Making Aussie homes disaster-proof
From PVC gutters designed to melt and fall away during a bushfire, to electrical outlets positioned higher up walls to avoid floodwaters, there are a host of ways Australian homes can be made more resilient to natural disasters - but homeowners simply aren't bothering.
A survey of almost 1200 Australian homeowners undertaken for Suncorp shows when it comes to home improvements, we are prioritising kitchen and bathroom upgrades and landscaping over works that make our houses safer.
Eight in ten homeowners show little interest in spending to make their residence more resilient to the ravages of cyclones, floods and bushfires, the research shows - even though nearly half (49 per cent) said they expected to see more natural disasters in the next 12 months.
The research follows an Australian Academy of Science report which warned Australia should expect more frequent and/or destructive natural disasters in a warming world.
One in 19 Australian dwellings could become uninsurable due to the increasing risk posed by extreme weather events, the report warned.
Head of Consumer Insurance for Suncorp Paige Vincent told News Corp that even in areas with a high level of awareness of the risk posed by natural disasters, such as North Queensland, many homeowners remained unaware of how they could make their homes safer, or believed the cost was prohibitive.
"In other areas there's just no awareness at all," Ms Vincent said. "(Homeowners have) assessed the level of risk for themselves and they've decided it's not significant and then haven't really looked at what they can do."
Some works can be relatively cheap. Mesh screens installed for security purposes can be adjusted to provide protection from flying debris during a cyclone, or stop the spread of embers in a bushfire, Ms Vincent said.
Suncorp has partnered with the CSIRO, James Cook University and Room11 Architects to develop and test an Aussie home designed to withstand Mother Nature's worst. The prototype, dubbed "One House," includes electrical writing in the roof, "sacrificial" guttering, dual water tanks, balustrades and meshing, among a host of other features.
The project was devised to "start the conversation" about the need for Aussie homeowners to take resilience seriously, Ms Vincent said. Part of this was "recognising the value of a resilient home," she said.
The unpredictable nature of extreme weather events was underscored by ex-tropical Cyclone Seroja, which damaged 70 per cent of buildings in Kalbarri, 570 kilometres north of Perth on Sunday night. It was the most southerly cyclone to make landfall in Australia in two decades.
"We see year on year more natural hazards occurring … and customers are probably unaware of that risk shifting," Ms Vincent said.
Townsville school principal Darrell Sard is one of many Australians who found out the hard way how quickly weather events can turn extreme during the floods of 2019.
Having survived Cyclone Yasi in 2011, Mr Sard it was "dramatic and surreal" when floodwater inundated his home.
While his home has since been stripped and rebuilt, Mr Sard said he was looking at some of the recommendations specialists were now making about making his home more resilient and considering retrofits.
"It was a very surreal experience, not one that I would particularly want to go through again, but having been through it there's a lot of reflection you can go through," he said. "Hindsight is an easy teacher."
Originally published as Making Aussie homes disaster-proof