National Indigenous Housing Guide

Table of Contents

Part A: Safety

Part B: Health and housing

Part C: Healthy communities

Part D: Managing houses for safety and health

Appendixes

  1. Appendix 1: Housing for health methodology
  2. Appendix 2: Issues to consider in the design and construction of houses
  3. Appendix 3: Using this guide for design and specification of a project with reference to the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards and other relevant guidelines

Introduction

The National Indigenous Housing Guide is a resource to assist in the design, construction and maintenance of housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with a particular focus on providing and maintaining the health hardware1 that supports a safe and healthy living environment.

The guide is linked to the national reform agenda agreed by Australian and State and Territory Housing Ministers in September 2006, which aims to improve the sustainability of Indigenous housing management and move to one level of service delivery in each jurisdiction. Under the Indigenous Housing Management Improvement System (IHMIS), which is being developed in collaboration with state and territory jurisdictions, providers of Indigenous housing services will be required to meet and maintain standards of governance and service delivery in order to receive government funding to deliver those services. 

The IHMIS includes a Repairs and Maintenance Standard that will require housing stock to be maintained in a condition which provides the health hardware (as detailed in the National Indigenous Housing Guide, for example taps, hot water system, toilets, showers, kitchen and drains) to fully support the maintenance of safety and healthy living practices.

All organisations providing Indigenous-specific housing services are to be assessed against standards for governance and service delivery.  The standards reflect current best practice of organisations providing social housing, along with the specific circumstances of Indigenous clients.  They are consistent with the approach of comparable standards such as the National Community Housing Standards.  The standards will provide a benchmark for continuous improvement in the provision of high quality housing services to Indigenous people.

This guide provides practical information on the design, selection, installation, construction, renovation and maintenance of housing health hardware and other aspects related to environmental health, for example dealing with dust, insects and dogs. It is a resource for everybody involved in providing housing to Indigenous people, including community councils, Indigenous housing workers, council staff, architects, project managers, tradespeople and government officials. If used in tandem with local knowledge, the guide can help to improve housing and health outcomes, and community development projects.

Information in the guide is based on the experience of communities, housing design consultants and builders, and is supported by data from housing surveys conducted since the mid-1980s. The information is also supported by research and technical standards and cleared by state and territory governments.

To make sure it remains useful and relevant, the guide will be assessed and updated again in 2009. As part of this process, the Australian Government will host an internet forum and invite comments and suggestions for improvements to the guide. Details of the web address are available at http://www.facsia.gov.au


1 Health hardware -originally used by Dr Fred Hollows to describe the physical equipment necessary for healthy, hygienic living. The equipment must have design and installation characteristics that allow it to function and to maintain or improve health status. In a water supply system, for example, health hardware includes both the bore and the basin plug, as well as the shower rose, taps and drain.

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Background

The link between hygiene and infectious diseases has been known for centuries and there is indisputable evidence that poor environmental and living conditions promote the spread of infectious diseases.

In 1987, an environmental health review, Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku (UPK)2, was conducted in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara (APY) Lands in the north-west of South Australia. The review identified health problems that could be reduced by changes in the living environment for Indigenous communities in remote Australia. As a result, a prioritised list of nine ‘Healthy Living Practices’ that could help prevent the spread of infectious diseases was developed, see ‘How to use this guide’ and Part B ‘Health and housing’.

To achieve good health outcomes at a household level, individual living environments must be equipped with the health hardware that enables residents to carry out Healthy Living Practices. To maintain positive health outcomes at a community level, mosthouses in the community must have health hardware that works mostof the time, and community infrastructure, such as power, water and waste systems must be operating without interruption. Functioning health hardware and the capacity to perform Healthy Living Practices reduces the pool of infectious organisms and, therefore helps to reduce rates of diarrhoeal disease, skin infections, pneumonia, eye infections and other transmissible diseases.

The UPK study found that many houses in the APY Lands did not have functioning health hardware to enable Healthy Living Practices, and the community systems that provide water and remove waste from houses frequently broke down. The project also identified that communities did not have maintenance resources or systems to deal with these problems.

Environmental health and design consultants, Healthabitat, conducted a project at Pipalyatjara in the APYLands in 1992–933to improve the function of health hardware. Although there are many problems measuring health change in small communities, there were fewer clinic presentations for skin and eye infections following the project.

The project also refuted claims that Indigenous people do not use health hardware - residents involved in the project enthusiastically used these facilities when they were functioning and maintained. The myth that the primary cause of housing failure is due to Aboriginal people damaging their houses was also dispelled by this project - a comprehensive survey of the health hardware in houses showed that breakdown was caused by poor design and construction and lack of maintenance, rather than misuse or vandalism.

Similar surveys in communities around Australia over the past seven years continue to confirm that health hardware failed in 67 per cent of houses because of lack of routine maintenance; 25 per cent because of poor initial construction; and less than 8 per cent because of misuse, abuse or vandalism.


2Nganampa Health Council Inc., South Australian Health Commission and Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia 1987, Report of Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, An Environmental and Public Health Review within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Alice Springs.

3Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach.

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How to use the guide

This guide is divided into four main parts: ‘Safety’, ‘Health and housing’, ‘Healthy communities’ and ‘Managing houses for safety and health’. Within the four parts, priority is given to life threatening safety issues followed by the nine Healthy Living Practices. The reason the guide is set out like this is assist decision making about spending priorities on housing design, construction and maintenance to achieve better health outcomes.

Part A Safety

Part A identifies life threatening dangers that are the highest priority when designing, upgrading or maintaining a house, or designing and maintaining community infrastructure.

Important safety issues in houses include:

  • electrical safety, to avoid electrocution
  • fire prevention, detection, and means of escape in the event of a fire
  • gas leaks, explosions or severe breathing difficulties
  • structural collapse.

At a community level safety issues include:

  • electrocution through faults in the main electrical distribution system
  • contaminated water supply, for example high levels of bacterial organisms from faeces
  • waste water system failures that lead to people being exposed to contaminated waste water.

Part B Health and Housing

Part B provides information on the health hardware required to ensure the nine Healthy Living Practices are taken into account when designing, upgrading or maintaining a house. In order of importance, these practices are:

  • the ability to wash people, particularly children
  • the ability to wash clothes and bedding
  • removing waste safely from the house and immediate living environment
  • improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the negative effects of crowding
  • reducing the negative contact between people and animals, insects and vermin
  • reducing dust
  • controlling the temperature of the living environment
  • reducing trauma, or minor injury, by removing hazards.

Part C Healthy Communities

Part C discusses community planning and essential services. If these are not working properly then the health hardware in houses will be less effective.

Topics covered in the healthy communities section include:

  • water
  • energy/power supply
  • waste water
  • solid waste
  • community planning
  • landscaping and dust control.

NOTE: Parts A, B and C of the guide include design ideas, a checklist to improve the quality of construction, and tips for maintenance.

  • In each DESIGN AND SPECIFICATION section, the word ‘ensure’ is used to describe design features that are vital for safety and health; and ‘consider’ is used to describe features that could make the house function well, make it more comfortable for residents, and less expensive to run, but these features are not so vital. Adopting as many of the design ideas as possible increases the potential to deliver safe and healthy housing.
     
  • Each QUALITY CONTROL section relates to housing construction. Necessary inspections, tests and warranties are listed. The word ‘check’ is used to describe visual checks and simple tests that can be undertaken by non-trades and community staff. The work ‘trade test’ is used to describe tests that need to be undertaken by a licensed trade person.
     
  • The MAINTENANCE section describes maintenance activities that will make sure the house continues to function in a safe and healthy way. Again the words ‘check’ and ‘test’ are used. ‘Repair’ is also used to describe maintenance jobs that can be undertaken by community staff without trades training, and ‘trade fix’ is used to describe jobs that will require a licensed tradesperson.

Part D Managing Houses for Safety and Health

Part D includes information about routine maintenance required to keep houses safe and healthy. It provides advice about simple steps that communities can take to set up a housing management system and checklists for community and trade fix.

The guide also has three appendices. Appendix 1: ‘Housing for health methodology’ outlines this approach to assessing and fixing Indigenous housing. Appendix 2 ‘Issues to consider in the design and construction of houses’ covers consultation and socio-cultural factors, universal access and managing the construction process. Appendix 3: ‘Using this guide with reference to the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards and other relevant guidelines’ provides an easy way to look up a range of national standards about a particular item of health hardware.

The ‘Useful resources and references’ section includes details of the publications and resources about Indigenous housing design, construction, maintenance and other issues.

Following the references is an alphabetical index.

A glossary appears at the end of the guide. The glossary explains technical terms, commonly used words, and shortened forms used in the guide.

Important points to remember

This guide is best used throughout housing design, construction and maintenance processes as both a resource and a checklist. Supporting data, references, resources and technical information are provided throughout the guide. As well as the technical information, to achieve the best possible housing outcomes, it is essential that Indigenous community members be consulted about their local knowledge and specific needs.

Extent and quality of available information available

Symbols are used to indicate the level of information available and research undertaken about each topic in the guide. For example:

Indicates this may be an emerging issue that needs attention, and that little research has been done.

Meansthe issue is well described, occurs commonly, and that extensive, reliable research has been done.

Building codes and standards
All Australian governments aim to provide buildings that ensure safety and health.  State and territory governments have their own legislation and regulations to achieve this goal. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian Standards (AS) give detailed information about these requirements. The following table sets out this regulatory system and shows the position of the guide in relation to these codes, standards or guidelines.

Codes, standards or guidelines Scope
State and Territory Building Acts and Regulations Administrative matters and powers
The Building Code of Australia Technical requirements for health and safety
Australian Standards4 Technical and business standards
State and territory housing and environmental health standards and guidelines State and regional specific guidelines
The National Indigenous Housing Guide Safety and health prioritised design, construction and maintenance guidelines

The guide has been developed to complement the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards, state and territory building standards, state and territory environmental health, building and planning legislation and local government building regulations. The guide does not over-ride national or state/territory government codes, standards or guidelines and does not include all the requirements of other relevant codes and standards, as these also need to be considered. Appendix 3 ‘Using this guide with reference to the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards and other relevant guidelines’ can assist with this task.


4Standards Australia represents Australia at international standards forums; develops and maintains Australian standards; and promotes excellence in Australian design and innovation

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Data used in the guide

The survey data used throughout the guide has been derived from Housing for Health and Fixing Houses for Better Health projects undertaken throughout Australia over the past seven years; see Appendix 1 ‘Housing for Health methodology’. The data show the condition of the houses before work commenced to fix the health hardware under the Housing for Health project.

In the 2003 (second) edition of the guide, data from less than 800 houses were available. In this guide the data are drawn from a group of over 3,500 houses and include urban, urban fringe, regional, remote and very remote regions5 covering desert, temperate and tropical conditions.

While the data are not a representative sample of Indigenous housing nationally, it provides a snapshot of houses where surveys have been undertaken over the last seven years and raises questions for designers and housing managers to consider in their particular geographic and social area.

The data reveal the living conditions of over 25,000 Indigenous people at a point in time before any fix work commenced. Data from a repeat survey after fix works were completed show that conditions in houses improved significantly as a result of the Housing for Health projects.

The details presented in the data reveal key design, construction, maintenance and management issues. Ignoring these details could mean that residents are provided with poorly functioning living environments. The data are not intended to limit the design range or creativity of designers and housing managers around the widely differing environments of Australia.

The charts below show two important breakdowns of the houses in the data collection.

Distribution of houses by state/territory (by percentage)

Distribution of all Survey Fix 1 houses (by number)

Changes in the condition of houses

Survey data tables appear throughout this guide. These data tables indicate whether the condition of particular items in surveyed houses have changed since the last edition. The changes are measured by comparing 2003 trends (published in the second edition of the guide) with 2006 trends, where available. The symbols in the last column of each survey data table indicate whether the condition of an item has improved or worsened since 2003. The symbols are:

< = decrease indicated of 5% to 10%
<< = decrease indicated of more than 10%
+ = increase indicated of 5% to 10%
++ = increase indicated of more than 10%

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Acknowledgements

The National Indigenous Housing Guide is based on the work of a group of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from across Australia who share a goal of improving the living environment, health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Their professional and technical backgrounds range from Indigenous community housing managers, architects and other building professionals, academics, public health and medical professionals, board members of Indigenous housing authorities, and Australian Government and state and territory government Indigenous housing officials.

In many different ways these people assist Indigenous communities in the design, construction, maintenance and management of houses. Collectively, they have contributed decades of experience and knowledge to the content of this National Indigenous Housing Guide. Their wealth of experience also helps to make this an authoritative guide.

Data collected from more recent Housing for Health projects over the past six years have also provided valuable input to the guide. These data reflect the living conditions of more than 25,000 Indigenous people whose houses have been involved in Housing for Health projects around Australia. The data collected with these peoples’ involvement, gives the guide its legitimacy.

The Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is grateful for the time, effort and commitment of everyone who contributed to this edition of the guide.

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Part A: Safety

When designing, upgrading or maintaining a house, immediate, life-threatening dangers must be given the highest priority. This section considers the following safety issues.

Electrocution

National data shows that less than 15 per cent of Indigenous houses have safe electrical systems. The reason for failure could be as simple as a faulty light switch or faulty power point, or could be an extreme combination of mice severed cabling, no earth connection of the house, faulty earth leakage protection safety switches and exposed electrical cables.

Gas explosion and asphyxiation

Data shows that gas is only available in a quarter of houses surveyed. The most common system was bottled gas and just over 50 percent of these systems were safely installed and maintained.  

Injury from fire

This section considers three important principles to reduce fire injuries¾prevention, detection and escape in the event of fire.

The causes of fire may be greatly increased in houses where data show gas installations are poor (50 per cent). Electrical faults may also lead to fires and data show that only 45 per cent of houses had all power points testing OK. The combined impact of vermin and electrical cables can increase fire risk and data show that mice and rates were present in almost 50 per cent of houses. Mice and rats cause damage to electrical cables and to appliances such as hot water systems, refrigerators and stoves.

Detection of fire is limited by the fact that less than half the houses have any detectors fitted and, of those houses with any detector fitted, only about a third were functioning.

Escape from house fires will be difficult if, as data show, security screens are often fixed to windows resulting in 45 per cent of houses with the only emergency escape route possible through external doors.

Structural collapse

The immediate collapse of buildings causing injury to people is rare in Australia, but termites, reactive soils and water damage over prolonged periods has resulted in data that indicate many houses need urgent repair.

Minor trauma or physical injury such as cuts and abrasions caused by inappropriate building materials are of a lower priority. These issues are covered in section B9 ‘Reducing hazards that cause trauma’.

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A1 Electrical safety

A1.1 Safety switches House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

If there is a fault in an electrical appliance or electrical cables are damaged, a safety switch is designed to disconnect the power to prevent injury to residents. Electrical safety switches are also known as RCDs (residual current device) or ELCBs (earth leakage circuit breakers). Safety switches are required in addition to the circuit breakers that are fitted to prevent overloading of the electrical circuits. They are compulsory in all new houses and in renovations that involve electrical works. To minimise the risk of electrocution, electrical safety switches need to be fitted on every circuit in all houses.

Survey data show that most houses had electricity available (95 per cent) but only 60 per cent of houses had at least one working safety switch. This may directly relate to the age of houses surveyed, with the majority of houses over 10-years old (66 per cent).

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • electrical safety switches are fitted to new houses according to AS/NZS 3000: 2000 Electrical Installations
  • electrical safety switches are retro-fitted to older houses according to AS/NZS 3000:2000
  • each circuit, including power, lights, air conditioning, refrigerator and, where appropriate or compulsory the hot water system and stove are protected by an electrical safety switch
  • people can easily reach the electrical safety switch to reset it or to isolate an electrical fault
  • the meter box or switchboard is robust enough for regular access.

Consider:

  • locating the safety switches inside the house in a consumer switchboard
  • checking the location and height of safety switches, so they can be reached by people with disabilities, but out of children’s reach (see AS/NZS 3000 Electrical installations)
  • installing several safety switches, particularly a separate safety switch for the kitchen circuits to protect against faulty appliances
  • specifying a switchboard with the capacity for future expansion; such as a modular enclosure with at least two extra blank circuits
  • providing a number of circuits for lights and power in large houses
  • separating the power circuits for the kitchen and wet areas, so that these areas can be isolated for safer cleaning.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • the consumer switchboard is installed in the house at a height that is easy to reach by people with disabilities but not by young children (see AS/NZS 3000 Electrical installations)
  • the consumer switchboard is fitted with a dust cover to protect the electrical safety switches
  • all safety switches and circuit breakers can be turned on and off, and that the test buttons on the safety switches work
  • each circuit is labelled using a permanent marker, and that labels are easy to read and understand; for example, write ‘hot water system’ instead of ‘HWS’
  • a qualified electrician has provided a ‘certificate of compliance’ for the electrical installation.

Before making the final payment, trade test:

  • electrical safety switches and circuit breakers.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • show residents and community housing staff how to check that electrical safety switches are working properly and encourage regular checks; for example, check every three months as part of a community maintenance program
  • trade test electrical safety switches and have a licensed electrician fix or replace faulty switches. Ensure electricians lodge a ‘notice of work’ when upgrading electrical safety switches.
Survey data
Safety switches Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Electricity available 95% 3,661
Functional meter box 81% 3,660
At least one functional electrical safety switch on the consumer switchboard 60% 3,657
Age of house - less than 2 years 5% 3,099
Age of house―2 to 10 years 28% 3,099
Age of house -more than 10 years 66% 3,099

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility¾General requirements for access¾New building work.

AS 4299–1995, Adaptable housing.

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A1.2 Electrical earth connection House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

An earth connection using an electrical earth stake is essential for the effective operation of electrical safety switches. If the house is not earthed, people could get electrocuted. Without an earth connection, the safety switches will not work and an electrical fault could cause a house or appliances to become ‘live’ as the current flows to earth.

Earth stakes often do not work because:

  • there is poor or no connection between the electrical wire and the earth stake
  • there is dry soil around the stake
  • the earth stake is too short or not in contact with the ground at all
  • the earth stake is corroded or damaged.

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • the earth stake is long enough
  • the earth around the stake is kept moist (do not locate earth stakes under a veranda or large roofed area, and consider locating them near a tap) 
  • the earth stake is made of copper or other approved, durable and solid metal rod, not galvanised pipe
  • the earth stake, particularly the part above the ground, is protected from damage by vehicles, lawn mowers and weed trimmers
  • the earth wire is securely attached with two clips.

