Designing homes to handle the worst nature can throw at us
South East Queensland is a beautiful place to live most days of the year. Blue skies and a warm sub-tropical climate make it a desirable place to live, work and raise families. Home designs should reflect this and take advantage of what our climate has to offer, but home designs also need to be mindful of the other side of nature – the destructive side that whilst rare, can be devastating for those whose homes are not designed to withstand it.
It’s easy to be complacent in Brisbane particularly the closer you are to the city centre. Things like bushfires shouldn’t affect you in the inner city suburbs. But that doesn’t mean there are not still threats and your home design should consider potential risks and sensibly address them.
I say sensibly because it’s possible to go overboard protecting against threats that are never likely to happen. Each area needs to be assessed and homes designed according to the real prospect of danger.
Designing homes in high fire danger areas
As I’ve mentioned bushfires are probably not a huge threat to anyone living in Milton or Norman Park, but the threat grows the further out from the city you get. As recently as October 2012 fires were burning in Nudgee to the north and Greenbank to the west, showing that the threat is real even in suburbs that are relatively close to the city.
Homes in bushfire prone areas should be designed using materials that better withstand heat. The roof, exterior walls and any decks should ideally be made from non-combustible materials. Toughened glass windows and aluminium window frames and shutters should be used and wall and roof joins should be sealed to prevent embers getting through.
Of course, no home will completely withstand the enormous heat generated by the biggest bushfires. But care should be taken to minimise the risk. Carefully considering the lay of the land and creating buffer zones and barriers to reduce the chances of the fire reaching the home are vitally important. Having an architect create your home design and advise you on how best to protect your family and your property makes good sense.
Designing homes in flood risk areas
This happens to be an area where dion seminara architecture excels having created an award-winning flood design following the 2011 Brisbane floods. We have also been directly consulted on flood mitigation following on from Hurricane Sandy in the US.
It goes without saying that lives come before property when creating home designs for natural disasters. Certainly, our designs look at giving families safe locations within their properties to help them survive extreme events. The next consideration is then property and how to protect the home and contents within the home.
There are two ways in which you can go about designing homes in flood risk areas. The first approach is attempting to stop the water entering the property in the first place. Creating a barrier that can withstand the weight of the water that it could one day be holding back. Of course, this requires some clever structural engineering given that the boundary of any property has to have gaps in it to allow for people and vehicles to get through. The fence around a property should also look visually appealing and not like a dam wall around the home. This is where clever design comes in.
The second option is to accept that in the event of a severe flood water will enter and potentially inundate the lower sections of your home. In a two storey home – which is what you ideally want in high-risk flood-prone areas – the lower floor can be built to survive inundation. Waterproofing and using materials that withstand submersion can mean that even though your home may be flooded, it can be cleaned and repaired relatively inexpensively once the flood waters reside. Of course, large volumes of water can create an enormous amount of pressure. Your home will need to be designed to withstand this pressure. As I’ve mentioned we are essentially the experts when it comes to building flood surviving homes in Brisbane.
Designing homes in cyclone-prone areas
Talk cyclones and most people immediately think of North Queensland, the Northern Territory or the North West coast of Western Australia, and for good reason, those areas do receive the bulk of cyclone crossings in Australia. But cyclones do sometimes venture further south as far down as Northern New South Wales.
Brisbane is normally impacted by the rainfall associated with ex-tropical cyclones but that’s not to say that South East Queensland will never be impacted directly by a cyclone making landfall. In fact, on February 17, 1971, Cyclone Dora crossed the coast at Redcliffe creating widespread structural damage and flooding.
With the prediction of stronger and more frequent storms in the coming years working with an architect that understands how to work with nature and protect people and possessions from the worst nature has to offer makes good sense.
At dion seminara architecture we understand how to create home designs that are visually stunning, perfectly suit your lifestyle needs and can resist most of what nature can throw at us. I say most because the brute force of nature can never be truly contained. But getting the best possible design for your home can dramatically increase your chances of getting through a disaster with minimal loss and damage.