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Burning down the house (A Trial by Fire)

Creating fire proof housing to resist Australian bushfires would be of great value in many areas. The CSIRO now tests a steel-framed house.

CSIRO Fire Test Steel FramesThe house with steel frames was set up with a series of gas burners aimed at its facade to simulate a raging bushfire front.

CSIRO’s Glen Paul explains that the trial by fire on this purpose built home aims “to establish whether it’s fire resistant, with the hope that it could pave the way for a new generation of bushfire resistant homes for areas prone to bushfire, that could potentially save lives.”

Paul goes on to report “The blast went on for quite some time – more than the duration of a normal bushfire front…The heat was extreme and I was sure the house would disintegrate.”

So what were the results?

In the ABC Catalyst story on the test, Ken Watson from the National Association of Steel-Framed Housing reported “Commonly people say that either steel melts or it buckles. Obviously the steel hasn’t melted, and while the outer cladding is buckled, the inner frame is still in quite good condition. ”

While the temperature in the home would have been too great to survive due to the failure of windows and doors, the home remained standing and the frame was relatively undamaged.

CSIRO’s Justin Leonard reports to Catalyst that “There doesn’t seem to be an indication that a lot of heat has come through the wall itself”.

We look forward to the next test, which will hopefully produce a house that can be survived in throughout the duration of an otherwise devastating fire.

Watch the following videos from CSIRO and ABC’s Catalyst to see the full test.