needs to be resistant enough to protect life and minimise the loss of the building,” Mr Leonard said. “The test house was designed to meet this requirement and the trial burn tested how it shapes up against the performance requirements of the new building codes.
This flame test will feature in presentations at the FRAMECAD display at DesignBUILD 2010 Expo in Melbourne from 23 – 25 June.
FRAMECAD Roll Forming Steel Frame Machine at DesignBUILD
The new FRAMECAD F300i steel frame machine will feature and operate at DesignBUILD in Melbourne this month.
DesignBUILD is Australias largest trade and professional building expo, showcasing new, innovative and sustainable in building design, from planning to post construction.
The F300i is a world-leading, light steel frame manufacturing plant; its designed for manufacturers of framing and trusses across many applications. With high throughput, reliability, ease of maintenance and simple operation a focus of the design, this new integrated manufacturing plant delivers high productivity, high quality and accurate output.
The new F300i machine offers flexibility as a stand alone plant or it can be used in multiple machine configurations for a broader range of manufacturing options.
FRAMECAD Australian Sales Manager, Peter Blythe said: FRAMECAD encourages anyone interested in steel framing to come along to DesignBUILD and see our steel framing machine in action. Its amazing to watch.
Its Meccano-like in its simplicity of assembly due to the precise computer controlled production of every piece of framing. This means we can construct almost any building – from a low cost disaster-relief building to resource-based outback housing to the suburban family home and exclusive luxury designer homes.
In all cases FRAMECAD will save significant total construction time, improve quality and reduce cost. The precise steel frame fabrication system uses low skilled labour for low cost, faster, safer construction.
The fire-test house was designed to represent a basic domestic house, constructed with thermal insulation and plaster walls and ceilings. Fire resistance improves when these materials are layered with the steel components to offer a sound building system that would offer some protection to occupants.
A rural bushfire was simulated with the assistance of the Rural Fire Service at Mogo on the New South Wales South Coast. Gas burners placed metres away from the test house were used to create the approaching fire, growing to three metre flames in under two minutes.