Consider:

  • using multiple earth stakes or other earth connection methods when you live in a dry region; for example, an arid area earthing kit with soil additives to attract moisture to the earth stake (speak to the electrician about these options)
  • installing additional or different power earthing arrangements if you have an on-site power generation system such as a fuel generator, renewable power system or hybrid energy systems.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check:

  • the location, length and material of the earth stake
  • the connection of earth wire to earth stake (visual inspection only)
  • that the location of earth stake is included in the ‘as-built’ drawings of the house
  • that the label for the location of the earth stake is clearly written in the meter box with a permanent marker.

Before making the final payment, trade test:

  • the earth wire connection to the earth stake, and ensure that there are two connection points
  • the building is earthed according to AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules). Ask the electrician to provide certification of compliance.

Maintenance

Explain to residents the function of the earth stake and the visual inspection process and encourage them to carry out regular checks.

As part of cyclical maintenance check that:

  • there is no damage or danger to the earth stake or the connecting wires from vehicles, lawn mowers or weed trimmers
  • the earth stake is in moist ground
  • if the earth stake is galvanised, have an electrician replace it with a  copper earth stake
  • the label for the earth stake is still in the meter box and it is easy to read
  • the top of the earth stake is painted silver, making it easy to find.
Survey data
Electrical earth Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Functional earth connection 68% 3,660  +

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbol used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).

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A1.3 Cabling and wiring House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Poorly installed, faulty or old electrical installations pose a serious risk of electrocution or electrical fire, both of which can be fatal.

Undersized electrical cabling is a common risk in old houses. Older houses may need larger electrical cables because of the increased load on the electrical circuits caused by new electrical appliances or fittings. Even in new houses, it is important that cables are large enough and the circuits have the capacity to meet the demands of the expected number of people in the house and to carry the appliance load.

Electrical cabling becomes unsafe if the bare wires are exposed and they rub or strain against structural steel framing or other rough edges. Nails, screws and household pests can also damage cabling, which can lead to electrical faults, shocks or fires. It is very important to make sure that electrical installations and fittings are isolated from household pests. Pest related problems could include:

  • mice and rats gnawing the insulating cover of electrical cables and exposing bare wires
  • cockroaches, mice and ants nesting and causing faults in electrical fittings
  • in the tropics, Singapore ants infesting electrical conduits, wiring, fittings and appliances
  • feral animals uncovering underground cabling or disturbing the earth stake connection.

Incorrect wiring of electrical fittings is also very unsafe. Electrical safety switches and circuit breakers may not work properly if the electrical fittings are incorrectly wired, and this increases the risk of electrocution and fire. Incorrect wiring of fittings can also cause fire, and exposed household cables can pose a serious safety risk.

Survey data show a significant decrease in the number of houses with framed wall construction from 61 per cent in 2003 to 46 per cent in 2006. This has reduced the risk of providing habitats for mice that may attack cabling. However, the majority (67 per cent) of houses surveyed had incandescent light fittings and mice are attracted to the warmth from incandescent globes. They may nest in the ceiling space directly above the lights and gnaw on exposed electrical cables and increase the risk of fire.

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • the consumer mains are inside a pipe or ‘conduit’ that runs from the ground connection point to the main safety switch
  • external cabling is laid at least 600mm underground to prevent accidental damage
  • electrical cables are protected and isolated from steel or metal framing
  • all cable is run vertically, not horizontally, in walls to avoid physical damage to cabling from fixings and limit mice damage
  • where cables cannot be placed in the wall they are in a conduit
  • household pests have no way to enter or infest the house; see B6 ‘Reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin’
  • doorstops are effective in preventing damage to walls.

Consider:

  • checking cable sizes, and upgrading the cables where necessary
  • using stranded cable instead of single wire
  • protecting all cables from pest damage by enclosing them in conduit
  • providing surge protection.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • any externally fitted cables are located inside a conduit.

Before making the final payment, trade test and certify:

  • all electrical circuits for load capacity
  • adequacy of cable sizes
  • the installation of all power points, lights, fans and other fittings.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • check that the power points are safe, using a power point tester (available from electrical and major hardware stores)
  • check that all lights, switches, fans and other fittings are operating, have no exposed wiring and are not cracked or loose
  • install door stops, and replace missing ones
  • as a high priority, patch holes in walls and ceilings where cabling is exposed.

Where areas of houses are likely to attract household pests, consider organising an electrician to regularly load test houses to ensure that electrical cables and fittings are safe.

Use a licensed electrician to carry out electrical maintenance work, and to install electrical equipment such as lights, power points, switches, stoves, hot water systems and electrical pumps. Where stoves, hot water systems and electrical pumps are not hard wired, these appliances may not require installation by an electrician.

Survey data
Cabling Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed> Change since 2003*
Age of house - more than 10 years (may have been built and cabled for lower demand electrical appliances) 66% 3,099  
Type of walls - steel frame and fibrous cement, timber, or steel (habitat and possible easy access at edges for mice) 30% 3,662 << 
Type of walls - timber frame and fibrous cement, timber, or steel (habitat and possible easy access at edges for mice) 16% 3,662  
Some mice or rats present 30% 3,660  
Many mice or rats present (potential to attack cables) 16% 3,099  
No evidence of ants or cockroaches at time of survey, or reported by residents 26% 3,661  
No evidence of ants or cockroaches at time of survey, but reported by residents 41% 3,661  
Evidence of ants or cockroaches at time of survey (possible damage to cabling or connections) 39% 3,099  
Electric powered hot water system (known habitat for mice and insects) 51% 3,653  
Heat pump hot water system 0% 3,653  
Houses with combined refrigerator/freezer (habitat for mice and insects) 73% 3,633  
Electric cook top (known habitat for mice and insects) 72% 3,631  +
Type of lights, bulbs/globes: most are incandescent (known habitat for mice when ceiling mounted due to heat) 67% 3,646  
Houses with all power points safe and functional (where power points not OK, this may indicate cable damage) 45% 3,587  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical Installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).

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A1.4 Power points, lights and other fittings House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Faulty or broken electrical fittings can cause an electrical shock or a fire. Fittings are more likely to fail if they are not robust enough for harsh environmental conditions or to meet the demands of a large household. A broken light bulb or light fitting could also indirectly cause a house fire because people may use candles or another type of flame for light.

As water and electricity are a dangerous combination, there is an increased risk of electrical shocks in wet areas (laundry, bathroom and kitchen) and external areas of the house. In places like these, make sure that weatherproof fittings are used and keep water away from electrical points, fittings and appliances.

Standard power points, lights, fans and other electrical fittings are likely to fail more quickly under extreme environmental conditions, such as the constant dust of dry and hot environments, or high humidity in the tropics. Household pests can cause faults in electrical fittings by nesting in them (see A1.3 ‘Cabling and wiring’). Electrical fittings may also have a shorter life in a large or busy household because they are used more often. Electrical fittings may be damaged by exposure to water or chlorine based cleaning products during house cleaning.

A poor quality power supply, resulting in extreme power variations, is another cause of failure in electrical fittings. Specify fittings to suit the power generation system. For example, incandescent globes are particularly susceptible to surges in the power supply but other types of lamps such as fluorescent tubes, are more able to tolerate these conditions.

Avoid single, centrally located bayonet light fittings when they do not provide adequate light for the room. To boost light levels some people use light globes with a higher wattage than that recommended for the fitting. This can lead to increased heat and subsequent fitting failure and damage to wires within the fitting.

If there are not enough power points in a room or if they are in the wrong location, people may use double adaptors, power boards and extension cords, which they could trip over and cause electrical faults. Also make sure that there are outside power points for the verandah.

Power points and light switches also need to be in safe and accessible locations, away from water and heat sources, high enough that young children will not play with and accessible to people with disabilities. The recommended height of switches and power points for use by people with disabilities is in line with door handles (900mm to 1100mm above floor level. A ‘rocker’ action, toggle, or push-pad switch with a width of 35mm is recommended).

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • power points, switches and other electrical fittings are located away from taps, spouts, shower roses, heaters, stoves and gas bottles
  • there are several power points in each room, located in different parts of the room to suit different furniture layouts
  • aluminium bayonet light fittings are not used
  • all light switches and power points are fitted  between 900 and 1100 above floor level
  • there is sufficient light for people with visual impairment, or sufficient capacity in the wiring so that the light fittings can be changed or supplemented without rewiring (refer to AS 4299 Adaptable housing for recommended light levels)
  • light fittings are located to allow globes and tubes to be easily replaced
  • power points, light fittings, fans and other electrical fittings are specified and located according to AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations.

Consider:

  • replacing all single power points with double power points when renovating houses
  • locating light switches and power points away from corners and doors so that they can be reached by people with disabilities
  • using large switches that are easier to operate
  • installing dust and weather protected power points, light switches and fittings in wet areas and external areas, and maybe throughout the house (with a minimum International Protection (IP) rating of 53)
  • increasing durability by using light switches and power points with a ‘grub’ screw, or a fitting where the switch mechanism has a backing plate, or sliding switches
  • not using mounting blocks for switches
  • not fixing light switches or other fittings to architraves
  • specifying lights, power points, switches and other electrical fittings that are sealed to prevent damage by rodents and insects
  • providing dust and weather protected light switches, power points and television antenna points to external living areas
  • installing a power point in the meter box to enable use of power tools without running electrical lines through windows.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check:

  • the number and position of power points, including height above the floor, in all rooms
  • that weather protected power points and light switches have been fitted where specified and are installed in wet areas 
  • that all power points are located safe distances from plumbing fittings according to the AS/NZS 3000:2000 Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations
  • that power points, switches and other fittings are sealed and secured to the wall
  • that light fittings and fans are secured to the ceiling
  • if fittings are not set out to the requirements of AS 4299 Adaptable housing, confirm that cabling allows for future works to upgrade the installation to meet this standard
  • that all light bulbs and tubes are working.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:

  • power points, switches and other fittings are sealed and secured to the wall, particularly corrugated walls 
  • the all switches are working properly, are not cracked and have not been pushed into the fitting
  • power points and light switches for fine cracks, because these can increase the risk of electrical shock
  • power points and light switches have not been painted over.

Arrange for an electrician to replace power points, switches, lights and other fittings that are broken, are cracked,  unsealed, or have been painted over. Consider replacing standard power points with weather protected power points in wet areas and external areas.

If cleaning the house with water and/or chlorine based products, protect electrical fittings from getting wet. Chlorine based products contain ‘salts’ that continue to attract water to areas where the products have been applied and therefore are particularly hazardous near electrical switches and power points.

Over time, consider replacing incandescent globes with long life, compact fluorescent lamps, or replacing the whole light fitting with a fluorescent fitting. Before doing this, make sure the new lamps are available at a nearby store.

Survey data
Lights and power points Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Light - general    
Most lights in the house are incandescent 67% 3,646
Most lights in the house are fluorescent 32% 3,646
Most lights in the house are energy saving 1% 3,646
     
Power points and light switches in wet areas    
Shower - no light present 2% 1,681
Basin area - no light present 2% 1,446
Toilet - no light present 2% 1,697
Kitchen light - no light present 2% 1,663
     
Shower - light working OK 75% 3,635
Shower - light not working 24% 3,635
     
Basin area - light working OK 75% 3,394
Basin area - light not working 24% 3,394
     
Toilet light - working OK 75% 3,654
Toilet light - not working 24% 3,654
     
Washing machine - no power point near washing machine 3% 1,652
Washing machine - power point test OK 84% 3,605
Washing machine - power point test not OK 15% 3,605
Location/position of laundry power point OK 89% 3,575
Location/position of laundry power point not OK 11% 3,575
Weather protected power point OK 40% 3,573
Weather protected power point not OK 60% 3,573
     
Kitchen light OK 79% 3,612
Kitchen light not OK 20% 3,612
     
Power points - general durability    
Houses in which all power points tested OK 45% 3,587
Age of house - less than 2 years 5% 3,099
Age of house―2 to 10 years 28% 3,099
Age of house - more than 10 years 66% 3,099

Standards and references

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility—General requirements for access—New building work.

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations.

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A2 Gas safety

Gas is used in some communities as an affordable alternative fuel for cooking and heating. Section C2.2 ‘Gas’ includes detailed information about choosing an appropriate gas system.

If the gas installation is faulty in any way, gas leaks may occur and could cause explosions, severe breathing difficulties or suffocation. Gas leaks will also mean extra costs to residents because of wasted gas. When choosing to use gas for cooking it is important to find out whether residents will be able to afford to buy gas bottles and whether the community has staff with the skills required to change a gas bottle. This is particularly a problem in communities where gas is very expensive, or when it is difficult to change gas bottles. In some states/territories only a licensed gas fitter can change gas bottles. There may also be an increased risk of fires and burns if residents make fires for cooking and heating if they have not been able to afford to replace gas bottles when the gas runs out.

When choosing gas appliances consider the fuel efficiency and built-in safety features. In particular look for appliances that have a gas fuse that stops the flow of gas if the flame goes out.

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • gas bottles are safely located away from windows, doors and corners of the building
  • bottles are accessible for filling or replacing 
  • a platform or base, and a method for securing the bottles, is provided for the bottles
  • gas regulators and feed lines into the house are secured to the wall and protected from accidental knocks
  • approved connecting lines and connectors are specified 
  • gas appliances are located in well ventilated areas
  • appliances are fitted with gas fuses, particularly if they are located near a door or window that could cause a draught
  • gas is installed to comply with state or territory regulations and AS 5601:2004 Gas installations.

Quality control

A licensed gas fitter installs the gas bottles, house connections and appliances and fits a compliance plate or provides a compliance certificate as required by state/territory legislation.

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • gas bottles are secure and are located safely
  • gas bottles are accessible for filling or replacing 
  • gas appliances are secured to the wall or floor and are stable
  • appliances are located in a well ventilated area
  • a compliance plate or compliance certificate has been provided by the gas fitter.

Before making the final payment, trade test:

  • the system for leaks, after all appliances and bottles have been installed and are working 
  • bottles and fittings are secure
  • the operation of all gas appliances.

Maintenance

Provide residents and housing managers with information on the operation, maintenance and checking of gas appliances.

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:

  • the compliance plate is fitted and is current
  • safety instructions or warnings for the use of gas appliances are located on or near appliances
  • there are no gas leaks, by putting soapy water on the gas pipes and looking for bubbles.

As part of cyclical maintenance, trade test:

  • gas regulators, pipes and bottles are securely fixed
  • gas stoves, hot water systems and heaters are functioning safely.
Survey data
Gas safety Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No gas system 75% 3,661  
Bottled gas at the house 22% 3,661  
Mains gas piped to the house 3% 3,661  
No gas flowing (at time of survey) 10% 936  
Gas installation OK 51% 936 ++
Ducted gas heating 0% 3,660  
Non-ducted gas heating 5% 3,660  
Gas powered hot water system 6% 3,653 <<
Electric cook top 72% 3,631  
Gas cook top 19% 3,631 ++

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 5601-2004: Gas installations

Centre for Appropriate Technology Gas fittings, Bush Tech Brief #5, Our Place, Feb 2002, Alice Springs

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A3 Fire safety

A3.1 Fire prevention

Good housing design and maintenance can prevent fires. For example, when all lights in a house are working, which means that power is available and the light switches, fittings and globes or tubes are working, there is less likelihood that candles will used, reducing a major fire hazard. Similarly, if the stove and heater are working and safe outdoor cooking places are provided, there is less chance of people making fires around the perimeter of the house.

Poor electrical works can also cause fires, so careful design, specification, construction and maintenance of electrical cabling and fittings is an important strategy for preventing fires; see A1 ‘Electricity’. This includes strategies to prevent household pests such as mice and ants from nesting in electrical fittings.

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • it is easy to change the globes or tubes in light fittings and the globes or tubes are affordable and available from a nearby store
  • gas stoves and heaters are separated from flammable items in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations
  • kitchen exhaust fans vent externally rather than filtering and recirculating air inside the house or roof space
  • wood heaters are located and installed according to AS 2918 Domestic solid fuel burning appliances – Installation and manufacturer’s specifications
  • design strategies keep household pests away from electrical fittings; see A1.3 ‘Cabling and wiring’ and B6 ‘Reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin’.

Consider:

  • using energy saving globes or tubes, or fluorescent fittings and tubes that have a longer life and reduced energy costs
  • providing a fireplace or barbeque located away from the house for outdoor cooking
  • using materials that do not easily catch fire
  • in colder climates, providing safely located, efficient built-in heaters; for example, mounting electrical heating devices on the wall at head height or above.

Quality

During construction and before making final payment, check that:

  • light globes are installed in all light fittings
  • gas stoves and heaters have been installed properly and a manufacturer’s warranty provided
  • there is adequate clearance between heater flues, roofing timbers and insulation materials within the roof space
  • wood-fired heaters and stoves are vented and located away from flammable materials.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • replace faulty light globes or tubes
  • check all gas fittings for leaks
  • clean flues of wood heaters and chimneys
  • check for signs of household pests and, if necessary provide a pest management program.
Survey data
Fire prevention Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Gas      
Gas installation OK 51% 936 ++
       
Power points      
Houses in which all power points tested OK 45% 3,587  
       
Lights―% tested OK (includes the switch, fitting and bulb or tube)      
All OK 22% 1,699  
75% to 99% OK 31% 1,699  
25% to 74% OK 36% 1,699  
Less than 25% OK 11% 1,699  
       
Mice and rats (reported by residents or evidence at time of survey)      
Houses where there was no survey evidence, but reported 30% 3,660  
Houses where there was survey evidence 16% 3,099  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Wood, F.M, Fowler B.V, McAullay, D and Jones, J.R.  2005,  ‘Major burns: incidence, treatment and outcomes in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Western Australia’, Medical Journal of Australia, 182 (3):138

Fawns, A. 2004, Managing liquid fuel risk, Bush Tech #24, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

 

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A3.2 Fire and smoke detection

It is a compulsory requirement in all states and territories that, in the construction of new houses and during major renovations, mains powered smoke alarms are fitted. Survey data shows that there has been a large increase in both the proportion of houses with smoke alarms fitted (45%) and the proportion of houses with at least one smoke alarm working (28%) since 2003.

When working properly, smoke alarms can save lives. However, false alarms can be annoying, and because of this some people disable or remove their smoke alarms. It is important to locate the smoke alarms where false alarms are less likely and to choose a smoke alarm that is suited to the room and the environment in which it is used.

The most common household smoke alarm is an ‘ionisation’ type, which can be triggered by cigarette smoke, toasters, cooking fumes, open fires, combustion heaters, steam from the bathroom, or kettles and pots on the stove. In severe cases, high humidity or dust can also cause false alarms in these detectors. Ionisation detectors are best located in a passage, but away from the bathroom door, or in bedrooms and living rooms

An alternative ‘photo-electric’ type detects smouldering fires, which have larger particles in the air. It is less likely to be falsely triggered by cooking, but more susceptible to dust, humidity and insects.  Photo-electric alarms are best used in rooms that are near the kitchen area and in bedrooms where smouldering type fires are more likely to occur.

