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Resilient home prototype tested for cyclones, bushfires

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Suncorp has partnered with CSIRO, James Cook University and architects to test a prototype disaster-resilient house as they seek to persuade homeowners to spend on features that help properties withstand cyclones, floods and bushfires.

The “One House” prototype, designed by Room 11 Architects, has been tested at the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University and at the CSIRO-operated Bushfire Burnover Facility in southern NSW.

“We know not everyone can replicate our prototype,” Suncorp Insurance Product & Portfolio CEO Lisa Harrison said. “We hope that Australians – whether building a new house, planning a reno or thinking about ways to add value to their existing home, can take away practical ideas from our research.”

The three-bedroom family home, inspired by a typical “Queenslander” design, includes electrical wiring in the roof, elevated power points, waterproof internal wall linings and mesh screens that can protect from bushfires and wind-driven debris.

The home also has cyclone-rated roof fixings, “sacrificial” pvc plastic gutters that can melt and fall away from the house to reduce ember risks and a dual tank system for both firefighting and a back-up drinking water supply.

Suncorp says almost half of homeowners think Australia will see more natural disasters in the next 12 months but 80% of respondents in a survey admit to having little interest in spending money on resilience improvements.

Some 62% of homeowners opt for interior updates, 54% for kitchen upgrades, 53% for bathroom renovations and 49% for landscaping.

“We’re a country ravaged by cyclones, bushfires and floods, but the property market places greater value on luxury upgrades ahead of a strong resilient home,” Ms Harrison said.

Suncorp says the development of the prototype home and its research also aims to generate conversation about reviewing building standards as the severity and frequency of weather events increases.

“Government subsidies and recognising the value of resilient homes with the property market would incentivise investing in these upgrades,” Ms Harrison says, “It will take governments, insurers and communities working together to encourage homeowners to invest in a more resilient home.”