Free best-practice disaster resilient house designs released

02 May 2022

The Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA) has launched free architectural drawings, specifications and handbooks to make it easier and more affordable for Australians to build sustainable houses resilient to bushfires, floods, storms, heatwaves and cyclones.

The resources have been developed as part of the FORTIS House project, led by the BBCA and supported by NRMA Insurance and the Shoalhaven City Council, alongside leading independent bushfire, storm, flood and cyclone resilience experts, engineers and architects. The project includes:

  • Free architectural drawings and construction specifications of ‘FORTIS House’ – an adaptable house design that is highly resilient to bushfire, storm, heatwave, flood, cyclone, mould and pests.
  • Free handbooks for community members, designers and builders outlining how to adapt FORTIS House and its principles to any house design, site and local risks.

The resources were developed through a world-first community-led design process with members of the Shoalhaven community who were impacted by floods and bushfires.

Prefabricated FORTIS Houses will be available to purchase and can be constructed in as little as 12 weeks, providing another fast-track solution for rebuilding.

Bushfire Building Council chief executive Kate Cotter says: “We’re contacted by thousands of people every year asking for help to build resilient houses. Most disaster impacted families never thought they would have to rebuild and they find the process expensive, complex and stressful.

Meanwhile, those considering building a new property want to make sure they are doing all they can to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

“FORTIS House will save time and money, fast-track the building process and help people create an affordable, sustainable, adaptable and highly resilient house. It also has the potential to help improve the resilience of our communities and save lives and properties, so we’re very excited to be releasing the drawings and handbooks for free to all Australians.”

Cost-effective and flexible

Kate adds: “Australia is exposed to increasing extreme weather and disasters, yet less than 10% of our houses are resilient to local risk. FORTIS House aims to help address this by providing a new benchmark and practical support for resilient building based on scientific research, engineering first principles, community collaboration and practical advice from builders, the insurance industry and house manufacturers.”

Climate and resilience experts from the NRMA Insurance team worked closely with the BBCA and the Shoalhaven community to develop the FORTIS House resources.

NRMA Insurance executive general manager, Luke Gallagher says: “As an insurer, we see the heartbreaking impact extreme weather and disasters have on our customers and communities first-hand, so it has been exciting to see the Shoalhaven community lead the design of FORTIS House.

“It’s incredible to be part of a project that empowers people to protect themselves against these climate and disaster risks and gives them practical solutions so they can build back easier, faster and stronger. We’re proud to have been working with the BBCA team over the last three years on projects like this to help communities better understand disaster risk and to help them reduce and mitigate that risk.”

FORTIS House integrates best-practice design principles for disaster resilience and is energy efficient,100% electric and solar powered. Its robust construction means it is low-maintenance and is designed to last generations. FORTIS House offers flexible specifications that can be adapted to any house design and local risks. It uses cost-effective building solutions and readily available materials, allowing builders and households to adapt the design to any lifestyle and budget.

Developed with the community, for the community

To ensure the FORTIS House designs and handbooks are practical, adaptable and informed by real-life needs and circumstances, the team worked with members of the Shoalhaven community who want to build better houses for themselves and help other Australians avoid the agony of losing their home.

The community developed their own design brief which included the importance of light, connection to nature, indoor-outdoor family living and the need for a house to offer a sense of security and hope for the future, particularly after a disaster.

Kate adds: “The Shoalhaven community has lived through the compounding trauma of bushfire, storms and floods, all in a matter of months over the summer of 2019-20. This experience and their desire to help everyone build stronger, safer, more sustainable houses has been really inspiring.

“There’s significant potential for other benefits too, with the FORTIS House benchmark providing a platform to enable insurers, lenders, governments and property markets to recognise and reward best-practice resilient houses.

“The reality is we need to build better – and we can. FORTIS House provides people with the best available science, innovative new solutions and really practical information to help them do this faster and easier.”

For more information and to download the free FORTIS House design and handbooks, visit


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