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National
bushfire
response

Bushfire rebuild, Blue Mountains, NSW | ECOdesign Architects | Photographer: Nigel Bell

National bushfire response

Photographer: Catherine Baker

Bushfire response

The tragic bushfires that have ravaged our country in recent times have caused many Australians to lose their lives, their homes and their livelihoods. We thank those dedicated volunteers and emergency services who continue to work tirelessly to give support to those in need.

This page focusses on the Institute’s ongoing response to these bushfire emergencies including government advocacy and the volunteering initiatives we’ll be developing in 2021.

We also encourage you to visit our Architects Assist site where members can register their interest in supporting the ongoing bushfire response effort.

This is not a short-term crisis and we encourage architects to take the lead in rebuilding these communities. The Institute will continue to work with all levels of government to support the structural and regulatory reform needed accelerate recovery efforts and enable those affected to build back better.

Support to government

Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements

February 2021 marked more than one hundred days since the release of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements’ final report.

As the timeline for a response from the Australian Governments is pushed further and further out, the Australian Institute of Architects continues to call for urgent implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations. We have again offered to work constructively with all levels of government to accelerate the recovery efforts and enable communities to build back better.

Read our media release from 5 February 2021 here

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was established in response to the extreme bushfire season over the last 12+ months. The Commission examined the coordination, preparedness for, response to and recovery from fire, as well as ways to improve resilience, adapt to the changing climate and mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

With some 5,900 buildings destroyed in the 2019-20 bushfires and communities anxious to rebuild, governments have a limited window of time to effect reforms that will ensure a higher standard of more resilient construction. There is no time to waste, both in preparing for the next fire season and ensuring we build back better from the last one.

The Royal Commission’s report foreshadowed natural disasters becoming ‘more frequent and more severe’ and noted key evidence, including from the Institute, that would save lives and deliver a more resilient built environment that is better equipped to face future challenges.

The Institute accepts the science on climate change and the need for a proactive response and is actively working to support built environment professionals who have a critical role to play in improving the resilience and adaptation of Australian society to changing climatic conditions.

We need to holistically and urgently re-examine where and how we build, and how our regulatory environment operates in the context of a rapidly changing climate. A critical part of this is committing to net zero emissions in the built-environment by 2030.

We will continue our advocacy for the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations and for the Australian Government to lead a reform agenda that will build a safer and more resilient future for our nation. The human and economic cost of inaction is far too high.

Read more about the role the Institute played in supporting the work of the Royal Commission and read our submission and response to the recommendations here.

Photographer: Aditya Joshi

Free CPD, Acumen Notes and Resources

CPD, Acumen Practice Notes and resources

We’re providing all architects, regardless of membership, full unrestricted access to the following practice notes from our Acumen platform, and other resources which may be of assistance at this time.

The Narbethong Community Hall | BVN, Arup and a number of consultants working pro bono | Image: BVN
Through case studies and expert presentations, this specialised free CPD program explores ecology, impact, design, planning, building and rebuilding after a bushfire.
Red Cross volunteers assist people who were evacuated from Mallacoota to Hastings by Naval ship. Image courtesy of Australian Red Cross | Photographer: Mathew Lynn
Photographer: Daniel McCullough

This Note provides guidance, case studies and methodologies in relation to bushfire attack for siting and landscaping, planning and design, and the issues of active defence and emergency shelter. It has a particular focus on residential structures.

AS 3959:2018, Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas was made available as a free resource last year.

Designing to heal: post-disaster rebuilding to assist community recovery

This paper outlines the significance of disasters and post-disaster recovery, highlights the need of designers to harness community skills, emphasises survivor participation in the planning and realisation of their post-disaster environment, and suggests some characteristics of design that may smooth the path to recovery.

