Bushfire Bunker Design Considerations

Homes constructed before the year 2000 do not meet the current Australian standards and codes designed to improve a home’s ability to perform well during a bushfire event. Unfortunately, around 85% of building stock in bushfire-prone areas fall into this category.

Age, design, construction materials, block size, proximity to vegetation, and other homes, all effect an older homes likely survival during a bushfire. Some established homes are so vulnerable that owners believe the only way they could survive a bushfire is by being in a bushfire bunker.

There are a few commercially produced bunkers which meet government guidelines, usually they consist of a small sealed underground space with no water (or toilet facilities) and only an hour of breathable air. Purchase and installation costs of these manufactured bunkers costs around $20,000. They are only effective for a short period of time (due to limited air supply) and if the resident are in them when the bushfire approaches, both these factors are highly problematic.

During the bushfires of Black Saturday in 2009 a few people left it too late to take shelter in their bunkers and died from radiant heat as they ran to their bunker from their home.

This presentation seeks to explore other alternatives to commercially produced bushfire bunkers and looks at linking a refuge space to a vulnerable home. A range of options and configurations will be explored. Two suggested options include: linking the main structure and the bunker via an enclosed walkway which has photo voltaic panels as the roof; considering if it might be better to ‘harden’ one part of the main structure of the vulnerable home, as a safer ‘refuge’ room.

This presentation primarily looks at the issues surrounding the complexities of installing an onsite bunker when the main structure is perceived as being highly likely to ignite during a bushfire.

Presenter: Dr Douglas Brown

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