What is a BAL and do I need one?





It can be very confusing knowing which permits and reports are required during the building process. One of the most confusing aspects are the bushfire requirements.

What is a BAL?

This is a component of an Australian Standard called AS3939 Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas. It is primarily concerned with improving the ability of buildings in BPA to better withstand attack from bushfire. It is a component of the BUILDING PERMIT PROCESS.


The measures in the standard set out ways to improve and thus better equip a building to withstand the effects from bushfire. They are not a guarantee the building will withstand a bushfire attack, they aim to improve their resistance to attack from burning embers, radiant heat, flame contact and combinations of all three. AS3959 identifies a "bushfire-prone area" as "an area that is subject to, or likely to be subject to, bushfire attack."


There are 6 types of BALs depending on the type of vegetation surrounding the property, the slope under the vegetation and the distance of the vegetation from the building.They are rated according to the amount of radiant heat exposure.


Low

12.5 - Lowest requirement for a BPA

19

29

40

FZ - Flame Zone


The higher the BAL the more construction requirements will need to be implemented. So if you are on a budget, it is worthwhile doing your homework early on to make sure you are able to afford the building materials that are required for the higher BAL ratings.

Who requires a BAL?

If your property falls within a designated bushfire area you will require a Bushfire Attack Level Report (BAL).


What is a designated bushfire prone area (BPA)?

An area is designated as a bushfire prone area based on its Bushfire Hazard Level. This is an indicator of how extreme a bushfire can be, based on landscape conditions. Bushfire Hazard Levels can be different across areas.


Victoria’s bushfire prone areas are subject to or are likely to be subject to bushfires. They make up most of the State of Victoria.


How do I know if my property is in a BPA?

Vicplan is an excellent resource to enable you to check if your property falls within a designated BPA area. It will provide a planning report at no cost.



What if my property also has a Bushfire Management Overlay?

A BMO is part of the planning scheme. This may trigger a planning permit to be undertaken by way of a Bushfire Management Statement. This will be seen on the Vicplan site listed above.


Who checks the BAL?

Your BAL will be checked by a building surveyor as part of the building permit process.


Does a BAL pertain to a whole area or just one property.

A BAL is an assessment based on the unique attributes of your block. It does not pertain to a whole area and may even differ from your neighbour's property.


Are there ways to lower the BAL?

Part of our BAL assessment at Greenwood Consulting looks at alternate building positions which may reduce the BAL. Examples may be increasing the distance between the building and the vegetation, looking at the alternative slopes of vegetation or removing trees within 10 metres of an existing property built prior to 10 September 2009.



Can I just cut down more trees to reduce the BAL?

No. Most areas are covered by vegetation management overlays that protect the vegetation. It is much better to work with the landscape and your architect to come up with a harmonious solution?


I am extending my existing house. Do I require a BAL for just the extension or the whole house?

The BAL is based on the whole footprint of the new and existing building combined. However, the construction standards will only apply to the extension.


How do I know where the best spot is to build my house?

Start with your ideal position. If the BAL is too high for your budget or is unlikely to be approved, then we can look at alternative sites.


Greenwood Consulting is a unique practice in that we have Arborists and Bushfire Consultants who work together to help you with your reporting requirements.