Why resilient timber homes

Code-compliant timber frame construction is robust and resilient when subjected to adverse and extreme conditions, including those associated with floods, bushfires, and cyclones, for every location in Australia. And they provide more than just life safety (which is the main objective of the NCC) and adequate property protection through good durability and easy maintenance. They offer better comfort and wellness. That’s why timber framed homes are so popular with developers, builders, and owners/occupiers.

A timber home is also part of the solution to tackling climate change, because it will store embodied carbon for its all lifecycle, and its timber components will be regrown in a matter of minutes, therefore supporting our transitions towards a sustainable, circular economy.

Based on the evidence that Australia is at growing risk from a range of natural disasters, many organizations, including the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), already pointed out that the National Construction Code (NCC) should be reviewed to ensure greater resilience to extreme weather is incorporated into building design and construction. The ABCB held a Climate Change Adaptation roundtable in 2013, and a stakeholder consultation in 2014, to assist develop a strategy for improving the resilience of buildings and plumbing systems in the face of extreme weather events and a changing climate. The outcomes, summarised in Australian Building Codes Board, Resilience of buildings to extreme weather events, 2014 and updated in Australian Building Codes Board, Global Resilency Dialogue Second Survey of Building Code Stakeholders - Australia. Delivering Climate Responsive Resilient Building Codes and Standards, 2021, have informed many subsequent works, including this program.

Dealing with a single risk at a time, with specific performance targets, design rules, detailing prescriptions, and inspection protocols, has been the typical approach in the past, which has provided very good results in some cases. The evolution of the design and construction of Australian timber homes to resist bushfires and cyclones are two such examples.

But today, there is a clear understanding that there are also some new challenges:

  • the combination and overlaying of multiple risk factors in a single location, originating unexpected hazards like the weather systems created by massive bushfires, and
  • an unprecedented occurrence rate, and intensity of, the known natural hazard types.

Therefore, anticipating risks before they happen, to design and build resilient homes able to address them correctly, may become a tricky exercise. Nonetheless, it is a very useful one, with significant implications when the outcomes aren’t satisfactory, but also with a “double dividend” when they are met: avoided losses and additional benefits [Deloitte Access Economics, Building resilience to natural disasters in our States and Territories, 2017].

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