Heat alarms are designed to trigger when the temperature reaches 58°C but do not detect smoke. Heat alarms are only suited for use in kitchen areas and cannot be substituted elsewhere for smoke alarms.

Other strategies to reduce false alarms include:

  • providing large capacity, external exhaust vents in the bathroom and kitchen, and checking these are working before the smoke alarm is fitted
  • choosing an alarm that has a remote and easily accessible ‘hush’ or ‘isolator’ switch, which will enable the residents to temporarily disconnect the detector after a false alarm. This will allow sufficient time for the smoke or steam to clear and then the unit will automatically reset.

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • smoke alarms are installed in all new houses and in upgraded or renovated houses
  • smoke alarms are correctly positioned (the number of bedrooms and house layout will affect the selection, location and quantity of smoke alarms); if you are unsure about this, ask an electrician or the fire department for advice. Refer to AS 3786–1993 Smoke alarms and amendments and the BCA, Parts 2.3.2 and 3.7.2.

Consider:

  • specifying a smoke alarm with a wall mounted hush or pause button that automatically resets after five minutes, or installing a timer switch to the smoke alarm so that it automatically resets (confirm hush buttons, if installed, are easy to reach by people with disabilities)
  • installing fire extinguishers and/or fire blankets in kitchens
  • installing externally vented exhausts to kitchens
  • in the tropics, discussing the selection, installation and siting of smoke alarms with an electrician to make sure the alarms do not falsely trigger because of humidity or insects
  • installing low cost domestic sprinkler systems to meet AS 2118.5
  • installing interconnected smoke alarms, which use 10 year life, rechargeable backup batteries to reduce maintenance costs
  • installing additional photo-electric type smoke alarms in bedrooms.

Quality control

Before making the final payment, check that:

  • allsmoke alarms have been installed as required, are connected to the mains power and are working
  • exhaust fans have been installed where specified in bathrooms and kitchens, are vented to the outside and are working
  • flues have been fitted to wood heaters to meet AS2918 and are vented through the roof.

Maintenance

Give residents and housing providers information on the operation, maintenance, checking and disabling of smoke alarms.

As part of cyclical maintenance check that:

  • smoke alarms are working by pressing the test button
  • smoke alarms are vacuumed every 6 months to remove dust, insects and other pollutants
  • the battery is replaced every 12 months in smoke alarms which are powered by 9v disposable batteries, and in mains powered smoke alarms which use a 9v disposable battery backup
  • smoke alarms are installed in older houses
  • the wood heater flue is clean and door seals do not have smoke leaks
  • exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens are operating and filters are clean.
Survey data
Fire detection and prevention Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Smoke alarms fitted      
Houses with any smoke alarm fitted 45% 3,099 ++
1 smoke alarm fitted 26% 3,099  
2 smoke alarms fitted 13% 3,099  
3 or more smoke alarms fitted 5% 3,099  
Smoke alarms working      
Houses where all smoke alarms tested OK 34% 1,380  
Houses where at least 1 smoke alarm not working 41% 1,380  
Houses where at least 2 smoke alarms not working 19% 1,380  
Houses where 3 or more smoke alarms not working 5% 1,380  
Houses with smoke alarms installed and at least one smoke alarm working 28% 1,325 ++

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

BCA, Parts 2.3.2 and 3.7.2, Section 3.7 and Diagram 3.7.1.

AS 3786–1993, Amendment 1–1995, Amendment 2–1995, Amendment 3–2001 Smoke alarms.

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A3.3 Escape in the event of fire

People need to be able to escape quickly from a house that is on fire. Houses need several safe exits through doors and large windows. While door locks and security screens are designed to give people security, the doors and screens should not prevent residents, especially children and elderly people, from escaping fires. Houses should be designed to prevent people being locked inside a house or room in the event of a fire. 

Design and specification

Ensure:

  • all door handles and locks, including bedroom doors, can be released from the inside of the room without a key
  • door handles are located between 900 to 1100mm above the floor level and can be operated by one hand and are within easy reach for people with disabilities
  • every bedroom has a direct escape to the outside of the house via a door or adequately sized window
  • that where there are window screens, at least one can be opened from the inside of each room to permit escape
  • latches and locks on windows and emergency escape screens are visible in poor light conditions and easy to operate
  • there is more than one way to escape from living areas
  • there is at least one escape route that does not go past the kitchen
  • the BCA building classification 1B regarding fire safety and emergency escape is applied.

Consider:

  • sizing all doorways and hallways on exit routes to comply with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility for people with disabilities
  • devising ways to provide security and privacy without limiting the ability of residents to escape if there is a fire
  • providing locks with emergency releases on bedroom doors to deter residents from fitting bolts and padlocks
  • locating doors and passage ways for easy escape from fire
  • a second flight of stairs for elevated houses.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • all doors can be opened from inside the house or room, even when locked, and handles are located at 900 to 1100mm above floor level
  • doors, hallways and windows are large enough to allow escape, including for people with disabilities
  • there is an external door or large window that can be used for escape in each bedroom
  • there is more than one escape route from the house including a route that is not via the kitchen
  • release catches and locks on screens are easy to see in low visibility conditions and easy to operate
  • escape screens can easily be closed again after they have been used and cannot be opened from the outside.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • test that release catches and locks on screens are working
  • check that all doors including security screen doors have locks that can be opened from the inside
  • if pad bolts or barrel bolts have been fitted to the outside of bedroom doors, talk to the residents about removing them.
Survey data
Escape in the event of fire is possible through: Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
All external doors and all windows 21% 3,097 +
All external doors and some windows 34% 3,097  
External doors only 45% 3,097  

* See ‘Changes in the condition of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

BCA, Part 2.3.2 Fire detection and early warning

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A4 Structural safety

Structural failure in houses can be life threatening or cause severe physical injury. Care needs to be taken at the design stage to ensure structural components are suited to the environment and adequate for loads. Common areas of structural failure include:

  • movement in foundations causing major cracking, due to lack of site information about soils and/or poor design
  • use of untreated timber, resulting in termite attack
  • damage to timber or steel framing caused by leaking wet areas
  • failure of steel structures, particularly light-weight frames, through corrosion caused by salt spray.

These problems can be avoided by using a qualified inspector during construction to ensure that the structure is built according to its design and specification.

Structural repairs related to life threatening situations must be considered a higher priority requiring urgent work, for example:

  • rotten floors in high set houses, especially in wet areas where there is a water leak or no floor drain, allowing water to penetrate the floor and walls and rot the framing supports
  • unstable water tank stands
  • rotten or rusted stairs
  • walls with large cracks or leans
  • piers, stumps and footings being eroded by stormwater
  • buildings that are unsafe because of fire damage or severe termite attack
  • loose materials such as roof sheeting or windows.

Design and specification

A qualified engineer should complete a site investigation report covering detailed information on building materials (structural), soils (geotechnical), or water (hydraulic) issues prior to commencing the structural design for new or upgraded houses.

Ensure:

  • structural components of the house are engineered to suit soil and climate conditions.
  • the local wind conditions have been checked, particularly in coastal cyclonic areas, and inland and desert areas subject to strong winds
  • if using timber, that termite-resistant timbers and mechanical termite barriers are used throughout the construction
  • if using steel, that steel framing, structural components, stairs and hand rails are rust-proofed with an approved system
  • bottom plates of wall frames are detailed to avoid rot or rust, especially in wet areas
  • the height of the floor above ground is sufficient for regular inspections of the sub-floor areas for termites and water leaks
  • kitchens and wet areas are detailed and specified to prevent water penetrating the walls or floors
  • plumbing is designed to suit the local water quality and to reduce leaks and associated structural failure.

Quality control

Before making the final payment for the project, ensure that:

  • an engineer’s certificate is provided for all structural components including footings, slabs, floor framing, wall framing and roof framing with reference to the wind terrain category and soil classification
  • the site investigation report is provided and corresponds to the information in the engineer’s certificate.

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • footings, foundations, structural tie-downs and other engineering requirements are constructed according to plans and specifications
  • an engineer or an experienced inspector has inspected the site preparation and provided an inspection report
  • termite barriers are installed and are undamaged
  • wet areas and kitchen areas are sealed
  • the builder has provided warranties for the installation of waterproofing, termite barriers, glass and other proprietary systems.

Maintenance

If attending to a house with severe structural failures, the residents should be relocated to another house and a qualified engineer should be consulted.

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • check regularly for rust, rot, termites and other signs of structural deterioration
  • check for and fix water leaks including down pipes and sub-surface stormwater pipes
  • check garden beds, timber floors and ramps for termites 
  • if garden beds have been planted against walls, talk to residents about removing them to make it easier to check  for termites
  • consider organising a regular program of termite inspections and treatments by a qualified pest controller
  • in tropical areas or areas close to the coast, check for corrosion of steelwork and re-apply paints and other protective coatings.

During upgrades in high wind and cyclone areas:

  • inspect, tighten, replace or install structural tie-downs between roof, wall and floor
  • if the roof is nailed on, replace the nails with screws and cyclone washers and check that the structure of the roof is in good condition.
Survey data
Structural safety Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Type of walls—brick, concrete block, concrete, earth 26% 3,662  
Type of walls—brick veneer 23% 3,662  
Type of walls—steel frame and fibrous cement, timber, or steel 30% 3,662 <
Type of walls—timber frame and fibrous cement, timber, or steel 16% 3,662 <
Type of walls—other (insulated panel, logs, and so on) 6% 3,662  
Termites not present 72% 3,660 <
Walls—inside condition good = all OK 45% 3660  
Walls—inside condition fair = water, mould 26% 3,660  
Walls—inside condition poor = holes, cracks, water, mould 29% 3,660  
Walls—outside condition good = all OK 54% 3,658  
Walls—outside condition fair = minor cracking, repair needed 25% 3,658  
Walls—outside condition poor = holes, large cracks 21% 3,658  
Floor—finish and condition good = all floors OK 49% 3,658  
Floor—finish and condition fair = not unsafe, but poor finish 29% 3,658  
Floor—finish and condition poor = holes, unsafe 22% 3,658  

See ‘Changes in the condition of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 2870–1996, Amendment 1–1997, Amendment 2–1999, Amendment 3–2002 Residential slabs and footings—Construction.

AS 2312 – 2002, Amendment 1 – 2004 Guide to the protection of structural steel against atmospheric corrosion by the use of protective coatings.

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Part B: Health and Housing

Poor environmental and living conditions promote the spread of infectious diseases. To achieve good health outcomes, most houses in a community must have health hardware functioning most of the time. Houses must be designed well, soundly constructed and regularly maintained.

This section of the Guide provides information on the health hardware required to ensure
the nine Healthy Living Practices are taken into account when designing, upgrading or maintaining a house.

Functioning health hardware and the capacity to perform Healthy Living Practices reduce the pool of infectious organisms and, therefore, rates of diarrhoeal disease, skin infection, pneumonia, eye infection and other transmissible diseases. These diseases are common in many Indigenous communities in remote areas.

B1 Washing people

Poor hygiene increases the transmission of diseases, including diarrhoeal disease, respiratory disease, hepatitis and infections. The rates of these diseases in some Indigenous communities are as high as in many developing countries and are many times higher than for non-Indigenous children.

Diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, in particular, are the major causes of illness among Indigenous children and also play a major role in malnutrition in the first three years of life. Skin infection is one of the most common problems of Indigenous children and causes chronic illness and discomfort. Recurrent or persistent skin infection is known to increase the risk of developing kidney disease and rheumatic fever.

Washing children daily is likely to reduce the frequency and spread of these diseases.

  • Having functional washing facilities in the house will reduce diarrhoeal disease because organisms are less likely to be transmitted between people, particularly between children and adults.
  • Respiratory disease is primarily spread by aerosol droplet transmission. However, it has been shown in Papua New Guinea that a micro-organism that causes pneumonia was found on the hands of mothers who had been handling children6. This type of transmission is likely to be even more common inAustralian Indigenous children, who have higher rates of nasal discharge and face secretions than children in Papua New Guinea. Other studies have also demonstrated strong evidence for ‘secretion swapping’ as a method of spreading the micro-organisms responsible for respiratory infections. Washing will reduce the amount of infected secretions on people’s faces and hands, and may reduce transmission both by aerosol and by direct contact.
  • Persistent scabies infections can lead to an increased risk of infection by other bacteria, especially Group A streptococci associated with impetigo. These infections are most effectively treated by frequent washing and removing the crusting around weeping sores that protects and encourages organism growth. Washing skin sores will not only reduce discomfort and frequency, but will also help to reduce the consequent high rates of renal disease, rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.7
  • In many regions, Indigenous children have high rates of trachoma and bacterial eye infections. Trachoma is known to be associated with poverty and poor living conditions. Studies have shown regular face washing can reduce the amount of eye infection.
  • Washing hands after using the toilet can significantly reduce the transmission of hepatitis.

The health hardware required to support the first healthy living practice8: the ability to wash people, particularly children includes a private, functional wet area with hot and cold water supply, shower, a bath or tub for washing children, a hand basin, and working drainage.


6 Pickering, H. & Rose, G. 1988, ‘Nasal and hand carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae in children and mothers in the Tari basin of Papua New Guinea’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 82:911-13

7 Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach.

8 Nganampa Health Council Inc., South Australian Health Commission and Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia 1987, Report of Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, An Environmental and Public Health Review within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Alice Springs.

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B1.1 Wet area design House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Wet areas, including bathrooms, toilets and laundries, need to be designed to suit the needs of the residents and local climatic conditions such as:

  • responding to the needs of a large family by providing a large enough space for an adult to wash two children and/or separating the toilet and the laundry from the washing areas to allow several people to use the facilities at the same time
  • locating the wet area so that it does not open off living areas or other public spaces and can be used privately by all members of the household at all times
  • locating the wet area to catch and store the morning sun for warmth in winter
  • providing adequate ventilation so that the wet area is not too hot and humid in summer
  • ensuring wet areas are accessible to elderly people and people with disabilities.

A well designed wet area will include hardware such as shelves, cabinets, benches, hooks and towel rails to prevent clothes, towels and toiletries being put on the floor, which could block the drains. A well designed wet area will also have natural light and ventilation to reduce mould and bacteria, and decrease running and maintenance costs.

Wet areas need to be robust because they are high use areas in houses. Waterproofing is required to prevent damage to the building fabric and to stop water penetrating into other rooms. Weather protected electrical fittings should be used and all floors should fall to floor drains so that water does not pool or pond against the walls. Fixtures such as towel rails and toilet roll holders should be well secured to the walls.

Where there is a high incidence of chronic illness, for example home dialysis treatments are required, consider including a ‘home clinic’ within some houses. This could include a separate toilet, a hobless shower for easy access, a tub for washing young children, a lockable medicine cabinet and adequate space for a bed for the isolation or treatment of sick people. Ideally, this space would have a northerly aspect in cold climates, catch the breezes in tropical climates, have views and access to a private outdoor area.

Survey data show that a majority of houses (74 per cent) have separated shower, laundry and toilet facilities, however this figure has declined since 2003. Separated facilities give people greater access to services but detailed design issues involving floor grades and fixtures require attention.

The high proportion of houses containing residents that are frail aged or have a disability (20 per cent) highlights the need to consider access issues and detailed design for all community residents.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the extent of waterproofing is specified, the product used is compatible with adhesives used in floor tiles or vinyls and that it complies with AS 3740 Waterproofing of wet areas
  • there are floor drains in the bathroom and the falls to these drains are clearly specified and allow access by people with disabilities
  • the wet area can be accessed discreetly and independently by all members of the household including young children, frail aged people and people with disabilities
  • the layout, dimensions, surface detailing, materials, fixtures and floor drainage of at least one bathroom and toilet area are designed to comply with the Adaptable Housing Standard (Category C) as a minimum
  • at least one toilet has a minimum clear width of 900mm and a minimum depth in front of the pan of 1250mm, excluding door swings, hand basins and other fixtures
  • a privacy snib type lock, with emergency release, is specified with the door handles
  • flooring has a non-slip finish
  • that, if there is only one shower and toilet in the house, wet area facilities such as toilet, laundry, shower and tub are not located in one room
  • there are hand washing facilities including a basin or tub near to each toilet
  • taps have ‘capstan’ or lever handles with a single outlet (spout) that can be used by people with limited mobility
  • there is provision for hanging towels and clothes, and storage space in showers and next to the bath for toiletries including soap/shampoo
  • that, in stud wall framed construction, additional structure such as studs, noggins or structural plywood are specified for fixing taps, towel rails, grab rails in the shower and toilet, shower seats, slider grab rail for hand held shower rose, shelves, hooks and toilet roll holder
  • power points, lights and switches are located away from plumbing fittings and that there is a double power point beside the mirror where possible
  • there is natural light and ventilation that does not compromise the privacy of the people, by using high level windows, skylights and ducted roof vents
  • ventilation in humid locations to control mould
  • bathroom joinery is constructed using only waterproof materials.

Consider:

  • designing all wet areas so that they can be easily adapted to allow frail aged people or people with disabilities full access to, and use of, wet areas (AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility)
  • using grab rails instead of using towel rails throughout the wet area to provide more secure hand holds
  • recessing toilet roll holders and soap shelves to reduce the likelihood of injury
  • separating the toilet, vanity and shower/bath areas to allow three people to use the wet area at one time
  • providing a second bathroom or toilet area, which can be easily accessed from outside the house
  • improving comfort in cold climates by ensuring internal access from living areas, making provision for ventilation to be closed, having the wet area facing east to maximise exposure to the warm morning sun and maximising the effectiveness of ceiling and wall insulation
  • options for installing ‘fail safe’ drains to divert waste water away from living areas
  • using lift-off hinges for all wet area doors and cutting down the doors to allow easy removal
  • specifying anti-mould additives for paints, silicones and grouts
  • protecting against water damage to doors, by using solid doors with timber edge trims and not using steel door frames in wet areas
  • using a ‘wet-seal’ product on the entire wet area room substructure before trays and wall linings are installed, and/or using water resistant products throughout, such as sheet products for wall linings and ceilings, and/or welded sheet vinyl for floors and wall linings
  • using wall hung cabinets in wet areas, mounted at least 300mm above the floor, to prevent water damage and make cleaning easier
  • using weather protected power points and light switches in all wet areas
  • providing secure, child proof storage for medicines and first aid kits
  • incorporating a bench seat next to the shower for use by children, the frail aged and people with disabilities
  • making provision for future installation of hand basins in one or more bedrooms if required by residents with specific medical needs.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • door swings do not restrict use of the wet area
  • fittings such as locks, clothes hooks, grab rails, towel rails, cabinets, benches and shelves are securely fixed to the structure
  • floor grades fall to the floor drains and there is no part of the floor where water ponds
  • floor, wall and ceiling finishes are as specified and properly installed without gaps
  • all power points are located safe distances from plumbing fittings
  • waterproofing has been installed and has been covered by warranty
In cold climates, check that:
  • the floor and wall junctions in wet areas are well sealed
  • ventilation does not cause the wet area to become draughty.
In warm climates, check that:
  • there is good natural ventilation and additional mechanical ventilation if required
  • paint, silicones and grouts contain anti-mould additives.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • maintain and repair bathroom, shower and toilet windows, doors and locks to provide privacy
  • repair or replace broken or missing hooks, towel rails, grab rails and shelves
  • replace standard power points with weather protected power points in wet areas
  • patch or repair holes in floors, walls and ceiling linings
  • replace missing and cracked floor and wall tiles.
     
