Bushfire: Part 2 - Design

Bushfire: Part 2 - Design

Bushfire: Part 2 - Design



Part Two: Bushfire Design investigates proven weak-points prone to building ignition and what this means for architects, planners and landscapers; reflections on a client’s perspective and a conversation exploring the cost of rebuilding after bushfires.
Related Acumen notes:
Designing to heal: post-disaster rebuilding to assist community recovery – part A 
Designing to heal: post-disaster rebuilding to assist community recovery – part B designing a process and product for recovery
Development in Australian bushfire prone areas
Site planning and design for bushfire

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This presentation is equivalent to 1.5 hours/points of formal CPD and will deliver outcomes related to the following Competency/s from the National Standard of Competency for Architects:

2015 NSCA Competencies


Design: Pre-Design
2.1 Identification, analysis and integration of information relevant to siting of project.
2.2 Application of principles controlling planning, development and design for the project site.
Design: Conceptual Design
3.1 Design response integrates the objectives of brief, user intent and built purpose.
3.3 Design response incorporates assessment of the physical location and relevant wider regional, contextual and environmental issues.
3.4 Design response incorporates assessment of relevant legislation, codes and industry standards.
Design: Schematic Design
4.4 Inclusion of expertise of relevant specialists and consultants in developing the project design. 
4.6 Investigation and integration of appropriate material selection for the project design. 

Documentation: Detailed Documentation
5.3 Evaluation and integration of regulatory requirements.4.6 Investigation and integration of appropriate material selection for the project design. 
5.5 Integration of materials and components based upon an understanding of their physical properties.
Documentation: Documentation
6.2 Continuing coordination and integration of information and project material from relevant consultants, specialists and suppliers.

2021 NSCA Competencies

Project Initiation and Conceptual Design
PC 24 Be able to prepare and analyse project development options in response to a project brief – its objectives, budget, user intent and built purpose, risk and timeframes, including environmental sustainability considerations. 
PC 26 Be able to undertake site, cultural and contextual analysis as part of preliminary design research. 
PC 29 Be able to develop and evaluate design options in terms of the heritage, cultural and community values embodied in the site, and in relation to project requirements. 
PC 30 Be able to explore options for siting a project, including integrating information and analysis of relevant cultural, social and economic factors. 
PC 32 Be able to apply planning principles and statutory planning requirements to the site and conceptual design of the project. 

Detailed Design and Construction Documentation
PC 39 Be able to integrate the material selection, structural and construction systems established in the conceptual design into the detailed design and documentation. 
PC 41 Be able to coordinate and integrate input from specialists and consultants into the detailed design and documentation. 
PC 44 Maintain effective and clear communication in the coordination of relevant consultants, manufacturers and suppliers as required under the terms of engagement. 
PC 45 Be able to nominate and integrate quality and performance standards with regard to selected materials, finishes, fittings, components and systems, considering the impact on Country and the environment, and the whole life carbon impact of the project. This includes integrating life cycle assessments and other expertise and advice from consultants. 
PC 46 Be able to produce project documentation that meets the requirements of the contract and procurement process and complies with regulatory controls, building standards and codes, and conditions of construction and planning approvals. 


Learning Outcomes

At the end of this session you should be able to:

  • Describe Australian bushfire behaviour and the atypical unpredictable fires of the summer of 2019/2020
  • Discuss the future of land-management, preparation for the bushfire season, fire-fighting and fire suppression
  • Explain the importance of understanding bushfire ecology
  • List the factors that coalesce for a bushfire and other factors which affect severity and potential for control
  • Outline the different ways bushfires connect with buildings
  • Explain the BAL rating system.



Founder, environa studio

Tone Wheeler is an architect, author, educator and consultant with an abiding interest in the triple bottom line in architecture: social, environmental and economical design. Tone founded environa studio in 1986 and has designed individual and multiple housing projects, commercial buildings and urban design schemes, all with a strong emphasis on social and environmental concerns. The practice has won numerous awards and competitions, including the Milo Dunphy award for sustainable architecture for the Wayside Chapel project.

Tone has been on faculty at Sydney University, UTS and Canberra University, and is currently Adjunct Professor in Sustainable Design at UNSW. He has is the current president of the Australian Architecture Association, has been chair of the Institute National Sustainability Committee, on the Boards of the NSW Building Professionals (BPB) and the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA).

He is a frequent writer and speaker on architectural issues. He writes weekly for the Architecture & Design newsletter, has spoken at conferences and seminars for the (R)AIA, the BDAA and the PIA, has been a regular contributor to ABC Radio and TV, on Radio National ˜By Design”; on ABC702 as a “Woodie” and “Homie” and as a judge on the New Inventor program on ABC Television. Over 12 years he has designed and helped build four electric cars.





