Bushfires have long been an integral part of the Australian landscape ecology, with a unique symbiosis between plants, soils and fire. Whilst the aboriginal people used fire as part of their land management regime, bushfire has since been regarded as a fearsome threat to all who have followed. With global warming, el Nino effects and associated drought, major bushfires are increasingly common and newsworthy across the country. Whilst nature has shown remarkable resilience to bushfires, our urbanised culture has been less accepting. There is a developing tension between reactive and proactive bushfire planning and management, played out at the bushland/urban interface. As public concern escalates with every loss to life and property, governments are reacting with inquiries, followed by stricter planning, design and construction controls. This necessitates building design professionals becoming proactive in accepting some responsibility for improved bushfire management within their work.
This introductory Note explains bushfire history, behaviour and fire threat before reviewing nationally some of the regulations and methodology required within bushfire prone areas. DES 55 includes some essential strategies for planning, design and construction for bushfire protection – plus more on the challenges this presents to other ESD concerns.