In light of the devastating bushfires across Australia, many homeowners in bushfire prone areas are rethinking their approach to housing design.
Architect Shawn O’Brien recently told the Australian Financial Review that he had been inundated with calls from individuals interested in discussing his earth-sheltered designs to replace their existing or fire-affected homes.
Wikipedia defines earth-sheltered buildings as structures with earth against the walls, on the roof, or they’re entirely buried underground. The advantage of earth-sheltered buildings, they’re directly linked to the soil that surrounds them, which acts as a buffer in a bushfire, insulating them from extreme temperatures.
Furthermore, the benefits of an earth-sheltered building’s insulation extends to their energy efficiency, reducing heating and cooling costs. Justin Leonard, research leader for the bushfire adaptation at CSIRO stated that this type of housing or similar mud-brick homes were the gold standard for bushfire adaptation.
Mr. Leonard said, “When you look “at that kind of construction, I’ve seen houses “go through the worst fires, and they’re actually stronger because the mud-brick has been baked by the fire, resulting in a more durable and harder structure after the fire than before with little required to continue occupying the house.”
It’s clear that the current guidelines for bushfire protection have proven inadequate, and one thing is certain, that many architects across Australia will be rethinking their approach to bushfire resistant dwellings as a result of these latest events.