Survey data
Wet area design Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Wet area layout      
Shower, toilet and laundry are separated and can be used independently 74% 3,660 <
Shower, toilet and laundry are partly combined 21% 3,660  
Shower, toilet and laundry are fully combined 5% 3,660  
No shower 1% 1,699  
Only 1 shower 90% 3,097  
More than 1 shower 9% 3,097  
No flush toilet 1% 1,699  
Only 1 toilet 83% 3,099  
More than 1 toilet 16% 3,099  
No hand basin 14% 1,699  
Only 1 hand basin 79% 3,072  
More than 1 hand basin 13% 3,072  
       
Showers, bath and toilets      
Functional shower rose 62% 3,643  
Shower waste diameter adequate (more than 100mm) 65% 3,082  
Functional shower room door and lock (inside only) 65% 3,640  
Shower floor graded to floor drain 66% 3,642  
Shower room ventilation 87% 3,643  
Functional clothes hook(s) in shower room 34% 3,644 <
Functional towel rail(s) in shower room 48% 3,644 +
Functional shelves in shower room 39% 3,643  
Houses with baths 58% 2,145  
Bath secure 94% 2,133  
Bath area - floor finish OK 81% 2,134  
Bath area floor graded to floor drain 66% 2,133  
Combined bath and shower 51% 2,135  
Functional bath spout 79% 2,129  
Functional bath drainage 90% 2,130  
Single flush cistern 37% 3,639  
Dual flush cistern 63% 3,639 <
Full flush test OK (a standard flush test) 86% 3,639  
Toilet area floor graded to floor drain 50% 3,660  
Toilet ventilation 88% 3,661  
Functional shelves in toilet area 27% 3,660  
Functional toilet roll holder 58% 3,661  
       
Disabled and frail aged      
Houses used by disabled or frail aged users as reported by residents 20% 3,099  
Disabled or frail aged users present and reported - adequate access 11% 3,099  
Disabled or frail aged users present and reported -poor access 8% 3,099  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 3740 – 2004, Waterproofing of wet areas within residential buildings

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility—General requirements for access—New building work.

HB52–2000, The Bathroom Book.

AS 4299–1995,  Adaptable housing.

AS 3958.2–1992,  Ceramic tiles—Guide to the selection of a ceramic tiling system.

AS 1428.2–1992, Design for access and mobility—Enhanced and additional requirements—Buildings and facilities.

AS 3958.1–1991, Ceramic tiles—Guide to the installation of ceramic tiles.

BCA, Part 3.8.2,  Wet areas.

Queensland Government Department of Housing Residential Design Manual 5.2 Floor coverings http://www.housing.qld.gov.au/initiatives/smarthousing/publications/rdm/requirements/houses/5/house_52.htm

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B1.2 Hot water

Hot water is essential for daily living, particularly for washing people and cleaning. When selecting hot water systems, consider the residents’ needs, household population, climate, water quality, energy usage, type, and both the capital cost of the system and the running costs. Hot water system capacity should be based on peak demand times in each household and a minimum of 50 litres of hot water per person per day, at a temperature of 50 to 60°C9, is suggested as a guide for working out the hot water system size.

An inefficient hot water system can put a strain on the household’s budget and at least half of the energy bill can be spent heating water. People on a low income may not be able to afford high energy bills and this can result in loss of power and subsequent loss of hot water. Consider using solar or gas systems that do not rely on electrical power and, if using an electric system, aim for an efficiency of at least 50 litres of hot water for every kilowatt hour of electricity.

Water that is too hot can cause severe burns, particularly to children and elderly people. It is a mandatory requirement in Australia that hot water systems in new houses and, if carrying out major changes to plumbing systems including hot water systems in existing houses, that hot water systems are fitted with tempering valves that control the water temperature to washing points in the house.

Poor quality water that impacts on the function and durability of hot water systems and associated valves directly affects operational and maintenance costs because of the need for frequent replacement of hot water systems and parts. It is important to carefully research and specify all components of the hot water system including storage tank, element, sacrificial anode, relief valves, tempering valves and solar panels (if applicable) to achieve the best outcome for the local water quality.

Data show that just over half of all hot water systems installed (51 per cent) are electric and have large capacity heating elements. Whilst 80 per cent of these systems were able to deliver water at temperatures above the required 45ºC, almost half (47 per cent) were producing water above 62ºC, increasing both the risk of burns and the cost of running the house.

Solar hot water systems were the second most common system type (40 per cent), with gas, heat pump and solid fuel systems comprising only 6 per cent of all systems. Most solar systems have electrical boosters to supplement the solar energy.

Survey data shows that hot water pressure relief valves continued to perform poorly (26 per cent), but since 2003 there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of valves functioning. Faulty valves waste hot water and residents’ money, as well as being a possible safety risk.

Design and specification

Confirm the specified hot water system will:
  • deliver at least 400 litres of hot water, including recharges, at a minimum temperature of 45°C at hot water tap points around the house during a 24-hour period
  • provide hot water at peak demand times regardless of weather conditions 
  • operate with the available water pressure ―this is particularly important for places with low pressure and for low pressure systems
  • function efficiently in relation to variable water quality
  • function in the variable climatic conditions.
Ensure:
  • the hot water system is located close to the shower
  • the re-charge time on gas or electric units will deliver the required quantity of hot water
  • pressure relief valves on roof mounted hot water systems discharge to a ‘tundish’ or drain and notonto the roof, as high levels of mineral salts and/or the copper in the hot water system will corrode the roofing and gutters
  • ground level hot water systems are installed on a plastic tray, on a concrete or masonry pad, rather than timber or steel frames which can deteriorate rapidly
  • hot water supply pipes are ‘lagged’ (insulated) to improve efficiency
  • tempering valves where required and installed are suited to local water conditions, are specified and are located in a valve box that is easily accessible for maintenance and adjustment
  • the temperature of the hot water to the kitchen sink is not tempered as hot water can be useful in breaking down grease in kitchen sink drainage
  • an electrical isolation switch is provided for maintenance of roof mounted systems
  • instantaneous gas hot water systems have an automatic ignition rather than a pilot light
the hot water system is fitted in accordance with AS/NZS 3500.4.2:1997, Amendment 1 – 2002, National plumbing and drainage code – Hot water supply systems – Acceptable solutions, clause 1.6.1.
In areas where water quality is poor, consider:
  • specifying a sacrificial anode and element suited to the specific water quality
  • using electric elements of less than 2400 watts because larger elements have a quicker rate of calcification
  • specifying the tempering valve to the specific water quality
  • using ‘jacketed’ solar hot water systems with heat exchange fluids in the panels rather than using local poor quality water
  • installing a removable metre length of pipe on the hot water supply side of the system that can easily be replaced when it becomes calcified.
Consider energy saving measures such as:
  • using an electric element of less than 2400 watts because larger elements can significantly increase running costs
  • off-peak electricity but make certain the hot water system can meet demand between heating cycles and the storage tank is well insulated
  • solar systems with a ‘one-shot’ booster switch that heats the water to a set temperature then automatically turns off
  • heat pump or heat exchange system where access to a refrigeration mechanic is available.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the water temperature is greater than 45°C at all tap points in the house, is stored at 60°C at the hot water system, and is tempered to shower, bath and basins tap points to a maximum of 50°C
  • the overflow from the pressure relief valve drains safely to ground
  • the pressure relief valve does not drain to the roof or gutter to avoid corrosion
  • the specified sacrificial anode and element has been provided
  • the safety switch fitted on a dedicated circuit for the hot water service is working
  • all hot water pipes are lagged
  • hot water systems externally installed in cyclonic or high wind are fitted with cyclone brackets and are protected from accidental damage.
Before making the final payment, trade test:
  • cold water pressure relief, isolating valve and hot water pressure relief valve
  • that pressure relief valve drainage flows safely to the ground and away from the house and hot water system
  • an electrical isolation switch is provided on the roof for a roof mounted system or in the ceiling for a ceiling mounted system.
For solar hot water systems:
  • trade test that solar panels are facing within 5° of north
  • trade test that solar panels are mounted so that the angle of the panels from the horizontal plane is equal to the location’s latitude, for example if the location’s latitude is 30° south then the angle of the panels will be 30° from the horizontal plane
  • trade test that the heat exchange fluid has been correctly added or replenished and the system is sealed
  • trade test that the solar booster has been connected if mains power is available
  • check that the solar panels are protected from stones and branches
  • check that the solar panels are not shaded by buildings or trees.
For gas hot water systems:
  • trade test that the system, all connections, fittings and the flu are located as required under regulations
  • check the gas installation has a compliance plate or certification.
For heat pump hot water systems:
  • trade test the installation
  • check the panel installation in ‘split’ type models where heat exchange panels are separated from the cylinder
  • check the fan and air filter pads in ‘compact’ type models
  • check that the system does not require additional refrigerant gas.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, at least once a year:
  • check that the kitchen tap point delivers hot water at 60ºC and that all taps requiring tempered hot water deliver water to a maximum temperature of 50ºC.
  • check that all pressure relief and isolating valves are functioning and arrange for a plumber to replace if required
  • check and re-fill the heat exchange fluid in solar hot water systems
  • check and repair lagging on all hot water pipes
  • replace the tap washers, as leaking hot water taps reduce the hot water available to residents and increase the household’s energy bill.
As part of cyclical maintenance, at least once a year, trade test:
  • the condition of the sacrificial anode and electric element and replace if required
  • the main hot water storage cylinder for corrosion or build up of mineral salts
  • the hot water system thermostat is set at 60°C
  • the condition of collector panels and the heat exchange fluid in solar hot water systems
  • the condition of collector panels or air filter pads of heat pump systems, and that the system is filled with refrigerant gas.
Survey data
Hot water Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Power type      
Electric powered hot water system 51% 3,653  
Solar powered hot water system 40% 3,653  
Gas powered hot water system 6% 3,653  
Heat pump hot water system 0% 3,653  
Solid fuel hot water system 0% 3,653  
No hot water system 2% 3,093  
       
System component performance      
Hot water pressure release/relief valve functional 74% 2,988 ++
All other hot water system valves functional (stop valve and cold water pressure relief valve where needed) 74% 2,971  
Element capacity not applicable as house has either gas, heat pump, solid fuel or no booster system 15% 2,863  
Electric hot water system with element capacity less than 1800 watts 7% 2,863  
Electric hot water system with element capacity between 1800 to 2400 watts 24% 2,863  
Electric hot water system with element capacity greater than 2400 watts 50% 2,863  
No element size information 8% 1,422  
       
System capacity      
Hot water systems producing more than 50 litres of hot water per person per day (where houses were occupied at time of survey) 43% 3,587  
       
System temperatures greater than 45ºC (minimum required)      
Total of all hot water systems 74% 3,582  
―of all electric powered hot water systems 82% 1,854  
―of all solar powered hot water systems 66% 1,472  
―of all gas powered hot water systems 61% 230 ++
―of all heat pump hot water systems 93% 16  
―of all solid fuel hot water systems 10% 10  
       
System temperatures greater than 62ºC (water too hot, increasing the chances of burns and running costs)      
Total of all hot water systems 34% 3,582  
―of all electric powered hot water systems 47% 1,854  
―of all solar powered hot water systems 20% 1,472  
―of all gas powered hot water systems 15% 230  
―of all heat pump hot water systems 0% 16  
―of all solid fuel hot water systems 0% 10  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. ‘Hot Water’ Bush Tech Brief #1, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002, Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/ op17.pdf

AS/NZS 3500.4.2:1997, Amendment 1–2002, National plumbing and drainage code—Hot water supply systems—Acceptable solutions, clause 1.6.1.

Lloyd, B, Wilson, L & Adams, A 2000, Hot water use and water heating systems in remote Indigenous communities, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc.

Marshall, G. 1999, A review of Scale Prevention Devices for use in Hot Water Systems in remote Indigenous communities, edited by B. Lloyd, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Lloyd, CR 1998, Hot Water Project Draft Progress Report, NTRC report cat no. 98/4, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., pp. 1-7.

Pholeros, P 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPK Nganampa Health Council Inc., pp. 1-6.

Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Healthabitat and Pormpuraaw Community Council 1997, Pormpuraaw Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Cape York Communities, project report, pp. 40-3.

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S. & Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, pp. 45, 90-1.


9 Hot water should be stored at no less than 60°C to prevent growth of harmful organisms; the hot water temperature at shower, bath and basin should be tempered at a maximum of 50°C to prevent scalding; a minimum hot water temperature of 45°C is required at all hot water outlets allowing for temperature loss between the hot water system and the outlets.

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B1.3 Taps House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

A house may have twenty taps or valves, including two shower taps, two basin taps, two laundry tub taps, two washing machine taps, two yard taps, a toilet cistern stop tap and cistern valve, two bath taps, two kitchen taps, a hot water system relief valve, stop valve and cold water relief valve and a main house isolation valve. If any of these taps do not work, residents will be less able to carry out the Healthy Living Practices. One dripping tap can waste up to 600 litres of water a day and hot water lost through leaking taps can increase the household energy bill. If many taps are leaking in a community water system, the water supply and waste water systems will be adversely affected. See C1.2 Water quantity and demand management.

Taps should be given careful attention when designing and specifying new works with consideration of the local water quality, easy maintenance and use by people with arthritis or limited mobility. When selecting taps, consider:

  • how and where the tap is mounted, for example bench mounted taps are easier to maintain than wall mounted taps and may be easier for people with disabilities to use but bench mounted taps can cause water damage to the bench if not well installed
  • the body material, tap ‘bodies’ are commonly made of brass, but plastic and stainless steel bodies may be better when the water has low alkalinity or contains high levels of mineral salts
  • whether the tap uses a washer or ceramic disc, washers are cheap and easy to replace and tend to be longer lasting in water that contains sand, grit or other particles (river water) but ceramic disc taps are easier for children and people with disabilities to use and can have fewer maintenance requirements if the water is free of particles
  • the seat material, stainless steel seats are readily available and last longer than brass seats, particularly when the water has low alkalinity or contains high levels of mineral salts
  • the handle type, lever handles and ‘flick’ mixers are easier for people with disabilities to use and plastic handles should be avoided
  • the use of flow regulators in poor water quality, which can cause constant maintenance problems.

Simple changes to tap specification and installation can reduce maintenance, improve performance and enable all residents to easily use the taps.

Data on the performance of hot and cold water taps in all areas of the house continue to show a difference in performance, with hot water taps recording poorer performance than cold water taps.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • that all parts of the selected tap, including the handle, flange, seat, spout and pillar, are made of durable materials which are suited to local water conditions
  • tap ware is standardised for easy maintenance and allows for handles to be changed to capstan or lever handles if required to meet the needs of residents with disabilities
  • in the laundry, taps are positioned at the side of the tub within easy reach for people with disabilities.
Consider:
  • the benefits of anti-vandal tap handles that are less likely to work loose and fall off the fitting
  • using ‘flick mixer’ type taps or lever handles and quarter turn ceramic cartridge taps for people with arthritis or limited strength
  • using ceramic cartridge and mixer taps where water does not contain high levels of particulates
  • installing flow restrictors to achieve greater water conservation and reduce water costs where water quality is suitable
  • incorporating a service panel to access wall mounted taps for maintenance
  • selecting stainless steel seats in areas with poor water quality.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the taps and spouts are secure
  • there is water flow from all taps and spouts and the hot and cold water have been correctly connected to hot and cold taps
  • taps and spouts are not leaking or dripping
  • spout strainers are free of plumbing waste that could have been flushed through the pipes during construction
  • tap handles are easy to turn on and off
  • if anti-vandal taps have been specified, check that the grub screws have been installed and the handles cannot be removed
  • a manufacturer’s warranty is provided for the taps.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • check for leaks in all taps and spouts, including yard taps
  • consider replacing all tap washers regularly to prevent leaks and reduce wear to the tap seat.

When upgrading houses, select new taps to suit local water quality and consider standardising taps in all houses for easy maintenance. Also, ensure compliance with the Adaptable Housing Standard by locating laundry taps at the side of the tub, using capstan or lever handle tap sets with a single outlet and locating taps in kitchens as close as possible (approx 300mm) from the front of the sink.

Survey data
Taps Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Houses with yard taps      
No yard taps 4% 3,660  
1 yard tap 26% 3,660  
2 yard taps 59% 3,660  
3 or more yard taps 11% 3,660  
Houses with all yard taps OK 63% 1,631  
       
Wet area taps      
Shower - functional hot water tap 73% 3,639  
Shower - functional cold water tap 77% 3,641  
Basin - functional hot water tap 73% 3,360  
Basin - functional cold water tap 75% 3,401  
Bath - functional hot water tap 67% 2128 <
Bath - functional cold water tap 69% 2,129 <<
Washing machine - functional hot water tap 69% 3,541  
Washing machine - functional cold water tap 75% 3,562  
Laundry tub - functional hot water tap 70% 3,045  
Laundry tub - functional cold water tap 74% 3,047 <
Toilet cistern - functional stop cock (shut off valve) 77% 3,639  
       
Hot water system taps and valves      
Functional hot water pressure release or relief valve 74% 2988 ++
All other hot water system valves functional (cold water pressure limiting valve (if installed), and the hot water system shut off valve) 74% 2,971 <<
       
Kitchen taps      
Kitchen - hot tap functional (hot water OK) 61% 3,620  
Kitchen - hot tap not functional (hot water OK) 10% 1,666  
Kitchen - cold tap functional (cold water OK) 68% 3,627 <
Kitchen - cold tap not functional (cold water OK) 15% 1,669  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility—General requirements for access—New building work, section 1.1.3.

