You may have heard of the term ‘Asset Protection Zone’ if you’re planning to build in a bushfire prone area. What is it, and why is it important?
And how can an Asset Protection Zone (APZ) impact your BAL rating and bushfire strategy overall?
Watch this video, as Jeff Dau explains what an Asset Protection Zone is, and how to integrate it into an overall approach for your bushfire resistant home design.
In this interview, I speak with Jeff Dau from Ember Bushfire Consulting.
EMBER Bushfire Consulting is a team of qualified, accredited and experienced fire industry
Co-Founder, Jeff Dau, has had 28 years of experience as a professional in the fire services industry. For the past 12 years this has been in a range of fire safety fields including fire safety engineering, bushfire protection, building certification and regulation and urban planning.
So let’s dive in.
Amelia Lee + Jeff Dau (Ember Bushfire Consulting)
[Amelia Lee]: Can you just take a moment to talk through that Asset Protection Zone in a bit more detail?
And also, you know, is this as simple as somebody going well, “fine, I’ll just clear you know, 100m diameter around my property and fell all my trees, and then fix it like that”. How do these kinds of things come into play in terms of solutions, I suppose, to these challenges?
[Jeff Dau]: Yes, and I’ll pick up that point, I guess, that again, very much is the domain in the
bushfire practitioner. The very simple structure that’s, you know, on a nice open grassland setting, very easy for the, you know, or relatively easy for the homeowner to come up with a BAL rating or for council.
These more complex topographies, vegetation types, settings where you know maybe that the house is a kilometre or two kilometres in, on one way in one way out. Then the RFS (Rural Fire Service) are certainly looking at not just a BAL Rating, but an extended APZ.
So it’s a very complex sort of solution to the problem. So I’ll just add that point there … that it would be nice if they were all simple, but they can quite often be complex.
So if the BAL rating is reflective of the setback to the unmanaged vegetation, the APZ. The Asset Protection Zone is the landscape, is the garden, is the setback between the building face and that line, that defined line of unmanaged vegetation, that gives us the BAL rating.
So the two are totally complimentary. They have to work together. And obviously as we push those back. It’s not also … it doesn’t necessarily need to be an exercise of clear felling everything around there.
Again, we’re trying to get balance. In fact, some vegetation, if it’s clumped, is really good, is a good thing. It’s a radiant heat shield, it catches embers, and obviously they’ll make it into landscape design of different spaces, etc, etc.
Anyway, staying to the point, the Asset Protection Zone is this magical area, that stands between the property, the structure and the unmanaged vegetation. That could still be grassland or it could be woodland, or it could be forest. It’s this very defined area. And it’s an area of, again, very specific and ongoing landscape management and maintenance.
And that’s the beauty of it, I think is with the APZ, then you go “right, I’ve got 20 metres, I’m doing everything within that much less about what’s happening beyond it and I’m just going to
focus on this very specific space”. And then the level of construction is going to complement that.
Just going back quickly, the Asset Protection Zone is probably the number one. Construction is obviously very important here.
But, in all the research, is that the APZ edge is the primary … the further you can get setback or the more well-managed you can have this space, the more likelihood that you’re going to have success in structure survival.
And often you’ll see after these big events, you’ll see the classic photo of a house … that, you know, withstood a significant fires. It’s burned all around but then you’ve got this cleared space.
So that’s what an Asset Protection Zone is. And I guess you know, we choose to live in the bushland setting. And to clear fell it for 100 metres, if you do,you know, clear fell it or if you managed out to 100 meters and achieved a very low BAL Rating, that’s kind of not the, that’s not balanced for me. It’s, you know, it’s keeping it, you know, to up the construction and then, you know, limit the amount of damage that you have.
And I think the other practical part of that is that if you try then … you’ve established your 100m Asset Protection Zone, you’ve gone overboard. Then you’ve got to maintain that 100 metres to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west. So it’s not really not a practical solution. Sounds good. It’s going save you some money (in construction possibly), but it’s going to be …
[Amelia Lee]: You’ll be spending your weekend on a ride-on mower!
