Written by Danielle King of Green Moves Australia; with thanks to Matthew Wright, Chief Technical Officer/Deputy CEO FPAA
Sustainable design and construction has come a long way over the past 10 years. Good design and smarter construction is bringing reduced carbon footprints, more efficient energy use, better natural light and ventilation, water recycling, harvesting of renewable energy supplies and reductions in plant and equipment demands. All of which contribute towards sustainable ‘greener’ homes and buildings.
What is often forgotten however is creating a home that is as safe as it can be from fire. Many building materials these days contain fire retardant chemicals (which are generally not good for human health) which simply slows the burn rate. Smoke detectors which are a legal requirement, are often not maintained and batteries left to go flat without being replaced. When smoke detectors are maintained properly, they do go some way to providing a degree of fire protection, however it really isn’t enough. Ask anyone in the fire industry and you’ll find most deaths occur in residential fires. Why? Because homes don’t have to have the same level of fire protection we see in buildings and multi-unit residential apartments. So what’s the difference? Smoke alarm maintenance, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
Ensuring suitable fire protection is designed into a building at the start means that traditional objectives as well as progressive sustainable design concepts can be met. Protecting a home from fire through the use of non-combustible products and the inclusion of fire detection and suppression systems and equipment helps the property and its occupants to survive much better in the event of a fire.
The Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPAA) has been working for some time to gain recognition of the role that fire protection plays in not only protecting our properties, but also lives, and they are keen to have better fire detection and suppression systems in residential properties. The FPAA are an excellent source of information for building architects, designers and construction companies and advocate that their members, if consulted early in the process, can assist in improving the environmental outcomes of a project while ensuring that life, amenity and property are protected.
Current and emerging fire protection technologies can assist by reducing the environmental, economic and social cost of fire. Fire protection systems support sustainable properties by ensuring the design and construction includes effective fire prevention and control, which can significantly reduce the environmental impact of fire through repair and re-building, pollution from combustion and the costs associated with disruption of losing a home (or a life) to fire.
The inclusion of sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers around a home could prevent significant loss of property, and life if included in the initial design and build process. Give it some thought when you’re next building.
You can go to www.fpaa.com.au to find your local FPAA member.
Danielle King is the Founder and Director of Green Moves Australia, a private company created to provide householders with a selection of sustainability services designed to help minimise a home’s running costs while reducing the environmental footprint. Danielle has an MBA, Dip. Management and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. She is also a fully qualified Home Sustainability Assessor listed with Sustainability Victoria and ABSA, and is BDAV Accredited.