Bailie, R., Carson, B., McDonald, E.  2004  ‘Water supply and sanitation in remote Indigenous communities – priorities for health development’ in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol 28, No 5 : 409 - 413

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P. 1993 Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach.

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B1.4 Washing young children – baths and tubs House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Regular washing of children can prevent the spread of disease and improve health. Every house requires at least one facility where babies and children can easily be washed. Ideally, this would include a tub for washing babies and a bath for washing children.

Ceramic hand basins are usually too small for washing babies and baby baths may not be available in the local store. Residents often use the laundry tub to wash young children because it is large and at a good height. Consider installing a large laundry tub, greater than 40 litre capacity.

If incorporating a bath tub in the wet area, avoid using a combination shower/bath as this can be difficult and dangerous to use, particularly for older people or people with disabilities. Plan the bathroom to allow an adult to attend to at least two children in the bath at once. Set out the bathroom for maximum accessibility for a person with limited mobility. When specifying a bath, consider durability, size and how it will fit within the overall wet area layout.

Data shows that the laundry tub provides the greatest opportunity to wash a small child, with 90 per cent of houses having a secure laundry tub. Baths are available in more than half of all houses (58 per cent). Although more houses had basins that could be used to wash a young child compared to 2003, the availability of these facilities was limited to 36 per cent of all houses in 2006.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • facilities are available for washing children in every house, including at least one large tub or easily accessible bath, with tempered hot water, cold water and drainage to a waste water drainage system
  • baths and tubs are fitted in accordance with AS/NZS 2023:1995 Baths for ablutionary purposes and AS/NZS 1229:2002 Laundry troughs and tubs. 
Consider:
  • providing a 70 litre flush line tub with hot and cold water supply in the laundry or bathroom, set into a bench top, which will provide space for changing nappies, drying and dressing a child
  • alternatively, providing a larger hand basin in the bathroom to wash a baby
  • when providing a tub in the laundry, specifying a bypass drain for the washing machine to prevent dirty waste water from the washing machine flowing into the laundry tub
  • using a swivel spout and locating taps to prevent injury to children being washed in the tub
  • connecting the laundry taps to the hot water tempering device to prevent scalding, particularly if the laundry tub taps will also be used for hand washing or for washing children
  • providing a bath for washing children
  • fitting a grab rail around the bath for children and elderly people to safely step in and out of the bath
  • providing a bench/seat near the bath for drying and dressing a child
  • using a chain to secure the tub/bath plug
  • providing soap holder, shelves out of reach of children, towel rails, grab rails and hooks near the bath and/or tub.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • there is hot and cold water supplied to the tub and that the bath, taps and spouts do not leak
  • drainage is connected to the tub and/or bath and does not leak
  • the laundry tub is fixed and well sealed to the wall or bench
  • the bath has been securely supported at the base and water-proofed to adjoining walls
  • the wall behind the laundry tub and/or bath has been waterproofed and lined with a water impervious surface such as wall tiles, laminated sheet, sheet vinyl or stainless steel, which is sealed to the bath, tub or bench
  • the bath or tub are not cracked or damaged
  • a swivel spout is fitted if specified
  • there is a plug, secured on a chain to the tub and/or bath
  • a bypass drain is provided for the washing machine in the laundry tub or by a separate waste pipe.

Ensure:

  • the builder provides a warranty for the waterproofing of the bathroom area
  • a manufacturer’s warranty is provided for the, tub and/or bath, and basin.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • the hot and cold taps and drainage are all working
  • there is a plug at the tub and/or bath
  • the waterproofing is intact and there is no sign of mould or water penetration in the surrounding walls
  • the fixtures and fittings are secure
  • there is no water damage to benches and cupboards.
Survey data
Washing young children - baths and tubs Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Houses with basin or tub (excluding laundry tub) big enough to wash a young child 36% 3,401 ++
Laundry tub suitable for washing young children 98% 3,057  
Secure laundry tub 90% 2,985  
Laundry tub with independent washing machine waste outlet 68% 3,617 +
Houses with baths 58% 2,145  

AS/NZS 1229:2002  Laundry troughs and tubs

AS/NZS 2023:1995 Baths for ablutionary purposes

Bailie, R., Stevens, M., McDonald, E., Halpin, S., Brewster, D., Robinson, G. and Gutheridge, S. 2005
‘Skin infection, housing and social circumstances in children living in remote Indigenous communities: testing conceptual and methodologies approaches’ in BMC Public Health, 2005, 5: 128

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B1.5 Showers House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

A functioning shower is important for health. All parts of the shower should be designed, built and maintained to enable people to wash themselves at least once a day. The shower contains a number of interdependent parts that must be working to provide benefit to the residents of the house.

Data shows that shower areas could have the following faults:

  • poor quality water can corrode taps and cause leaks and wastes water (27 per cent of hot water taps not working)
  • poor quality water can also block shower rose holes (38 per cent not working), which can lead to residents removing the shower rose
  • if shower bases and walls are not completely waterproofed, water will penetrate the walls and damage the supporting floor structure (30 per cent of walls show signs of water penetration)
  • if floors do not fall to floor drains (34 per cent floors not drained), water will pond, make the floor less safe and more difficult to clean
  • shower trays, hobs and showers over baths can limit accessibility for elderly people and people with disabilities (51 per cent of houses that have a bath have a combined shower and bath)
  • lack of door locks for privacy (35 per cent), no clothes hooks (66 per cent), no shelves (61 per cent) and lack of towel rails (52 per cent).

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the shower rose and taps are located so that the water spray stays within the shower cubicle 
  • the taps are located outside of the shower stream, so they can be turned on and off without the risk of scalding hands or any part of the body
  • the shower area is graded to the shower floor drain, which should be a minimum diameter of 100mm, located directly under the main shower stream and at the lowest drainage point in the room; this width will allow inspection of the drain at quality control stage
  • the shower cubicle can be used by people with limited mobility and by parents assisting children (1160mm x 1100mm clear shower area )
  • soap and shampoo can be stored in the shower area, and clothes hooks, towel rails, grab rails and shelves are securely fixed near the shower cubicle
  • the shower cubicle is fully waterproofed and shower bases and joints between baths, showers and walls are detailed to prevent leaks in accordance with AS 3740 Waterproofing of wet areas
  • that, if the shower is separated from other wet area facilities, there is a space for people to dry and dress in the shower room and that personal items can be stored away from the water stream and water spray created during showering.
Consider:
  • waterproofing all walls in the shower cubicle to above the height of the shower rose and extending the water resistant wall lining to this height
  • using fixed or single swivel wall-mounted roses and avoid multi-jointed shower arms and plastic shower roses
  • using water saving shower roses if the water quality shows low levels of mineral salts
  • providing a grab rail in the shower and next to the entry to the shower for support
  • incorporating a folding seat in the shower enclosure, which complies with AS 1428.1
  • providing at least one shower in each house that can be accessed by people with disabilities that complies with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility
  • providing a second capped outlet in the shower for future provision of a hand held shower rose, particularly when a ceiling mounted shower rose has been used
  • recessing the soap holder to reduce the likelihood of injury
  • avoiding sliding shower screens because they require frequent maintenance
  • using polycarbonate screens instead of glass for greater durability and safety
  • providing external showers as a secondary showering area.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the shower rose:
    • directs water onto the person and does not cause leaks or drainage problems
    • has large holes where water quality is poor
    • is water efficient in areas where there is good water quality
  • the shower area floor falls to the floor drain
  • if using a shower tray, that the base is fully supported with non-shrink grout 
  • the corners, shower bases and wall junctions are sealed to prevent leaks
  • the builder has provided a warranty for the wet area waterproofing.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • hot and cold water is available
  • the drains are working
  • there is a good flow of water from water saving shower roses and flow limiting devices, especially for locations with poor water quality
  • tap handles are secure, can easily be turned on and off, and are not leaking.
Survey data
Showers Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Shower, toilet and laundry are separated and can be used independently 74% 3,660  
Functional shower rose 62% 3,643  
Functional shower drain 89% 3,640  
Shower - functional hot water tap 73% 3,639  
Shower - functional cold water tap 77% 3,641  
Shower walls: sound and well sealed 70% 3,642  
Floor finish in shower 76% 3,643  
Shower floor graded to waste point 66% 3,642  
Combined bath and shower 51% 2,135  
Functional shower room door and lock (inside only) 65% 3,640  
Functional clothes hook(s) in shower room 34% 3,644 <
Functional towel rail(s) in shower room 48% 3,644 +
Functional shelves in shower room 39% 3,643  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility—General requirements for access—New building work.

HB52–2000, The Bathroom Book.

Anda, M & Ryan, J 1998, Saving water for healthy communities: a workbook for Aboriginal communities, Remote Area Developments Group, Murdoch University, Perth, p. 5.

Pholeros, P.  2002 ‘Housing for Health and Fixing Houses for Better Health’ in Environmental Health, vol 2, no 4 : 34 - 38

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B1.6 Wet area drainage House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

When drains fail to work, waste water pools in wet areas or flows into other parts of the house and this can have serious health consequences for the residents.

If there are no floor drains, or the grade of the floor does not fall to the floor drain, water will pond in the wet areas and make the floors slippery, more difficult to clean, and cause damp and mould. The long term effects of pooling water can include rot, rust, termite attack and eventually, structural failure.

Data demonstrates that surveyed houses lacked grades that fall to the floor drain in the following areas: shower floors (34 per cent), floors beneath bathroom basins (37 per cent) and toilet floors (50 per cent).

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • water can flow to a floor drain from every point in the laundry and bathroom 
  • the falls to the floor drain are even to prevent water pooling on the floor
  • the floor grade in the shower area has a minimum of 25mm from the wall or door threshold to drain (and generally 1:80 shower, 1:100 bathroom) if the bathroom is 2x2m and the waste is central from wall to waste = 1000 and falls 10mm, this would be difficult to check/achieve without ponding
  • fall to the floor drain, the shower waste is lower than the main bathroom floor drain and has a minimum 100mm drains up to floor level are used in all locations even if fittings within the wet area reduce to a smaller diameter drain
  • all floor drains are accessible for maintenance and there is an inspection opening in the external drainage line 
  • that, if the floor drain is blocked, the wet area floor levels are designed to allow waste water to flow out of the house rather than into living areas
  • wet area drainage complies with AS/NZS 3500.1:2003 Plumbing and drainage - Water services and AS/NZS 3500.2:2003 : Plumbing and drainage - Sanitary plumbing and drainage.
Consider:
  • providing floor drains in toilets to avoid flooding the house if the toilet overflows, and to make it easier to clean the floor 
  • using stainless steel screw-in floor drain grates rather than plastic floor drain grates
  • specifying the use of puddle flanges at all floor drains
  • avoiding the use of dry floor wastes, as these discharge waste water to the yard area, which may attract frogs, toads, cockroaches and snakes, and can be covered with soil
  • that if a dry floor waste is used, the waste water will discharge above ground level to a safe point in the yard and not under the house, and the dry floor waste is fitted with a ‘frog flap’.

Quality control

During construction, check:
  • the slab set downs allow for minimum floor grades before concrete is poured, or
  • the sub-floor framing is set down or graded to allow for minimum floor grades before floor sheet material is fixed.
Before making the final payment, check that:
  • all floors are graded to a floor drain by rolling a golf ball on the floor (no mess) or tipping a bucket of water over the floor (mess)
  • every drain can remove at least one full bucket of water
  • the levels of floor drains are not lower than the surrounding ground
  • the exit points of dry floor waste outlets are above ground level and are not blocked
  • all drains can be accessed for maintenance and there is an inspection opening to the external drainage line.
At handover, before making the final payment, trade test:
  • all drains, including in-ground drainage to ensure that they are working
  • the overflow system, by simulating a blockage and ensuring waste water flows out of the house
  • the base of waste water traps for grout, mortar and builders’ waste.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • test all drains are working and that water is not pooling in wet areas.
Survey data
Wet area drainage Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Shower - functional shower cubicle drainage 89% 3,640  
Shower - no floor waste outlet 11% 1,685  
Shower - functional floor waste outlet 74% 3,638  
Shower - floor waste outlet not functional 21% 3,638  
Shower - floor graded to waste point 66% 3,642  
       
Basin - functional drainage from the basin 86% 3,398 +
Basin - no floor waste outlet 12% 1,442  
Basin - functional floor waste outlet 70% 3,390  
Basin - floor waste outlet not functional 24% 3,390  
Basin area - floor graded to waste point 63% 3,388  
       
Bath―functional drainage from the bath 90% 2,130 <
Bath―no floor waste outlet 6% 720  
Bath―functional floor waste outlet 77% 2,132  
Bath―floor waste outlet not functional 21% 2,132  
       
       
Toilet―functional toilet passes full flush test 86% 3,639  
Toilet―no floor waste outlet 36% 1,699  
Toilet―functional floor waste outlet 50% 3,654 +
Toilet―floor waste outlet not functional 33% 3,654  
Toilet area floor graded to waste point (or to a waste outlet next to the toilet area) 50% 3,660  
       
       
Laundry―functional washing machine drainage 79% 3,579  
Laundry―no floor waste outlet 20% 1,654  
Laundry―functional floor waste outlet 55% 3,608  
Laundry―floor waste outlet not functional 35% 3,608  
Laundry―functional laundry tub drainage 89% 3,047  
Laundry floor graded to waste point 56% 3,610  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3500.1:2003 : Plumbing and drainage - Water services

AS/NZS 3500.2:2003 : Plumbing and drainage - Sanitary plumbing and drainage

Building Standards and Policy Branch 2000, Ministers Specification SA 78A: Housing on designated Aboriginal land,Planning South Australia.

Nganampa Health Council Inc., South Australian Health Commission and Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia 1987, Report of Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, An Environmental and Public Health Review within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Alice Springs, pp. 14-15.

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B1.7 Turning water off for plumbing maintenance House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Water isolation valves disconnect each house from the mains water supply to allow for plumbing maintenance. Known as stop valves or shut off valves, they are used when changing tap washers, repairing pipes or taps and when there is a major water leak. Valves need to be specified in housing works and consideration needs to be given to the type and location of the water isolation valve.

Survey data show that even teams with the advantage of local knowledge could not find isolation valves in over half the houses surveyed (52 per cent) and, of those valves that were found, 22 per cent were not working. Time spent by plumbers searching for isolation valves uses scarce housing maintenance funds.

If plumbers cannot find the isolation valve, they will be forced to manage repairs by either shutting off the main water supply to many houses or attempting to do repairs by reducing the water pressure, which involves opening up all taps in the house requiring maintenance. Both these options are unacceptable.

Data also shows that functioning water meters were only found in 50 per cent of surveyed houses. Water management requires basic tools such as isolation valves and water meters to be functioning to allow the housing manager to monitor water use and to assist in completing repairs to the water system of a house.  

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • there is an easily accessed, above ground isolation valve, for example fixed to a wall of the house, which cannot get ‘lost’ under landscaping or fencing
  • the pipes to and from the water isolation valve are protected from motor cars and mowers
  • the type of valve is suited to the water quality.
Consider:
  • using ball valves, rather than ‘jumper’ or ‘gate’ valves, where water quality is poor
  • installing a second valve on houses where the service provider insists on a below ground valve at the property boundary
  • selecting water isolation valves that have fixed handles and avoid the using anti-vandal valves that do not have a handle
  • installing a water meter to assist in water demand management and detecting leaks.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that the valve:
  • is of the type specified
  • is located where specified and is secure
  • can be turned on and off and, if it is a jumper valve or gate valve, turn fully on then back one turn to prevent the valve ‘binding’ shut in the fully open position
  • if a meter was specified, it has been installed and is working.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check the water isolation valve can be turned off and on and turn jumper or gate valves fully off, then fully on, and then back one turn
  • read the water meter and record water use and if a house has a high meter reading, ask the plumber to check for leaks.
Survey data
Turning water off for plumbing maintenance Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Water isolation valve not found 52% 3,651  
Water isolation valve found and functional 37% 3,651 <<
Water isolation valve found but non-functional 22% 1,699  
Water meter not found 51% 1,699  
Water meter found and functional 50% 3,659 +
Water meter found but non-functional 26% 3,659  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 4796-2001 : Water supply - Metal bodied and plastic bodied ball valves for property service connection

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B2 Washing clothes and bedding

Regular washing of clothes and bedding, which helps to remove any bacteria, dirt, fleas, mites and other irritants or infection, can help reduce the incidence of infectious diseases, such as diarrhoeal disease, respiratory infections, scabies and other skin infections.

Providing washing machines is generally seen as the responsibility of residents, however it may be worth considering supplying commercial type washing machines in houses or in a community laundry to ensure access to reliable, large capacity washing machines. Supplying front-loading washing machines could reduce power and water consumption.

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B2.1 Laundry design House IconHouse Icon

Washing clothes and bedding is important to residents and the laundry is likely to be in constant use. A study of laundry use recorded an average of four washing machine loads per day per house (Tietz 1994) and data shows that 75 per cent of surveyed houses had a working washing machine. Therefore a laundry should provide storage space for dirty washing, ample space and services for a washing machine, possibly a dryer, and shelves or cupboards to store cleaning products. Benches, cupboards, floors and wall finishes need to be robust and suited to use in a wet environment. The laundry should also be designed for use by people with disabilities.

A washing machine requires its own taps, waste outlet and power point. If only one set of taps is provided for the washing machine and laundry tub, the machine is more difficult to use, and repeated connecting and disconnecting of the hoses will wear out the fittings. Providing a level, sealed surface for installation of a washing machine will also reduce wear and tear on the machine.

There is no evidence that washing clothes in hot water will achieve improved health outcomes. Given that heating water is one of the major costs of running a house, discuss with the resident capping the hot water tap at the washing machine. This will make more hot water available for washing people and will probably reduce energy bills.