[Jeff Dau]: Exactly, exactly. I hope that answered the question. That’s the relationship there.
But very important. I think people get lost in that idea … ‘oh it’s an APZ’. And it’s really, really important and it complements it works in unison with whatever the construction is, you’ve adopted … your BAL29, your BAL19. The two have to work together.
As soon as your APZ deteriorates then that BAL Rating doesn’t really mean much. anymore. So it’s very important. And it’s, it’s ongoing.
[Amelia Lee]: I think it’s it for me, it’s really demonstrating how essential the expertise of this type of consultant or practitioner is to creating a holistic solution for a property that has this kind of overlay on it.
Because what it gives you the opportunity to do is always think about the totality of your site, and not just think about, you know, ‘okay, let’s build this house as a fireproof bunker, and just accept the fact that fire is going to rage towards us’. And that’s just what is going to happen. But instead, let’s think about how do we manage the whole environment of where we live, so that we can build resiliency around. And our ability to protect at a distance as well. So that, we’ve got, we’ve got those things working in combination together.
And I think to get that expertise, as part of your design solution becomes really powerful then in you also then becoming the custodian of that in your property, you know, over time living in it. So you understand then, okay, this is how, should we be threatened by fire, we can expect it to perform. And this is what we’ve done to safeguard our home and our land against it. And this is what we’ve done.And we know … I mean, it was really fascinating for me when we were, when we had fires nearby. And you just saw the community rally together. Signs going out the front to say, ‘Yep, there’s a pool here with static water supply’.
All of those kinds of things, that you see the importance of a community response to protecting a community. And I think that when there’s this approach to understanding that Asset Protection Zone and you can imagine a whole string of properties doing that together, just what a difference that makes to the RFS’s ability to fight fire in your region, for you to protect your property.
You know, I just think that yes, it just, to me, it just that level of expertise in your design process seems essential to me.
[Jeff Dau]: Yes, thank you. And if I can, if I can add to that as well and that the flow on there as well is that if you’ve got this really well maintained Asset Protection Zone, then it’s inviting the RFS, if you don’t happen to be there. And obviously we always advocate that leave early, that is always the best option. But if you’ve done these things, then you really set your structure, your home, very well up for survival.
But it also invites the RFS to have a go, because if you didn’t have these really good Asset Protection Zones, you had vegetation close up to the structure, they’ll do a triage and they’ll say, ‘We’re not going. It’s game over.’
So by doing that thing, there’s a whole bunch of knock-on effects … really positive knock on
THIS IS PART 3 OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JEFF DAU, EMBER BUSHFIRE CONSULTING. WATCH PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE.
This interview is part of our Rebuild + Build Better series.
Be sure to stay tuned as we share more information and expertise in helping you rebuild after bushfires, or build homes more resilient to climate conditions and in bushfire prone areas.
Resources mentioned in this video:
Get in touch with Jeff Dau, Ember Bushfire Consulting >>> https://www.bushfireassessor.com.au/
Find a qualified bushfire consultant by searching for an accredited provider on the Fire Protection Association Australia website >>> http://www.fpaa.com.au/
For a limited time, you can access AS3959 at no charge. Head to the SAI website and choose PDF 1 user version – you’ll see the cost go to FREE.
Very interesting interview, and very timely following last seasons bushfires.
I have a question about what happens if your neighbor does not want to agree to granting an APZ over their land? It seems strange that for power lines or sewerage pipes an easement can be required, but for bushfire protection it is treated differently.
Thanks – glad you found the interview interesting.
Ordinarily, the APZ needs to be managed / contained on your own land, and not use neighbours’ land at all (so as to ensure the APZ can be individually maintained by the owner it is being used for). For those who lost their homes in the Black Summer fires, there is some consideration happening that they may look at APZs taking neighbouring land into account (however, in hand with this, they’re also discussing inspections for maintenance to ensure the APZ is still intact).
Hope that helps!