Designing to heal: post-disaster rebuilding to assist community recovery – designing a process and product for recovery

This paper outlines the significance of disasters and post-disaster recovery, highlights the need of designers to harness community skills, emphasises survivor participation in the planning and realisation of their post-disaster environment, and suggests some characteristics of design that may smooth the path to recovery.
Bushfire rebuild, Blue Mountains, NSW | ECOdesign Architects | Photographer: Nigel Bell

This Note outlines the impact of climate change on bushfire conditions in Australia and the ensuing regulatory imperatives for planning and construction within bushfire prone areas. It provides an overview of bushfire attack, the Fire Danger Index, the regulatory framework plus development issues and concerns currently applicable to states and territories

When asked to design a ‘fire bunker’, ‘fire-shelter’, ‘fire refuge’, or the like, it is wise to be extremely careful and risk-averse about what you say in response to such a request, and preferably in writing.

Common risk areas for architects include liability for free advice, partial services, design and documentation without contract administration, contract administration on another architects’ design, certification without full inspection and contract administration, pre-purchase and other inspections, valuations, pro bono services, working in specialist areas, secondment of staff and staff qualifications.

NATSPEC TECHnotes: Bushfire protection DES018

The impact of bushfire on life and property can be reduced with responsible preparation and bushfire management plans.

Thomas Caddaye Architects | Image: Ross Caddaye

As a continuation of our national bushfire response and the recent release of our Acumen Practice Note on this subject (above), this member webinar focuses on site planning and design for bushfire protection.

Common risk areas for architects include liability for free advice, partial services, design and documentation without contract administration, contract administration on another architects’ design, certification without full inspection and contract administration, pre-purchase and other inspections, valuations, pro bono services, working in specialist areas, secondment of staff and staff qualifications.

NATSPEC TECHnotes: Bushfire protection DES018

The impact of bushfire on life and property can be reduced with responsible preparation and bushfire management plans.

Architects may provide pro bono services to a range of groups including community groups, through membership of churches, sporting or social clubs and out of a spirit of social compassion for communities in need, such as the victims of a natural disaster.

Common risk areas for architects include liability for free advice, partial services, design and documentation without contract administration, contract administration on another architects’ design, certification without full inspection and contract administration, pre-purchase and other inspections, valuations, pro bono services, working in specialist areas, secondment of staff and staff qualifications.

NATSPEC TECHnotes: Bushfire protection DES018

The impact of bushfire on life and property can be reduced with responsible preparation and bushfire management plans.

Supporting post-fire design and rebuild programs across Australia

Architects Donate

Architects Donate is our campaign to drive financial support from our 12,500 members and their communities and is designed to allow all members and colleagues to play their part.

You can donate as little or as much as you wish, with all funds gathered into the Institute’s Foundation, with 100% of these funds used to directly support the rebuild efforts aimed at Australian communities most in need. All donations above $2 will be tax-deductible.

To make Architects Donate as successful as possible, we’ve also created a suite of creative assets for you to use in raising awareness and donations with your own colleagues, friends and family as you see fit. Please share these far and wide so we can together, as the peak body for the Australian architectural community, support our country in the challenging times ahead.

Support to government

Support to government

We’ll also reach out to relevant local, state and federal government agencies to work through how and where we can best support those affected. We will keep you updated as these discussions progress. We encourage you to keep up to date on our dedicated website page which we will continue to update once further initiatives are developed.

This is a very distressing time for many in our community. For those experiencing the devastation first hand, for those responding to it, and for those witnessing the heartbreak and damage to the country and the people close to them. It is a time to band together, to support each other and to take extra care of each other’s welfare.

Thank you to all members who are already helping at this time, and thank you to our first responders and our firefighters for their heroic efforts.

Should you require additional support, contact your local Chapter and we can put you in touch with our dedicated confidential Assistance Portal, who can provide counselling and support to those who may be struggling throughout this ongoing crisis.

We will continue to keep you updated and encourage you to seek assistance from colleagues and your local Chapter.

Photographer: Aditya Joshi

Financial donations

Red Cross volunteers assist people who were evacuated from Mallacoota to Hastings by Naval ship. Image courtesy of Australian Red Cross | Photographer: Mathew Lynn

Charity donations

There a number of national and state charities who are currently seeking donations to raise funds to support the victims of the bushfire crisis.

We are calling on our staff around the country to donate a day’s salary to charities including our own Foundation, which will be used to support various post-fire design and rebuild programs across many affected areas.