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Renovating for resilience

Mon 10th May 2021

Small renovations can help protect your home against floods and bushfires.
Small renovations can help protect your home against floods and bushfires.

More homeowners need to make their home more resilient to natural disasters, as research shows 80 per cent of Australians have little interest in undertaking renovations to make their house withstand such events as floods and bushfires.

Insurance company Suncorp has found 49 per cent of homeowners expect to see more disasters such as floods and bushfires in the next 12 months, but 62 per cent are opting to upgrade their kitchens or bathrooms instead of undertaking projects that make their homes stronger.

The organisation has teamed up with CSIRO, James Cook University and Room11 Architects to design, prototype and test what may be Australia's most resilient home and is encouraging homeowners to consider undertaking its suggested resilience measures in their next renovation.

Bushfire Adaptation at CSIRO research leader Justin Leonard says Australia's housing is poorly suited to fire and homes can burn down for minor reasons.

"We hope that Australians - whether building a new house, planning a reno or thinking about ways to add value to their existing home, can take away practical ideas from our research," he says.

This includes low-cost ideas for existing homes that homeowners can start implementing now to be prepared for the next natural disaster to hit their neighbourhood.

Install mesh screens

Ember attack is the most common way a house burns down in a bushfire, as embers can enter the tiniest gaps, igniting such things as timber and leaf litter. Fixed mesh screens over gutters and gaps in the building can slow down flames during a bushfire.

Install water tanks

A dual tank system of two galvanised water tanks will provide one source for firefighting if the home is disconnected from mains water during a bushfire, and another as a back-up water supply so residents will always have drinkable water. 

From wildfires to electrical storms and cyclones, do what you can to protect your home.
From wildfires to electrical storms and cyclones, do what you can to protect your home.

Replace gutter fixings

PVC plastic gutter fixings melt in the event of a fire, and the gutters will safely fall away from the house. This helps protect the home from embers and reduces the likelihood of embers entering the back-up water supply, affecting its quality.

Install wiring in the roof

Electrical wiring in the roof can help prevent a loss of power when a home is flooded.

Move power points

Installing power points and switches at least one metre above floor level can reduce the risk of electrical issues during and after flooding.

Install glazed windows

Glazed windows and doors can protect the home from flood and fire. They can prevent water from entering the home and provide a more evenly distributed heat load over glass that can prevent cracking.

Leonard says making a home resilient to natural disasters is not about making a house emerge from an event unscathed but ensuring it maintains its structural integrity.

"It's about having a place to live after a fire - that's the definition of resilience," he says.

To learn more, visit onehouse.suncorp.com.au

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By Cara Jenkin