CSIRO has a strong history in observing and recording the way in which bushfires impact on infrastructure.

The challenge

Determining the impact of bushfires on infrastructure

We carry out tests to determine the impact of bushfires on buildings with different designs and buidling materials.

Bushfire researchers face significant challenges:

  • extreme bushfire events are difficult to directly observe and study
  • bushfire is one of many influences that define our living space - the challenge is to seamlessly integrate measures to live with bushfires while maintaining individual lifestyle choices
  • bushfire myths often increase risk to both life and property
  • understanding the risk posed by different infrastructure damage by bushfires.

Our response

Researching bushfires

CSIRO has been involved in bushfire research for more than 40 years, and through involvement in the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is playing a crucial role in understanding the impact of bushfires on houses and other buildings.

CSIRO researchers have surveyed every bushfire involving significant house loss since the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, in South Australia and Victoria, which has included extensive large-scale laboratory investigations of building performance under fire exposure conditions.

This long-term research underpinned extensive development and reform for building design, planning and community education by the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC), the peak body for the fire and emergency services across all of Australia and New Zealand.

Understanding house loss

CSIRO scientists have examined the robustness and role played by residential fence systems and water storage tanks in bushfire prone areas.

Results from an experimental program conducted under full-scale bushfire conditions, and surveys of prior bushfires, have been taken up by AFAC, and incorporated into planning guidelines in several states and fire agencies.

Risk analysis and mitigation strategies are being developed to give detailed analyses of the potential risk of house loss in bushfire-prone areas for any given structures. This work will result in an interactive tool for agencies and the community to understand the most effective way to reduce the risk from bushfire attack.

CSIRO researchers are developing a comprehensive house vulnerability assessment tool for assessing built assets in bushfire-prone areas.

Drawing on building design, planning layout, surrounding elements, weather conditions and human behaviour, the tool will predict the likelihood of house loss, and the failures that cause house loss, to help reduce vulnerability to an acceptable level.

Research capabilities

CSIRO bushfire infrastructure performance researchers have expertise in the following areas:

  • assessment of bushfire risk at the urban interface
  • integrated urban design solutions including whole-of-life energy and water use, biodiversity, landscapes, cultural value systems, lifestyle expectations, and risk from other sources
  • analysis of major bushfire events
  • post-incident analysis of bushfire impact
  • fire characteristics at the urban interface
  • community education
  • performance of materials during bushfire exposure
  • characterisation of materials or systems performance in bushfires
  • product development, verification and enhancement for use in bushfire-prone areas (specialist coatings, glazing protection, timber deck design).

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