Bending time like Beckham

I think every council is probably issued with a TARDIS.

When it comes to Development Applications, time just doesn’t follow any rules.

If you want to know about “the clock”, have a read of my previous blog post. If you want to know how to make time stand still, talk to council. If you’re not sure what a TARDIS is, well there’s nothing I can do to help you, you need to watch more TV

I never thought the DA would be easy, but I also didn’t think it would take quite this long. It’s not like I didn’t put some research into the thing. The delays are due to a combination of some fair requests for more information, followed by what seems like long and unnecessary delays. It also looks a little bit cheatsy and time-twisting on the part of the council.

The clock on my DA has still not been restarted. There were about 5 weeks in there where I submitted all the required information that had been requested, but the clock stayed mysteriously stopped. The reasons given for the delay were that council are very busy, overloaded with overdue DAs so mine was just not being looked at during most of that time.

That sounds sort of fair, but from what I have read the “clock” is supposed to give an idea of how long DAs actually take, and councils are obligated to make a decision in 40 days “on the clock”. The rules for this mysterious clock are up on this NSW LawLink site, which states that the clock should be restarted when the information requested by Council is provided by the applicant. So not restarting the clock when the information comes in appears to be messing with time, and only Time Lords should be able to do that.

Looking at the average time for DA’s to be fully considered I don’t think many councils actually make the 40 or 60 day limit, so maybe the clock is unrealistic. But if so, the clock is a source of false hope for people submitting DAs, and that’s just plain mean.

I have since had another request for more information and I submitted that just last Friday, and the clock for my DA is still looking stopped. It’s only three working days since I submitted the information, but I’m a bit paranoid as my clock seems to have been totally seized up since September. Time has not moved since then.

Through the roof

It took me the full 21 days to submit the requested information this time, as it involved redesigning the roof in my spare time, and I didn’t have much spare time.

The roof on my house, if my new design is accepted, will no longer involve magnesium oxide boards (MgO) with an FRL of at least 60/60/60, compliant for BAL Flame Zone. What new magical fire repellant material will it involve you may ask? Plywood. Yup, tongue and groove plywood. “But isn’t that less fire resistant?”, would be another good question. Yes it probably is.

Adding a layer of Colourbond steel to the roof, over the top of the MgO board, is not part of the fire-tested system. So there are apparently issues around adding another thermal load to the the MgO Board, and putting more holes in it to screw on the steel sheet. Those are fair concerns and I was asked to address them.

For the record, the Colourbond steel is used in several other fire-resistant BAL FZ roofing systems, has a low thermal load and is reflective so should reduce the amount of radiant heat reaching the MgO Board and therefore possibly improve the system. The MgO Boards are screwed onto frames anyway so the tested system includes perforations, and lots of them close together depending on what you are fitting the boards to (for example heaps more screws are used to clad structural beams than for wall cladding), so the number of perforations needed to attach the Colourbond would not exceed the number of perforations in their other tested systems.

However, I have had enough of this new BAL FZ frontier and am not going to be the one to try to convince council, RFS or anyone else that a combination of materials that has not been specifically tested should be OK for Flame Zone. The boxes on my DA need to be ticked, preferably quickly. To be fair, I also don’t expect council to stick their necks out and be the first to approve this system, given the high risk of fire in the Blue Mountains. So I found a different BAL FZ compliant roof system that uses Colourbond, timber frames, an Anticon insulation blanket and plywood, and I have put that on the roof instead. I have no doubt this system is not nearly as fire proof as MgO Board, but then I have 2mm corten steel and yet more insulation under that so it’s not going to be a cause for concern.

More pesky perforations

The other issue was the need for vents in the sub-floor, when the MgO Board system had not been tested with vents in it. So you shouldn’t have holes in the sub-floor due to fire risk, but you have to have holes for ventilation to comply with BCA. There is no reason why vents can’t be just the same as doors and windows, it’s not like this wall system is hole free over the entire house, so with the generous help and advice of local builder Frank from Mountaincraft Constructions we planned out a sub-floor that, we hope, should keep everyone happy.

Now that is all submitted, I am hoping that time might start to behave normally again very soon.







8 thoughts on “Bending time like Beckham”

  1. HI I was always wanting to do a shipping container and your post has helped me make some decisions, I have a bush block in batemans bay and im worried that ill have to cut down all the trees on the block, can you advise if I was willing to build to FZ standards do you think that I can leave most of the trees or are councils still insisting on clearing trees up to a certain distance from the new house


    1. Hi Steve,
      If you are looking to build to FZ standards then yes there’d most likely have to be some tree removal around the house. From my understanding it’s about meeting minimum set-back distances first for BAL FZ, and if you can’t meet that then you would probably have to have an inner protection area within the asset protection zone (IPA) around the house, which sets a maximum level for tree canopy, as well as other rules around how far flammable garden beds have to be from exposed doors or windows (10m), and a few other things. The size of this IPA would most likely depend on your block. If you’re not BAL FZ on all four sides around the house this might be a bit more flexible. I’d have to check but for my build I think it was around 15% canopy cover in the IPA, so I have to remove some trees but since it’s a percentage it also allows some flexibility so in my case I’m choosing to keep the trees that screen the neighbours. I don’t have that much canopy cover though anyway as a lot of the trees died from the exotic gardens planted on half the block. Hope this helps.


      1. yes thanks for the reply, im the same I actually planted natives years ago in order to screen out the neighbours when I was ready to build, is this asset protection rule driven by insurance companies do you think? as it doesn’t seem to be in place to protect lives as much as it seems to be in place to stop a house burning


  2. Bit of both I think – the guide above came in after those massive fires in Victoria, where a lot of people died and homes were lost. I guess if you choose to stay and defend it helps to have a good APZ, and also makes it less risky for the fire fighters. But yep definitely an insurance issue as well.


  3. Hey! My girlfriend and I are just starting our investigations into the potential to do a container home and I stumbled across your blog. CONGRATS! Had to state that I am more than thrilled to see someone is proving it can be done.
    Is there any way you can simplify the requirements when it comes to FZ safety installations and modifications? Basically we are looking at land in the blueys and we got the scare of our lives when we were informed it would cost us about 100k on mods to just have a regular house permitted.


    1. Thanks! Yeah the BAL FZ is costly, but less so for a container build. I heard the same, about 100K extra on a traditional build for BAL FZ, am still working out the final cladding cost for the container but the build method is definitely cheaper. It comes down to cost of materials and labour, and my containers are being fitted out O/S with the required 6mm double glazed windows, metal frames, etc so are cheaper than building here. However there are a lot of new materials coming out that are BAL FZ friendly, for example you could build timber stud walls using the MgO board and comply with BAL FZ now (with no container underneath). Also depending on your land, sometimes not all four sides of the house are rated BAL FZ, so you can sometimes modify the design or the land a bit to reduce costs (like if all your windows and doors are not BAL FZ it’s cheaper). Hope this helps.


      1. This does help a bit. Would be great to know your final costs for BAL FZ. Who are you getting to fabricate the containers O/S?


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