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Understanding Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL): A Vital Aspect of Building in Bushfire-Prone Areas in Australia

4 September 2023

Bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia, and as a result, building in bushfire-prone areas require special consideration. One of the key considerations for building in bushfire-prone land in Australia is knowing the BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) rating of your property, as this affects the materials, design and material inclusions.

Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is a means of measuring the potential severity of a building’s exposure to ember attack, radiant heat, and direct flame contact during a bushfire. BAL ratings are intended to aid in determining construction and building criteria for homes built in bushfire-prone areas in Australia. The BAL ratings range from BAL Low to BAL FZ (Flame Zone), with each rating indicating the level of risk that a building is under during a bush fire.

The BAL ratings take into account various factors that influence the risk posed by a fire, such as the specific vegetation, and the proximity of a property to the vegetation, wind speed, and slope of the surrounding land. The lower BAL rating levels (BAL Low to BAL 12.5) generally require preparation related to fuel reduction near the property, and building material selection. The higher levels (BAL 19 to BAL FZ) require additional requirements like thicker glass windows, specific gutter guard systems, and water storage provisions.

It is important to note that BAL ratings can vary not only by location but also by specific property, depending on factors such as vegetation surrounding the property. Homeowners should seek guidance from professionals to identify a property’s specific BAL rating to ensure compliance with local standards and requirements.

BAL ratings have a direct impact on the materials, design, and inclusions in a building. The requirements for BAL Low to BAL 12.5 ratings may only require basic preparation surrounding the property. In contrast, BAL 19 to BAL FZ buildings require more demanding design, from tougher materials to special construction methods. The requirements for BAL ratings include factors such as roof design, windows, and the areas surrounding the property, including vegetation and buffer zones.

BAL ratings are an essential consideration when building in bushfire-prone areas in Australia. BAL ratings help owners to understand the construction and building criteria to protect their homes from bushfire risks. A BAL rating will determine the level of construction and material requirements for the building to ensure the property’s safety, occupants, and assets. Prioritising the BAL rating in the design and preparation of a property will make the property safer, protecting you, your family, and your assets during a bushfire.

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