In 2016 Dr Douglas Brown set up Bushfire Architecture, a research consultancy which provides advice on building in bushfire-prone areas. Since 2015 he has been an academic at Western Sydney University, where he teaches undergraduate courses in Construction Management and postgraduate courses in Bushfire Protection, such as “Building in Bushfire-Prone Areas”. He has a PhD entitled 'Domestic Architecture and the Perception of Risk in Bushfire-Prone Areas'. This research was undertaking in the Faculty of Architecture, Design & Planning at the University of Sydney and completed in 2017. He is currently working with the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning on a project which uses drone technology and 3D imaging to assess how bushfires damaged selected houses during the 2019-2020 bushfire season. 

Dr Brown has previously given two CPDs on bushfire building ignitions points (vulnerable parts of a structure): Australian Institute of Architects, April 2018; and Blue Mountains Design Group, April 2015.

He is a regular contributor to The Conversation where his publications have been viewed over 83,000 times globally.




Principle, ECOdesign Architects + Consultants

Nigel Bell (FRAIA) is principle of ECOdesign Architects + Consultants, working from Katoomba (NSW) studio with decades of experience in balancing ecologically sensitive sites, client and Authority requirements, tight budgets - and now bushfire issues across regional areas.  Project work extends from residential to small commercial, government and eco/tourism, with a string of local, state and national awards.  Nigel has been a Churchill Fellow (1994), with his practice being judged the Blue Mountains "Outstanding environmental business" (2001). His Banksia Environmental Award ecotourism project (Jemby-Rinjah Lodge) had been the leading ecotourism and environmental education facility through the 1990's and more - but has burnt down in the recent mega-fires.    

Nigel has long been involved in educational and teaching work across universities, TAFE, community, through to schools.  Using his research and facilitation skills from social ecology higher degree study, this led from 2009 to facilitating recovery within bushfire devastated communities in Victoria including leading the community visioning followed by a design charette. Further involvement occurred following the 2013 local bushfires, assisting both in recovery and enhancing sustainable architectural design.  

Nigel has written four Environmental Design 'Notes' on bushfire and sustainability matters (most recent published last October 2019); is an Al Gore trained "Climate Leader'; has been elected to two terms as NSW AIA 'Chapter Councillor'; and three terms to the 'NSW Architects Registration Board' in seeking positive change within the profession. 

In consequence, Nigel has  a strong history and commitment to people, planet and place, extending the architectural ethos into regional areas, community involvements, and past that of promoting elite architecture for the 10% (or is it 5%?). 




Partner, six b design

Jamie Brennan, architect, is a partner of six b design He has lived and worked in the Blue Mountains for over 20 years, specialising in sustainable and bush fire architecture.





Ingrid Donald is an Architect living and working in Blackheath NSW.

She has designed numerous BAL 40 and BAL FZ houses. Her climatic responsive architecture is imbued with a genuine interest in the people who occupy it and the surrounding environment. 





Peter is an architect with experience in large firms in Australia and the US. His own practice, Buckwell and Partners based in Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains, was established in 1979. 

Peter has also held a builder’s licence for many years and has completed the Arbitrators Course run by institute of Arbitrators.

Peter is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects, has served on juries for the Institute Awards and has been Chair of the NSW Country Division.
Peter holds a graduate Diploma of Education, has taught in the TAFE system and has participated in the Student Mentoring Program run by the NSW Chapter.




M Arch Student, University of Newcastle

Rory’s mother, Sandy Betts, engaged Fergus Scott, architect, to design a house for them at Bawley Point NSW. This house, completed a decade ago, withstood an extreme fireball during the 2019/2020 fires while the surrounding landscape was decimated.




John Travers has been working in the fields of bushfire and terrestrial ecology for 39 years. Between 1981 and 1991 he was a Senior Ranger with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service before joining the Department of Bushfire Services where he  was Manager Planning & Research. For the past 27 years he has been in private practice providing advice to a vast array of clients in both the private and public sectors. 




Director, Community Resilience, NSW Rural Fire Service

orey has over 16 years’ experience working in the bushfire and emergency services industry, including 14 years with the NSW Rural Fire Service.  

Corey joined the RFS in 2006 and held a number of roles before being promoted to Director Community Resilience in 2013. Corey also spent two years as Director Operational Mitigation Services where he was responsible for over 130 staff which included the State Mitigation crews as well as Remote Area Firefighting and Special Operations.  

As the Director Community Resilience, with the NSW Rural Fire Service, Corey has been responsible for the leadership, management and implementation of the NSW legislative planning framework for developments in bushfire prone areas, bushfire prone land mapping, environmental approvals, Neighbourhood Safer Places, bushfire risk management, Community Protection Planning, NSW bushfire mitigation grants and fire behaviour and predictive services. 

Corey has been responsible for significant advances in building capacity and resilience from bushfires at state and national levels. 

Corey has extensive experience having worked in both private industry and state government, including executive level positions in the NSW Rural Fire Service. Corey has been responsible for driving and maintaining industry best practice in all facets of bushfire risk management, land use planning, building controls, fire trails and community engagement. 



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