Laundry tubs may be used for many purposes, including storing clothes before or after washing, hand-washing clothes, washing hands, bathing young children, cleaning or filling buckets and large cooking pots, and rinsing fishing or hunting gear. Providing two large laundry tubs can make it easier to carry out more than one of these activities at the same time. Avoid using tubs with built-in plastic or metal cabinets which are prone to rust, can attract cockroaches, and are hard to secure from children.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • there is an accessible space for the washing machine next to the tub, that is at least 900mm wide and at least 700mm deep to suit twin tubs or commercial washing machines and doors should not block any of this space
  • there are taps and a waste outlet, which could be a bypass on the side of the laundry tub, specifically located for the washing machine
  • there is a power point near the washing machine that is located away from the tubs and taps to prevent contact between power cords and water
  • there is at least one 70 litre washing tub next to the washing machine space
  • water can drain from the laundry area floor via a floor drain or external opening when there is a plumbing failure, if the washing machine overflows and for cleaning purposes
  • the grade of the floor will allow a washing machine to be placed and levelled in that position but the floor falls to the drain to prevent water pooling under the washing machine
  • the entire floor area, the floor to wall junctions and the walls behind the tub and washing machine are waterproofed and lined with tiles, laminated sheet product, sheet vinyl or other water-resistant wall linings
  • the floor finish is slip resistant
  • high level, rust-proof shelves are provided for storage of cleaning products.
Consider:
  • providing a double tub or two separate tubs
  • using an flush line tub and providing bench space next to the tub
  • making provision for the washing of children at the laundry tub, see B.14Washing young children - baths and tubs’
  • connecting the laundry taps to the hot water tempering device to prevent scalding, particularly if the laundry tub taps are also used for washing hands or children
  • providing a soap holder and towel hook near the tub
  • using weather protected power points and switches in the laundry with a minimum rating of IP53
  • providing additional space and power points for a clothes dryer or freezer to be kept in the laundry
  • providing circulation space into and within the laundry for use by a person with a disability, 1550mm clear space in front of fixtures, and locating the taps and power points within reach for a person in a wheelchair
  • providing a lockable cupboard for potentially dangerous laundry and cleaning products, and/or a tall broom cupboard or hooks for brooms and mops
  • talking with residents about not using the hot water tap for the washing machine.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • at least one 70 litre tub is installed with dedicated taps, spout and drainage, and that it is secured to the bench top or the wall
  • there is a clear space that is at least a 900mm wide and 700mm deep for the washing machine with dedicated taps and specific waste water outlet, which could be a bypass on the tub
  • the washing machine can be plugged in without running electrical leads under or over taps or the tub, and these can be easily reached by a person in a wheelchair
  • the laundry floor can drain to a floor drain or external point and water will not flow back into the house
  • the area has been waterproofed, the floors and walls are lined with a water-resistant material and the builder has provided a warranty 
  • there is a lockable cupboard for cleaning products
  • benches, cupboards, soap holders, towel rails, additional power points and any other items that have been specified or shown on the drawings have been provided.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • the taps for the washing machine and tubs are working and not leaking, replace washers if the taps are dripping, check the washing machine taps are not left in the fully open position by opening fully, then turning back one turn
  • the drains for the washing machine and tub and the floor drains are working
  • the washing machine pipes are flexible and are not leaking at either end
  • there is a drain pipe from the washing machine to a dedicated drain
  • power points are secured to the wall and are tested as safe
  • the tub and surrounding bench or cabinet are secure and in good condition
  • there is a plug attached by a chain to the laundry tub.

Dusty environments and water with high salt levels will shorten the life of washing machines. To make washing machines last longer in these conditions, consult manufacturers about maintenance costs and factory modifications.

Survey data
Laundry design Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Houses with one laundry 97% 1,674  
Houses with two laundries 1% 1,674  
       
Laundry tub and waste water      
Laundry tub present 98% 3,057  
Laundry tub secure 90% 2,985  
Laundry tub hot water tap functional 70% 3,045  
Laundry tub cold water tap functional 74% 3,047 <
Functional laundry tub waste outlet 89% 3,047  
Laundry tub plug 39% 2,985 +
Laundry floor waste outlet 80% 1,654  
Laundry floor waste outlet functioning 55% 3,608  
Laundry floor graded to waste point 56% 3,610  
Laundry shelf at least 1500mm above floor 42% 3,619  
       
Laundry power points      
No power point  near washing machine 3% 1,652  
Functional washing machine power point 84% 3,605  
Functional weather-protected power point 40% 3,573  
Washing machine power point safely located 89% 3,575  
       
Washing machines      
Washing machine space at least 700mm wide (note―this question has now been changed to 900mm wide) 94% 3,620 +
Houses with a working washing machine 75% 3,616  
Separate taps for washing machine 80% 3,615  
Functional hot water tap 69% 3,541  
Functional cold water tap 75% 3,562  
Functional washing machine drainage 79% 3,579  
Independent washing machine drainage 68% 3,617 +

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 1996, Our Place, 1st ed, pp. 12-13.

Tietz, C 1994, The Washing Machine Report, Transform, Waverley, New South Wales.

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B2.2 Drying clothes and bedding House IconHouse Icon

Some houses do not have a place to dry clothes, bedding or towels. Drying in sunlight is preferable as the ultraviolet light can sterilise clothes and bedding and is also cost-free, unlike an electric clothes dryer that uses a large amount of energy.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • there is an outdoor clothes drying area that is easily accessible from the house.
Consider:
  • installing robust clothes lines around the edge of the house or in the yard where it is accessible from the laundry and gets sunlight and breezes, but is not in full view from the street
  • locating the clothes line in a private screened area
  • in areas with high rainfall, locating clothes lines in covered, ventilated areas such as a verandah, and providing clear roof sheeting over part of this area to help with drying 
  • using a fixed clothes line rather than a rotary or folding clothes line to avoid moving parts
  • providing a slip resistant concrete path or paving to, and around, the clothes line to prevent ground erosion and improve access to the line
  • providing lighting to the path and to the drying area
  • designing the path to provide access for people using a wheelchair or mobility frame
  • installing a lower level clothes line, or a line that can be lowered, for use by people with disabilities.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the clothes line is installed where specified
  • the clothes line is securely fixed in the ground or to a wall
  • the paths to and around the clothes line are accessible
  • the clothes lines have been tensioned.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check that clothes lines are functioning
  • tighten loose lines
  • replace rusted or broken lines
  • repair or clean path to clothes line.
Survey data
Drying clothes and bedding Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Area available and secure for drying clothes    
No fenced yard 31% 3,661
Yard area at least 900 square metres 37% 3,661
Yard area less than 900 square metres 33% 3661
Functional yard fence and gates 41% 2,952
     
Weather conditions suitable for drying clothes at time of survey    
Fine and sunny 69% 3,660
Cloudy or rain 26% 3,660
Strong winds 2% 3,660
     
Areas around the house able to be used for drying clothes    
No verandah 16% 3,661
Verandah on one side of the house 30% 3,661
Verandah on two sides of the house 35% 3,661
Verandah on three sides of the house 10% 3,661
Verandah on four sides of the house 8% 3,661

Note: This data focuses on access to drying areas that are currently available in the surveyed houses; there are no survey data on the availability of clothes lines.

Standards and references

Pholeros, P 1991, AP Design Guide, Building for Health on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, p. 35.

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B3 Removing waste water safely

Waste water in the living environment can make people sick. If people come into direct contact with waste water, or if their water supply is contaminated with waste water, there is a greater risk of transmitting bacteria and virus that cause disease. These risks are also increased if animals, vermin or insects that have been in direct contact with waste water can pass bacteria on to people.

Removing waste water safely from the house and surrounding living area, and managing it safely at a community level, is important for people’s health. This section discusses essential items of waste water health hardware in the house and surrounding living area.

Communal waste water systems that take waste water from the surrounding living area and treat it at a central point are discussed in section C3 ‘Waste water’.

A household waste water disposal system must include the following components:

  • a toilet
  • drains from baths, showers, basins, sinks, laundry tubs and floors in these areas
  • a floor drain and a grate to prevent objects going down the drains and blocking the pipes
  • water trap or seal on each drain, which is a water-filled bend in the pipe under the drain to prevent bad smells spreading from the drain into the house
  • drainage pipes that connect and fall to a main house drain located in the yard, which flows into a system for treating and disposing of the waste water
  • inspection openings in the drainage pipes and house drain, for maintenance removing blockages
  • vent pipes that discharge above the roof to remove bad smelling and volatile gases from the drain pipes
  • an overflow relief gully for waste water to discharge into the yard and prevent overflow into the house if there is a blockage in the drain pipes.

These components need to be regularly maintained. Approximately 70 per cent of all maintenance funding used during Housing for Health projects over the past 12 years has been spent on fixing waste water drainage components.

Waste water from houses is described as ‘black water’ or ‘grey water’. Black water is waste water from the toilet. Grey water is waste water from the shower, laundry, basins and kitchen. Grey water can account for up to 90 per cent of the waste water from a house. Research10 has shown that grey water is not the ‘safe’ part of the waste water produced by the house as was commonly assumed. If grey water is not properly collected, treated and disposed of, it may have negative health effects on residents.


10Khalife, MA, Dharmappa, HB & Sivakumara, M 1997, Safe Disposal of Waste water in Remote Aboriginal Communities, University of Wollongong, Wollongong.

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B3.1 Flush toilets House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Flush toilets are a simple and hygienic way to remove black water from the house. Low water use dual flush cisterns are very efficient and a regular maintenance program to prevent leaking cisterns will also reduce water consumption.

It is recommended that each house should have at least one toilet, located separately from other wet area facilities, and in a lockable cubicle.

It is also important that a hand washing facility is provided either adjacent to the toilet or immediately outside the toilet area. Washing hands after using the toilet is important in preventing the spread of disease, particularly hepatitis.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • there is at least one toilet in the house
  • if the toilet is in a separate cubicle, the cubicle has a minimum depth of 1250mm in front of the toilet and 900mm clear width excluding door swings and fixtures, to allow use by people with disabilities and an adult assisting a child
  • there is a hand washing facility, either a basin or tub, inside the cubicle or immediately outside
  • a dual flush cistern is used and the pan is compatible with the cistern
  • a stop valve for the toilet cistern is specified to allow the cistern to be turned off for maintenance
  • there is an external inspection opening for maintaining the toilet drain
  • the pan is properly bedded and securely fixed to the floor and the cistern and pipes are securely fixed to the pan or wall
  • there is a toilet roll holder
  • the door is fitted with a privacy lock that can be unlocked from the outside in an emergency
  • inward opening doors have lift-off hinges that doors are cut down to allow easy removal in an emergency
  • the cubicle has natural light and ventilation and an electric light
  • there is storage for spare toilet rolls and toilet brushes at a level away from the reach of young children and animals
  • there is provision in the structure of the walls for grab rails in accordance with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility
  • toilets are fitted in accordance with AS/NZS 3500.5:2000 : National Plumbing and Drainage - Domestic installations.
Consider:
  • providing a second toilet that may be accessed from outside living areas
  • using a plastic cistern that is less likely to be damaged during transport to remote locations
  • using a 6/3 litre, six litres for a full flush and three litres for a half flush, or approved lower dual flush cistern
  • providing a floor waste drain to prevent flooding in the house if the toilet overflows and to make it easier to clean the floor, using a 100mm diameter water charged floor waste drain with falls to the waste point
  • fitting hand rails next to the toilet for the frail aged and people with disabilities
  • providing at least one toilet that complies fully with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility, or that can be adapted in the future for use by the frail aged and people with disabilities.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • a dual flush cistern has been provided and that the cistern and pan are compatible
  • a cistern stop valve is installed
  • a toilet roll holder is securely attached to the wall and there is high storage
  • a hand basin is provided nearby
  • provision has been made for future fitting of grab rails.
Before making the final payment, trade test that:
  • the pan is secure
  • the pipes are stable and drain away from the house, and have been tested before backfilling
  • inspection openings and vents comply with local regulations.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • the stop valve is operating and is not permanently open due to build up of mineral salts
  • the toilet can be flushed and the cistern refills in less than three minutes
  • the pan does not move when pushed gently from side to side and it is not cracked
  • the door and privacy lock are secure
  • the toilet roll holder is secure and there is a supply of toilet paper that can be stored out of the reach of children and animals
  • the floor waste drain is functional
  • ventilation, such as a window, can be opened and closed.
Survey data
Flush toilets Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Single flush cistern 37% 3,639  
Dual flush cistern 63% 3,639 <
Full flush test OK (a standard test used on every toilet) 86% 3,639  
Cistern fully refills in less than three minutes 82% 3,638  
Functional toilet cistern 77% 3,640  
Functional toilet pan 83% 3,645  
Functional toilet cistern stop valve 77% 3,639  
Functional toilet door and lock 66% 3,660  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3500.5:2000 : National Plumbing and Drainage - Domestic installations

Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Healthabitat and Pormpuraaw Community Council 1997, Pormpuraaw Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Cape York Communities, project report, p. 35.

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P. 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, p. 45.

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B3.2 House drains House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

An effective functioning drainage system should safely remove waste water from the house. Each fitting and drain should collect waste water and drain it from the house to the treatment system.  It is essential that all parts of the drainage system, including pipe sizes, fittings and falls are designed and constructed as specified and are well maintained.

The data show that, in over a quarter of surveyed houses, there were obvious signs in the yard area that the waste water drainage system had failed. Seventy three per cent of houses showed no sign of drainage system failure in the yard area.

Survey data on the diameter of the shower drain, which is usually the highest water-using area of the house, show that only 64 per cent of houses had the recommended 100 mm diameter floor drain.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • there are floor drains in all wet areas and that a 100mm diameter drain is used
  • each floor drain has a grate to prevent objects blocking the drain
  • the size of all drain pipes is noted on the drawings and the pipes are sized according to plumbing and drainage standards
  • inspection openings are noted on the drawings
  • a vent at the top of drainage lines is shown on the drawings, as required
  • if a waste stack is used for a double storey house, it is vented
  • the position of the overflow relief gully is shown on the drawings and it is not near a door or outside the kitchen window
  • if ‘P-traps’ are used for any fixtures, the exposed pipe is protected from accidental damage
  • drains are installed in accordance with AS/NZS 3500.5:2000 : National Plumbing and Drainage - Domestic installations.

Quality control

Ensure:

  • the building contract includes a requirement that all drainage works be inspected and tested before trenches are backfilled
  • that these drainage inspections are undertaken by a plumbing inspector with qualifications to certify the works.
During construction check:
  • the drains have been set out as shown on the drawings
  • the exposed tops and ends of drain pipes are covered and sealed to prevent concrete and rubbish getting into the pipes and causing blockages
  • barriers are erected to prevent falls into the drainage trenches or damage to the pipes
  • all drains have the required fall in the direction that the water has to flow
  • the size of drains gets bigger, not smaller, in the direction that the water will be flowing
  • drains that are suspended under houses are supported at regular intervals with brackets and hangers, and that in coastal areas, brackets that will not rust are used
  • vent pipes, overflow relief gully and inspection openings have been installed
  • exposed drains, stacks, gullies and vent pipes are protected from accidental damage by vehicles, mowers and weed cutters
  • where any tiling is being installed in the house, check floor drains carefully to ensure that left over grout, used to seal between the tiles, has not washed down the house drains
  • drains are water tested before backfilling and ensure all grates are fitted to floor drains after testing
  • that downpipes from the roof gutters are not connected to the waste water disposal system.
Before making the final payment, check that:
  • the plumber has provided a trade certificate for the works
  • the works have been tested and approved by a plumbing inspector
  • ‘as-built’ drawings are provided on completion of the works.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • run water through all drains to check they are working properly; if the drains overflow or there are leaks under or around the house, contact a plumber to check and fix the drains
  • check that caps are fitted on all inspection openings and replace any missing caps; if the caps are frequently being removed by children, consider using a small amount of silicone or a screw on the outside of the caps to secure them but remember that a plumber needs to be able to remove the inspection opening cap for maintenance access
  • check the grates on floor drains and drains in fixtures, such as the basin drain and kitchen sink, are in place to prevent blockages and replace missing or broken grates
  • check that there is a mesh cap on the top of all vent pipes
  • check the grate is in place on the overflow relief gully.
Survey data
House drains Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
All drainage around the house OK (this question records if drainage failures are obvious in the yard area around the house) 73% 3,662
Shower waste drain at least 100 mm diameter (smaller drains increase the chance of blockage) 64% 3,639

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3500.5:2000 :  National Plumbing and Drainage - Domestic installations

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B3.3 Septic tanks, common effluent drains and on-site effluent disposal systems House IconHouse Icon

Septic systems are commonly used to treat waste water. Septic systems might include one tank that combines all black and grey water or two tanks that divide the black and grey water. A grease trap may be installed on the kitchen drain to prevent grease or food solids getting into the septic system.

Waste water is treated by bacteria that live in the septic tank. The longer the water is held in the tank, the better the treatment. Crowded households may produce large quantities of grey water from constant use of the washing machine, shower and bath. If a large amount of grey water is constantly produced, it will shorten the treatment time of waste water in the septic tank. It may be necessary to provide a larger tank or two tanks to ensure the waste water receives sufficient treatment time. Leaking taps also increase the amount of water entering the septic system and can further reduce treatment time. 

Treated waste water is called ‘effluent’. In some communities, the effluent is piped from each house to a collection point for further treatment and disposal. This is called a Common Effluent Drain system (CED). Effluent disposal can also occur at the house site through absorption trenches, which consist of underground trenches that allow the water to soak into the ground. Other types of on-site effluent disposal systems may be used in specific soil type and climatic conditions, such as a high rainfall or high water table, including evapo-transpiration beds or mounds, sand filters, and soakage wells. Waste water from septic tanks can also be drained to underground irrigation systems to water shade trees, ground covers, fruit trees or shrubs.

Septic systems may fail because of poor design and construction, insufficient maintenance, damage by cars, lawn mowers, backhoes, edge trimmers and fires or because they are too small for the population in the house. Septic systems that match the household size are a cost effective and relatively low maintenance way to treat and assist in the disposal of waste water in remote areas.

Data show that septic tanks are used in almost half of the surveyed houses (42 per cent). These systems treat water that may then be disposed of by either common effluent drain systems or local disposal of waste water in the house yard.

