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Fire testing for strawbale walls – homeowners affected by bushfires offered free assistance

To assist homeowners to rebuild with fire protection and sustainability in mind, AUSBALE (Australian Strawbale Building Association), a not-for-profit, community-driven organisation, is offering free membership to fire-affected families and businesses. Membership provides access to a multitude of resources, most significantly the Strawbale Construction Guide and Fire Testing Report.

Strawbale construction has proven itself in real-world and laboratory testing situations to withstand extreme fire situations far more effectively than many common construction techniques. AUSBALE has been working for years to provide testing and documentation to meet Australian Standard for building codes. The recently released Fire Testing Report provides the documentation needed for approval to a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of Flame Zone (FZ) and a Fire Resistance Level (FRL) of 90/90/90. It is hoped that this documentation will help smooth the approval process for those choosing to build a strawbale home.

While building with straw sounds counterintuitive to a fire-resistant building, one need only imagine the difficulty in setting alight a book as opposed to a piece of paper. Now imagine that book covered in a layer of rock. A modern strawbale home uses tightly compressed strawbales covered in a 35-50mm lime-based render. This method of building results in a carbon positive wall system that is super-insulated (approx. R-8), fire resistant and beautiful; however, it is still not mainstream in Australia. AUSBALE is trying to change that by making information and resources more readily available.

AUSBALE’S president, Scott Goldie, recognises that, “This is a crucial time for those looking to rebuild after the fires, we want to make sure that they have better options for rebuilding using natural materials – namely strawbales. This fire report helps strawbale buildings to be recognised within the building industry and is one of many tools we provide to support those wanting to build a more sustainable, resilient home.”

 

The most recent edition of Owner Builder magazine includes a 56-page section devoted entirely to strawbale construction https://adobe.ly/2A5IxSu. Case studies and amazing photos can be found here: https://www.strawbuilding.org/resources/Documents/Fire-ResistiveStrawbaleWalls.pdf

AUSBALE (est.2002) is a group of building industry professionals, researchers, owner builders, and interested citizens who share their knowledge and experience of strawbale building.  www.ausbale.org

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