Locals knew it wasn't a matter of 'if', but 'when' a major bushfire would threaten the coastal town of Wye River. The village of beach houses clings to a steep, densely forested hillside on Victoria's Great Ocean Road, adjoining the Great Otway National Park. But the extent and devastation of the 2015 fires and subsequent land-slips shocked everyone. As Wye River rebuilds, the fear is, the laid-back, skillion-roofed beach shacks of old will be replaced by fortresses to protect against the next inevitable inferno. And, in the process, Wye River will lose part of its identity and charm. As MGAO's Durimbul proves, the new homes of Wye can be protected from bushfire without losing touch with their roots...
Like many homes in Wye River, Durimbul sits on a steeply sloping block with views of Bass Strait in the distance. The hills in this area are dotted with beach houses, many built in the '60s and '70s with "rational footprints, expressed with simple construction methods and common materials [to] produce a modest, humble quality to the village", explains Matt from MGAO. "This project aims to continue that legacy."
"After the fires, a 'Bushfire Recovery' service was set up for the residents/landowners who lost their homes", explains Matt. This made the planning process easier as a dedicated team was established to assess and fast-track applications.
The block was given a BAL40 bushfire rating. "BAL40 zones don't allow the use of timber claddings, decks or any timber products used externally", explains Matt. Hence the home is clad head to toe in COLORBOND® steel.
While Durimbul presents as a strong, impenetrable fortress from the side, other angles reveal how transparent and open to the views the home is. Inside is where your perception of the home totally changes, revealing the stunning view towards the ocean, framed by a foreground of mature trees the owners fought hard to save.
But this expansive glazing did not come easily. "BAL40-compliant windows are very expensive when compared to standard glazing suites", Matt explains, and many of the tested BAL40-compliant window systems have a maximum panel size of between 2.1-2.4 square metres. Ultimately, Element Windows were able to provide compliant windows in the sizes MGAO needed to achieve their vision for the home.
"Perched high on the hillside, the house sits where the tree canopy once stood, anxiously awaiting the regrowth of the surrounding bushland", Matt says. And when that regrowth comes, this home will recede, allowing the trees, ocean and wildlife to take the spotlight once again. Let's hope all the new homes sprouting in Wye River nod to the town's history of laid-back beach shacks, even while adhering to tough new bushfire regulations, just as Durimbul has done.