Design and specification

When designing the waste water system, take into account:
  • the advantages of septic tanks over deep sewer systems or other types of waste water treatment
  • the majority of waste water to be treated will be grey water and therefore, composting toilets designed to treat toilet or black waste water will not reduce the need for grey water treatment
  • the number of people, including visitors, that will occupy the house, to calculate the number and size of septic tanks that will be required
  • the soil type, natural drainage and flood patterns to determine the best disposal system and the disposal area required and arrange to have the soil tested. Get a geotechnical report if you are not sure.
  • state, territory and local government requirements for septic tank systems. 
Ensure:
  • the tank(s) have the capacity to deal with peak population loads
  • if used, soakage trenches have the capacity to deal with peak population loads and are designed to suit the soil type and climatic conditions
  • the soakage trench base has a slight fall away from the drain
  • the tank and trenches, if used, are protected from vehicle access by using mounds, fences or slabs
  • if using a grease trap, that the size of the grease trap and length of the trench is adequate for the load and soil conditions
  • permeable materials such as gravel, but not sand or soil, are used to backfill disposal trenches and form mounds
  • the tanks, trenches and grease trap can be accessed by a pump out truck for maintenance
  • septic tanks are installed in accordance with AS/NZS 1546.1:1998 On-site domestic wastewater treatment units - Septic tanks.
Consider:
  • providing a septic tank of at least 4000 litre capacity, using two tanks of 2000 litres each plumbed (connected) ‘in series’, or having separate tanks for black and grey water
  • including a ‘resting trench’ to assist with peak loads and extend the life of the disposal field
  • implementing strategies to prevent flooding of the septic system by stormwater, such as grading the site away from the septic system and installing cut-off stormwater drains, absorption pits and gutters
  • facing the waste water disposal area in a sunny part of the yard area to improve evaporation rates
  • using a distribution box to spread effluent evenly between all effluent disposal trenches
  • in areas with a high rainfall or high water table, using evapo-transpiration mounds rather than absorption trenches
  • locating the septic tank and effluent disposal area down wind of the house, to minimise smells entering the house
  • using spreader bars on the bottom of the trench doming to prevent collapse and maximise the effluent disposal area
  • using single bollard barriers around septic tanks and effluent disposal fields to prevent vehicle access, but allow maintenance access
  • using products in effluent disposal trenches that allow traffic to drive over them without causing collapse or damage.

Quality control

Ensure:

  • building contracts include a requirement that all septic tank and effluent disposal works be inspected and tested before being backfilled
  • organise for these septic tank and effluent disposal inspections to be undertaken by an inspector with qualifications to certify the works.
During construction, check that:
  • layout plans for all services are provided before construction commences
  • openings are covered and barriers are erected to prevent people falling into the septic tank during construction
  • the septic system construction is supervised, ideally by three inspectors:
  • state or territory health department or local council
  • building project supervisor
  • local environmental health worker
  • vehicle barriers are erected around effluent disposal trenches during and immediately after construction, to prevent damage by builders’ and residents’ vehicles 
  • drains have been water tested before backfilling.
Before making the final payment, check that:
  • ‘as-built’ drawings are provided on completion of the works
  • the plumber has provided the certificate of plumbing and septic tank installation required by local, state or territory regulations
  • the size of the septic tank(s) and length of trenches is as specified and/or shown on the drawings
  • the total length of soakage trenches is suited to local regulations, soil type and climate
  • the falls of all pipes and trenches are as specified
  • trench materials have been installed to the manufacturer’s specification, including the use of spreader bars on trench doming
  • the septic tank and effluent disposal trenches can be accessed for pump out and maintenance
  • the yard is graded to direct stormwater away from the waste water system and to drain waste water away from the house if the waste water system fails
  • the separation between parallel trenches is approximately 2500mm 
  • there is an inspection opening at the end of all effluent disposal drainage lines
  • down pipes are not connected or discharging to the waste water system
  • a distribution box is provided to ensure that waste flows evenly to soakage trenches, and is accessible for maintenance.
Before making the final payment, trade test:
  • the septic system by passing at least 2000 litres of water through the system ―this will indicate leaks or poor grading of pipes and trenches and allow for fixing before the handover of the house.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check thatthe lid and covers to inspection openings on the septic tank are secure
  • if lids are broken or in poor condition replace them to prevent people accidentally falling into the tank
  • check that the septic tank is in good condition and if there is any evidence of the tank leaking, organise for a plumber to inspect and replace the tank, if necessary
  • check that the downpipes from the roof have not been connected to the waste water system and that water running off the roof does not flood the area near the septic tank or the effluent disposal area
  • every six to 12 months, check whether the septic tank or grease trap needs to be pumped out and organise a pump out if required
  • inspect effluent disposal trenches every two to three years to check they are working properly, they should be damp but not full of water, and organise for new trenches to be built if the trenches have failed
  • ensure a fence or barrier is in place to prevent vehicle damage to the septic tanks and trenches.

If a house that has a septic system is subsequently connected to a sewer system or an alternative waste water system, it may be necessary to ‘decommission’ the septic tank. In this circumstance, ask a waste disposal contractor to remove all waste from the tank and effluent disposal trenches. If possible, remove the tank and effluent disposal trenches from the site and fill the area with sand. If access to the septic tank is restricted, at least remove the lid of the septic tank and demolish the bottom of the tank to allow drainage. Backfill the remaining tank cavity with compacted sand.

Survey data
Septic systems and on-site waste disposal Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No waste water system 3% 3,658  
Septic system 42% 3,658 ++
Septic tank and common effluent drain system 28% 3,658  
Septic tank and soakage trenches 14% 3,658  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 1546.1:1998 : On-site domestic wastewater treatment units - Septic tanks

Department of Natural Resources 1999, Interim Code of Practice for On-Site Sewerage Facilities, Queensland Government Printer, Brisbane.

Khalife, MA, Dharmappa, HB & Sivakumara, M 1998, “An Evaluation of Septic Tank Performance in a Remote Australian Village Provides Insight for Optimizing Onsite Treatment Systems”, Journal of Water Environment Research, Edition 4, Volume 10, USA, Water Environment Federation, pp 33-36

Mandurah Shire Council, Health (Treatment of Sewage and Disposal of Effluent and Liquid Waste) Regulations 2005 Decommissioning of Septic Tanks, City of Mandurah, WA

Martin, M. 2005, Septic Tanks and Absorption, Bush Tech #27, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Marshall, G 2004 Monitoring of septic tanks on Central Australia remote Aboriginal communities, NT Department of Health and Community Services in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns, Alice Springs

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, pp. 25, 76-80.

South Australia Department of Health guidelines available at: http://www.dh.sa.gov.au/pehs/branches/wastewater/maintain-septic-tank.htm

Northern Territory Department of Health guidelines available at: http://www.nt.gov.au/

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B3.4 Aerated waste water treatment systems House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Aerated waste water treatment systems use bacteria to treat waste in one or two tanks before pumping the treated water out for local disposal. The treated water can be used to irrigate gardens through underground systems, but must not be used in sprinklers or micro-sprays because there is a risk of contamination.

An aerated waste water treatment system must have electricity to pump air into the treatment tanks and pump out the effluent. This type of waste water system requires regular doses of chlorine and three-monthly maintenance by a specialist or a trained local operator. Before specifying an aerated waste water treatment system or any other package treatment system, confirm that these essential criteria can be met. Also confirm that the system will work with the water quality and average household population.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the system components, tank and below ground irrigation lines, are big enough to deal with peak population loads
  • the soil is suitable for below ground effluent disposal
  • reliable electricity is available
  • maintenance staff are available and affordable for the chlorine dosing and three-monthly service
  • irrigation lines are below ground
  • the tanks and irrigation lines are protected from vehicles
  • that an overflow system has been incorporated to ensure that the waste water does not flow into the house yard if the system fails
  • the tanks and irrigation lines can be accessed for maintenance.
  • the system is installed in accordance with AS/NZS 1546.3 2001 On-site domestic wastewater treatment units - Aerated waste water treatment systems.
Consider:
  • irrigating a sunny area of the yard to improve evaporation rates
  • locating the tanks down wind of the house to minimise odours entering the house.

Quality control

Ensure:

  • that building contracts include a requirement that all in-ground drainage works be inspected and tested before they are backfilled
  • organise for these in-ground drainage work inspections to be undertaken by an inspector with qualifications to certify the works.
During construction check that:
  • the manufacturer has certified the design of the system to suit the water quality, household population and climate and that the design has been approved by local or state/territory authorities for use in this area
  • layout plans for all services are provided before construction commences
  • openings are covered and barriers are erected to prevent people falling into the tanks or excavations during construction
  • construction of the system is supervised, ideally by three inspectors:
    • state or territory health department or local council
    • building supervisor
    • community environmental health worker or other health worker
  • vehicle barriers are erected around the works during and immediately after construction to prevent access by builders’ and residents’ vehicles.
Before making the final payment, check that:
  • electricity is connected to the system and all moving parts are working
  • ‘as-built’ drawings are provided on completion of the works
  • the plumber provides the certificate of plumbing and aerated system installation required by local, state or territory regulations
  • total length of irrigation lines is suited to local regulations, population and climate
  • the tanks and irrigation lines are accessible for maintenance
  • the yard is graded to direct stormwater away from the system and to ensure that waste water will drain away from the living area if the waste water system fails.

Before making the final payment, trade test the aerated waste water system by passing at least 2000 litres of water through the system - this will indicate performance of pumps, leaks or poor grading of pipes and allow for fixing before the handover of the house.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • refill the chlorine required by the system, as recommended by the manufacturer
  • ensure the entire system is serviced by a licensed contractor every three months or as required by the manufacturer.
Survey data
Septic systems and on-site waste disposal Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Houses using an aerated waste water system 1% 3,658

Standards and references

AS/NZS 1546.3 2001 On-site domestic wastewater treatment units-Aerated waste water treatment systems

Downs, S 1997, Aerobic Waste Water Treatment Systems in Aboriginal Communities (draft report), Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs.

Khalife, M 2001, Waste water workshop, sponsored by the Aboriginal Housing Authority of South Australia and Nganampa Health Council Inc.

Marshall, G 2000, ‘Sewage’ in G. Harris (ed.) Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, Northern Territory, pp. 107-20.

Marshall, G 1998, Sewerage Systems in Remote Indigenous Communities, cat. no. 98/8ex, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs.

Van Dok, W 2000, ‘The Water-efficient Garden: A Guide to Sustainable Landscaping in Australia’, Water-efficient Gardenscapes, Glen Waverley, Victoria.

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B3.5 Dry toilets House IconHouse Icon

Dry toilets do not use water and can be useful where water supply is extremely limited. There are two types of dry toilets: pit toilets with waste going directly into a hole in the ground or pit, and composting toilets where waste goes into a sealed container or cavity installed above the ground or in the ground. A dry toilet can be a useful addition to a flush toilet for crowded households. Dry toilets do not usually dispose of grey water.

The advantage of a pit toilet is that it is cheap to construct, requires little maintenance and has no moving parts. Disadvantages include the need to dig a large hole and to relocate the toilet when the pit is full. In high rainfall areas with a high water table, the pit will need to be lined to avoid collapse, can fill up with water, may smell and may pollute the water supply.

Composting toilets cost more to build and require regular maintenance. However, a composting toilet that is well constructed and sized to match the house population will not produce much odour and can be used for many years. Since composting toilets are located above a compost container, this often requires stairs and can make access difficult for people with limited mobility.

As with any other toilet, dry toilets need toilet roll holders, privacy locks, light, good ventilation, and a high shelf for toilet roll storage. A hand washing point should be provided near the dry toilet to prevent the spread of disease. Survey data show that five per cent of surveyed houses had a dry toilet.

Design and specification

When specifying and installing a pit toilet, ensure that:
  • it is located away from water courses and bores, check local building regulations for recommended distances from a water source, but as a guide a minimum of 100m is recommended
  • the bottom of the pit is above the highest water table level
  • the pit is fully lined if it is close to a bore or water course or if there is a high water table
  • the pit is well vented, drawing air into the pit through the toilet bowl and exhausting air via a dark coloured pipe exposed to the sun that will act as a thermal chimney extending above the roof line, to ensure smells are taken away.
When specifying and installing a composting toilet, ensure that:
  • the residents are comfortable with the idea of emptying the chamber and disposing of the compost material, and that this does not conflict with any cultural beliefs
  • the type and size of toilet is suited to the household population and expected fluctuations in usage
  • the residents have the resources and skills to undertake necessary maintenance
  • if the toilet requires a fan, electricity is available
  • there is enough space under the building to install, access and maintain the compost chamber.
When specifying any dry toilet system, ensure that:
  • it is conveniently located for use by residents
  • it is down wind of living areas
  • it has natural and electric lighting
  • there is adequate natural ventilation
  • a locking door, toilet roll holder and shelf are provided in the cubicle
  • hand washing facilities are provided near the toilet
  • the pit or chamber and vent are protected by fly screens.
Consider:
  • building a path between the house and the toilet, which is slip resistant and accessible to people with disabilities
  • using a self-closing toilet lid, to provide more protection against flies
  • designing the cubicle to comply with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility, and locating the hand washing point that can be accessed by people with disabilities
  • providing the capacity to install grab rails in the future.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the toilet and cubicle are built as specified
  • the composting toilet has been installed to the manufacturer’s requirements and a certificate has been provided
  • there is access to the composting chamber for maintenance
  • it is not possible for stormwater to enter the pit or container
  • the toilet pan and lid are stable and secure
  • the toilet roll holder and shelf are securely attached to the wall
  • there is a hand washing point nearby
  • if specified, the installations are accessible for people with disabilities.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • the pan does not move when pushed gently from side to side
  • the door and privacy locks are secure
  • the toilet roll holder is secure
  • fly screens are intact and preventing access for insects or vermin
  • there is a water supply to the hand basin.
As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • move the pit toilet every five to 10 years, depending on the level of use
  • empty the waste container of a composting toilet regularly, most systems require emptying every 6  to 12 months.
Survey data
Septic systems and on-site waste disposal Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
In-ground pit toilet 2% 1,961
Contained composting toilet 3% 1,961

Standards and references

Martin, M. 2004, Waterless Composting Toilets, Bush Tech #23, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Martin, M. 2003. Pit Toilets, Bush-Tech 15, Our Place Magazine. Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Martin, M. 2002. Choosing the right toilet, Bush-Tech 15, Our Place Magazine. Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Khalife, MA, Dharmappa, HB & Sivakumara, M 1998, “An Evaluation of Septic Tank Performance in a Remote Australian Village Provides Insight for Optimizing Onsite Treatment Systems”, Journal of Water Environment Research, Edition 4, Volume 10, USA, Water Environment Federation, pp 33-36

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B4 Improving nutrition – the ability to store, prepare and cook food

Indigenous people have high rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease. The primary determinants of these conditions are poor diet and lack of exercise. Poor nutrition is also a critical determinant of infectious diseases in children. In remote locations, changing to a healthy diet is complicated by factors such as low household income, high cost of food, local store management practices, and the ability to store, prepare and cook food at home.

A reliable water supply is critical for improving nutrition. Drinking water is essential for life and potable water is also required for cooking and mixing food, cleaning food utensils and cooking equipment, and for washing teeth and dental appliances.

When designing a house, consult residents about their cooking preferences. Consider the type of foods that are stocked in the local store and find out what foods might be gathered from gardens, the sea or the bush. Find out how many people are likely to use the house, whether these people belong to different family or generational groups, what traditions the family observe about the cooking and eating of food, and whether the kitchen might be used by people with disabilities. Ask about how food is prepared and what types of stoves, ovens, appliances and utensils are used for cooking. This information indicates the ways that food might be stored, prepared and cooked in and around the house and is essential for the design of indoor and outdoor kitchens that will suit the needs of residents.

The survey data show that only about five per cent of houses have all the health hardware needed to perform this fundamental healthy living practice. Most kitchen areas in surveyed houses showed poor design and construction, use of poor quality materials and health hardware, and a lack of maintenance. The poorest performing items in the house were:

  • the kitchen bench material
  • the splash back behind the kitchen sink
  • a lack of high level storage out of the reach of children and animals
  • the performance of all parts of the stove and oven
  • the performance of refrigerators and freezers, if they were available.

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B4.1 Quality of drinking water House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Many Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas do not have access to drinking water. In extreme circumstances, the water will not be safe to drink because it contains micro-biological contaminants that can cause acute gastric disease and other illnesses. When the water is safe to drink, it is called ‘potable’ water, but it may taste ‘bad’. Poor tasting water can have an impact on health, nutrition and household costs because:

  • cordial might be added to water to hide the bad taste or people might drink soft drinks instead of water, and both these products contain high levels of sugar
  • if expensive bottled water or soft drinks are purchased, this reduces the money available to buy healthy foods
  • people may drink less fluid than required for healthy living.

In communities where the water quality is poor, consider ways to provide a small volume of quality drinking water to at least one tap in the kitchen, such as installing household filters or providing a rainwater tank connected to the kitchen. A micro-reverse osmosis unit, which converts a small quantity of poor quality water into potable water, may be an option.

It should be emphasised that small-scale technologies such as micro-reverse osmosis units require a regular maintenance regime in order to be effective. Similarly, unless membrane and filter drinking water treatment devices are properly maintained they can become contaminated and may provide a false sense of security to residents trying to protect themselves from poor water quality.

Rainwater tanks are low-maintenance, requiring only simple skills when compared to other water system options and treatment methods. Although badly maintained rainwater tanks are potentially a health risk, well-maintained supplies can provide a valuable source of good quality drinking water for the life of the infrastructure (up to 15-20 years).

Survey data show that just over a quarter of houses surveyed had a rainwater tank (26 per cent) and less than half the houses had guttering and downpipes that could be linked to a rainwater tank.

For more information about water quality, see section C1.1 ‘Water quality and treatment systems’.

Design and specification

If providing rainwater tanks for drinking water, ensure that:
  • tanks, water pipes and taps are located where they will not be at risk of damage by vehicles, mowers and weed cutters
  • the roof area is kept clean by pruning any over hanging trees, avoiding the use of roof mounted evaporative coolers, and ensuring roof-mounted hot water systems do not discharge overflow water onto the roof or into the gutters
  • a first flush diverter is fitted to the rainwater tank to divert polluted roof water away from the tank and the diverter can handle large volumes of water if the roof area is greater than 250m2.
  • the rainwater is filtered before it reaches the kitchen tap
  • the main tap or outlet is slightly above the bottom of the tank to allow any contaminants to settle and do not pollute the water as it is taken from the tank
  • a second outlet is fitted at the bottom of the tank to allow it to be fully emptied for cleaning and de-sludging
  • fittings, taps, strainers and first flush diverters are accessible for maintenance and cleaning
  • all openings are screened with mesh to keep out insects, frogs, birds and vermin
  • water from the first flush diverter and tank overflow is directed to a garden area or a drain to prevent pooling that can lead to mosquito breeding or erosion 
  • a pressure pump, or a hand pump for reduced maintenance, is fitted and has the capacity to supply drinking water to the house but gravity systems are simpler than a pressure pump and require less maintenance
  • skills are available on the community to provide maintenance for pressure pumps
  • if the tank will be located on a stand, the stand has been designed and certified by an engineer to suit the soil and wind conditions
  • the rainwater tank is secure, ‘tied down’, in high wind areas, remember that it may not always be full of water
  • a non-return valve is fitted if the tank’s water is connected to a mains water supply
  • the house has a back-up drinking water option in case the tank becomes contaminated, is taken off line for cleaning and maintenance, or if power is not available to an electric pressure pump; options could include a second tank or mains water connection.
If installing household water filters or treatment systems, ensure that:
  • the type of filter or treatment system that is specified will actually improve the water quality, for example, the filter will remove the pollutants making the water taste bad or will remove any bacteriological contaminants
  • the filter or treatment system is placed in an accessible position to allow cartridges to be easily replaced and to enable the filter to be maintained
  • replacement cartridges and parts are available locally and are affordable
  • if the system depends on electricity, such as a pressure pump, there is sufficient treated water stored for the household to use during a power outage, or there is an alternative water supply, such as a rainwater tank.

Quality control

For rainwater tanks, before making the final payment, check that:
  • the rainwater tank and fittings have been installed correctly, are well secured, with down pipes and roof gutters able to supply the tank
  • there is water in the tank for testing the system
  • a first flush diverter is installed and is working
  • left-over building materials and rubbish have been removed from the roof
  • rainwater is piped from the tank to the kitchen with a pump, where required
  • the position of the taps and outlets means that most of the tank water can be used and the tank can be emptied for maintenance
  • a non-return valve is fitted, if appropriate
  • entry and overflow points to the rainwater tank are screened with mesh.
For household water filters or treatment systems, before making the final payment, check that:
  • the filter or treatment system has been installed correctly, can be accessed for maintenance and has been certified by the plumber or supplier
  • the water is potable when it comes out of the filter, based on a water quality test.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, test:
  • the quality of the water from the rainwater tank or household filter and treatment system.
For rainwater tanks, as part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check and clean the rainwater collection system, including roof, gutters, down pipes, inlet points and tank overflow
  • secure, repair or replace broken or rusted gutters or down pipes
  • empty and clean the inside of rainwater tanks to remove the build up of algae and sediment or after a known contamination event, the tank should be rinsed with chlorine after cleaning to return to a sanitary condition
  • check that the rainwater tank tap is working and change the washer, if necessary
  • check and repair the mesh screens to inlet points and tank overflow
  • empty the first flush diverter and check that it is working.
For household water filters or treatment systems, as part of cyclical maintenance:
  • replace the cartridge or other replaceable parts in household filters and treatment system
  • associated pressure pumps should be regularly tested and the electrics checked.
Survey data
Drinking water quality Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Rainwater tank 26% 3,099
Rainwater tank functional 20% 3,099
Gutters and down pipes present 49% 1,699
Gutters and down pipes present and functional 33% 1,699

Standards and references

CAT (Centre for Appropriate Technology). 2006. How to Look After Your Rainwater - Pictorial publication for remote Indigenous communities managing rainwater tanks. Alice Springs: Centre for Appropriate Technology.

CAT (Centre for Appropriate Technology) and CRCWQT (Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment). 2006. Rainwater Tanks in Remote Australia. Centre for Appropriate Technology, 'Our Place' Magazine 27:insert.

Grey-Gardner R, A Wright and S Boyce 2006. Harvesting Water that Falls on Country: Planning for rainwater tanks in remote Australia. Alice Springs: Centre for Appropriate Technology

EnHealth Council. 2004. Guidance on the use of rainwater tanks: Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing

Plazinska, A.J. 2001. Microbiological Quality of Rainwater in Several Communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands in South Australia. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.:35

Centre for Appropriate Technology ‘Rainwater harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #4, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002 Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/btb4.pdf

Tietz, C 2001, Report on existing and available automatic rainwater first flush devices and gutter guards, Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs.

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B4.2 Food storage House IconHouse Icon

The ability to store food safely and hygienically will reduce household costs because less food is wasted; more money is available for groceries, which improves the household’s diet and nutrition. To store food, residents need storage that is cool, dry, well ventilated and protected from dogs, rodents, insects and other pests.

Cupboards need to be built out of waterproof materials that are resistant to rot and insect infestation. Some residents also need a lockable food pantry.

A properly functioning refrigerator is also an essential item of health hardware for storage because it allows people to store meats and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and eggs, which are important for good nutrition. A poorly functioning refrigerator can spoil food, consume high amounts of energy use and reduce the household budget. Studies have shown that refrigerators of identical size can cost anywhere from 60 cents to $2 a day to run, depending on efficiency and the condition of door seals.

The refrigerator and food storage cupboards need to be accessible for all members of the household, including people with disabilities.

Survey data show that combined refrigerator/freezers were available to less than 75 per cent of households. Although improved since 2003, less than half (47 per cent) of the fridge compartments in these appliances within surveyed houses could store food at an acceptable temperature. The number of surveyed houses with the freezer compartments in these appliances operating at an acceptable temperature (67 per cent) also improved since 2003.

The number of houses with storage above bench height, which is out of reach of young children, animals, insect and vermin, improved since 2003, was only available in around a third of all surveyed households (38 per cent).

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • cupboard materials are resistant to water penetration, mould, rot and insect infestation, consider sealed plywood, recycled plastic, and other resistant materials
  • under-bench cupboards have doors to prevent access by children and animals
  • there are at least two linear metres of cupboards or shelves built above bench height for storage of food or utensils out of the reach of children and animals, and that under-bench storage with doors is accessible for people with disabilities
  • there is a space within the kitchen for a refrigerator that is at least 800mm wide, is well ventilated, and protected from heat sources such as direct sun through a window, an uninsulated western wall, or the heat of a stove or oven
  • there is a power point in the refrigerator space that is on a dedicated power circuit, fitted with an RCD (residual current device), and accessible when the refrigerator is in place
  • the entire kitchen area is well ventilated and well lit, to prevent the build up of mould and to deter cockroaches and vermin
  • cupboard handles are D-type, and are located towards the top of under-bench cupboards and towards the bottom of overhead cupboards for easy access.
For cupboards, consider:
  • using screened vents or panels of mesh in doors to ventilate cupboards and pantries and to keep insects and vermin out
  • building all cupboards and drawers a minimum of 300mm off the floor to deter vermin and make it easier to clean the floor
  • in tropical areas, using mesh shelves to improve ventilation, prevent mould, and stop cockroaches
  • fitting a high level, secure cupboard for dangerous items such as cleaning products and medicines, and having a secure cupboard that is accessible for people with disabilities
  • providing animal and vermin proof food storage areas in bedrooms in multi-family households.
For refrigerators, consider:
  • providing adequate space for large, energy-efficient refrigerators in all houses
  • liaising with the local store to ensure they stock energy-efficient refrigerators
  • providing additional space and power points in the kitchen or laundry area for an additional freezer
  • providing additional screened vents in the floor, walls and ceiling around the refrigerator space to improve the performance and energy efficiency of the appliance
  • providing a lockable, ventilated, walk-in pantry with extra space for a refrigerator or freezer, in households where food security is an issue for residents.
Consider making provision for people with disabilities to access storage areas, including:
  • providing a clear circulation space of at least 1550mm in the kitchen
  • having lower or adjustable benches
  • providing removable or mobile under-bench cupboards
  • providing refrigerators with the freezer located under the fridge compartment to provide better access.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the materials used for making cupboards and shelves are as specified
  • all cupboards and shelves are securely fixed to the walls, particularly cupboards that are above the floor
  • food storage cupboards are screened and ventilated and built according to the drawings
  • floor and wall junctions are sealed to prevent access by vermin and insects
  • there is a working lock on the pantry door
  • there is a well ventilated space at least 800mm wide, with a well located power point, for the fridge.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • the cupboard door handles, locks and hinges are working
  • the shelves, cupboards and screened pantry or food storage areas are in good condition
  • the kitchen is free of insects and vermin, and consider a regular pest management program.
As part of cyclical maintenance, test the working temperature inside the refrigerator:
  • freezer should be minus 10°C or colder
  • refrigerators should be no warmer than 4°C.
  • if these temperatures are not achieved, check:
    • door seals
    • location of the refrigerator or freezer in the house
    • air circulation around the refrigerator and freezer.

Consider:

  • organising an annual fridge maintenance program to improve access to storage of nutritious food.

Survey data
Food storage Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Shelves and cupboards      
Kitchen storage below bench height―less than 5 square metres (less low level storage is better) 57% 1,959  
Kitchen storage above bench height―greater than 5 square metres (more high level storage is better) 38% 3,630 ++
Kitchen cupboards―none 11% 1,670  
Kitchen cupboard condition adequate 47% 1,670  
Kitchen cupboard condition inadequate 42% 1,670  
Kitchen ventilated―improved food storage conditions 86% 1,671  
       
Refrigerators      
Houses with no refrigerator or freezer 22% 3,633  
Houses with combined refrigerator/freezer 73% 3,633  
Houses with a refrigerator but no freezer 7% 1,678  
Houses with a freezer but no refrigerator 4% 1,678  
       
Refrigerator capacity and function      
No information on refrigerator capacity available 6% 2,320  
Refrigerator capacity less than 250 litres 24% 2,320  
Refrigerator capacity between 250 litres to 350 litres 41% 2,320  
Refrigerator capacity greater than 350 litres 29% 2,320  
Freezer temperature minus 10oC or colder 67% 2,756 +
Fridge temperature colder 4°C or less 47% 2,763 ++
Refrigerator and freeze ―no excessive ice or frost 72% 1,203  
Refrigerator―door seals OK 80% 1,207  
Additional freezer available 35% 3,524  
Additional freezer temperature 10oC or colder 73% 1,240 ++

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules)

Pholeros, P 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPKNganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, p. 8

South Australian Department of Human Services 2001, Eat Well SA Forum Report, Food Supply in Rural South Australia—A Survey on Food Cost, Quality and Variety.

Tietz, C 2000, ‘Kitchen Design, Installation and Maintenance’ in G Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, pp. 155-72.

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B4.3 Preparing food – sinks and benches House IconHouse Icon

The ability of people to prepare food hygienically depends on the availability of well designed and constructed benches, a splash back that is easy to clean and helps with maintaining kitchen hygiene, and a functional sink that is well sealed to the kitchen bench.

Common problems with benches, splash backs and sinks include:

  • rotting benches and cupboards due to water from the sink penetrating the bench material
  • decayed wall structure behind the bench and sink because the splash back between the sink and wall has failed
  • use of inferior bench top and splash back materials, which result in the work area becoming unhygienic because it is too hard to clean and/or it becomes infested with cockroaches and ants
  • choosing bench materials that cannot tolerate hot items, sharp knives and that are not suitable for cutting up large items of food
  • building benches that are too short or too narrow to store kitchen utensils safely or prepare food
  • installing sinks that are too small to in which to clean large pots or frypans
  • selecting single drainer sinks with limited space to store both dirty and clean dishes.

Non-waterproof materials such as particle board, timber, fibre cement and sheet concrete are not recommended for benches and splash backs, also materials that are difficult to clean, such as mosaic tiles or textured laminates should not be used.

Two critical items of health hardware that are essential for preparing food, benches and splash backs, were still performing poorly in 2006, but showed a trend towards improved performance since 2003. A third of surveyed houses (34 per cent) did not have benches suitable for preparing food and a large proportion of surveyed houses (41 per cent) had poor splash backs behind the sink area, which would encourage dampness below benches, provide habitat for cockroaches, and may lead to structural damage in the longer term.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • that waterproof materials are specified for the benches and splash back, and that these are well detailed and specified in the drawings and in the building contract
  • that heat and fire proof materials are used for the bench and splash back to allow hot pots to be safely put on the bench straight from the stove or oven
  • the sink has the capacity to wash, and fill large pots and frypans, has two drainers or a drain area integrated in the bench top for storing both dirty and clean dishes
  • anti-vandal taps and a swivel spout are specified, with a spout that will allow large pots to be filled
  • the junction of the bench top to the splash back, and the sink to the bench, are sealed with a mechanical flashing, not a silicone joint, to prevent water penetration and pest infestation
  • there is lighting over the bench areas
  • flooring is slip resistant and is continuous under the benches
  • at least one double power point is located within 300mm of the front of the bench for greater accessibility.
Consider:
  • installing a stainless steel, or post-formed laminated bench, with an integrated splash back to reduce junctions between the wall, bench and sink
  • extending splash backs to the underside of overhead cupboards
  • using stainless steel or galvanised metal, or other robust materials, for the bench framework and supports, and avoid particle board or non-waterproof materials
  • providing a double bowl sink
  • providing deeper sections within the bench to suit multiple cooking appliances
  • designing some parts of the under-bench cupboards to allow easy removal to provide access for people with disabilities
  • designing the bench and splash back to allow easy removal for repair and maintenance, or to be adjusted to a different height without damaging other cupboards and the wall finishes
  • designing the kitchen to eliminate, or minimise, the need for sealants such as silicone, which attract ants by using solid infill panels, collars, grommets, routed or grooved joints
  • planning the kitchen with a continuous bench top between the fridge and stove/oven to allow people with disabilities to safely slide hot or cold items from the fridge or the stove/oven along the bench
  • providing at least one work surface of 800mm length that is adjustable in height from 750mm to 850mm
  • using a kitchen sink bowl that is a maximum of 150mm deep, can be adjusted to heights from 750mm to 850mm or can be replaced to allow access for people with disabilities
  • providing a clear circulation space between benches of 1550mm
  • locating all power points and taps according to AS 1428 Design for access and mobility and AS 4299 Adaptable housing
  • providing a bench area for a microwave oven at a height of 750mm to 1200mm above floor level that can be easily reached by people with disabilities
  • where clear floor space is provided under the sink, ensuring that there are no sharp or abrasive surfaces under the sink, and that all exposed hot water pipes and surfaces are insulated or otherwise covered
  • locating the oven next  to an adjustable height or replaceable work surface
  • providing a work surface of minimum 800mm in length next to the cook top and at the same height
  • making sure that the circulation space at the doors complies with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility
  • providing an outdoor preparation area for bush foods with robust bench, water supply and drain.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • all between-bench junctions and the splash back, sink, cupboards, walls and appliances are sealed 
  • anti-vandal taps are installed
  • the sink drains are functioning
  • bench and splash back materials comply with the specifications.

Maintenance

As part of upgrades, consider:

  • retro-fitting an integrated bench, splash back and sink.

As part of cyclical maintenance, check:

  • junctions between bench, splash back and wall are sealed
  • bench has not been affected by heat or moisture.
Survey data
Preparing food—sinks and benches Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003* 2
Sinks      
Single bowl sink 69% 1,955  
Double bowl sink 31% 1,955  
Kitchen sink―hot water and tap functional 61% 3,620  
Kitchen sink―cold water and tap functional 68% 3,627 <
Functional kitchen sink spout 71% 3,627  
       
Kitchen benches and splash backs      
No kitchen bench available 4% 1,671  
Bench material solid and can be cleaned 66% 3,630 ++
Splash back sealed to prevent water penetration 59% 3,630 +

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Tietz, C 2000, ‘Kitchen Design, Installation and Maintenance’ in G Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina.

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B4.4 Cooking House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

Cooking preferences and needs vary between households. Some families will use a basic stove to cook, while others may use a range of cooking appliances, including microwave oven, rice cooker, deep fryer, electric frying pan, toaster and electric kettle. Some families might want a barbeque area outside, while others will use a full outdoor kitchen with sink, bench and cooking facilities.

A stove with a cooktop and oven is an essential item of health hardware that is usually provided with the house. Survey data show that nine per cent of surveyed houses had no cooktop installed and 15 per cent of houses had no oven. When houses that were surveyed did have access to a stove, only 59 per cent of cooktops had all hotplates and control knobs working, whereas 70 per cent of ovens were functional.

It is important to select stoves that are designed to cater for regular use, are easy to clean and maintain, and can easily be removed for repairs or replacement. ‘Off-the-shelf’ upright stoves with a combined cooktop and oven are very common, but the cheaper models are often not designed to cater for the demands of a large family or harsh environmental conditions. Upright stoves provide nesting places for rodents and cockroaches in the exposed areas at the back and on the bottom of these appliances.

Cooking can be very expensive for the household, with an electric hotplate costing over $4 a day to run. Gas can be cheaper where it is available, but in rural and remote locations the cost of gas cooking can be as high as the cost of using electricity. It can be difficult to supply and change gas bottles where reticulated gas is not available. Residents may worry about the safety of gas, which means it may not be the preferred cooking option. Survey data indicates that gas cooking appliances are less common (19 per cent) than electric appliances (72 per cent).

Design and specification

When specifying the stove, discuss with the residents:
  • the type of stoves that have been previously used and the successes or failures experienced
  • the benefits of standardising stoves across the locality or region to increase purchasing power and to rationalise spare parts and maintenance
  • the benefits of electric versus gas cooking in terms of running costs, ability to replace gas bottles, availability of electricians or gas fitters for maintenance, and preferences for cooking with gas or with electricity
  • the benefits of upright stoves versus cooktops and wall ovens, and the merits of using a separate cooktop and oven that can be fully sealed into a benchtop versus the difficulty and expense of repairing and replacing these units
  • the need to provide separate cooktops and wall ovens that can be accessed by people with disabilities.
For all stoves, ensure that:
  • stoves and outdoor cooking facilities are specified and detailed in the building contract 
  • the cooktop has elements or burners suited to big pots, with a minimum number of removable parts
  • there is capacity on, and around, the stove top for large pots to overhang the hotplates on both sides
  • behind the stove, there is an easy to clean splash back at least 600mm high 
  • no cupboards, shelves or low windows are located above the stove
  • the stove is secured to prevent children climbing on it and tipping it over, using an anti-tilt bracket, but can be removed for cleaning and maintenance
  • there is space around the stove for cleaning, and there are no small gaps between the stove and bench or cupboards that cannot be cleaned
  • there are power points for a variety of cooking appliances located away from the stove and sink
  • the kitchen has natural ventilation for the removal of cooking fumes and odours.
Consider:
  • providing an exhaust fan or other types of mechanical ventilation to remove cooking fumes and odours
  • making provision for a microwave oven on a shelf or deeper bench area with a power point)
  • specifying stove models that have cooktop and oven knobs that are robust, difficult to remove, and out of reach of children
  • installing ovens between 400mm and 1000mm above the floor, with side-opening doors and a bench immediately next to the oven to allow access for elderly people and people with disabilities
  • vermin-proofing the rear and bottom of stoves with mesh or a reliable and safe vermin kit and confirm that this does not make the stove unsafe or void the stove warranty.
  • a model that has controls at the front or side of the stove with raised crossbars for safe grip by people with disabilities
  • providing a clear circulation space of 1500mm x 820mm to allow a forward approach to the cooktop by people with disabilities, no more than 500mm of this clear floor space should extend under the cooktop
  • providing an outdoor cooking area on the verandah or in the yard in addition to an indoor kitchen
  • when selecting and locating outdoor cooking equipment, identifying the local area fire restrictions and risks as well as what food is likely to be cooked
  • specifying a different type of fuel for the outdoor cooking area, to allow the outdoor kitchen to be used when gas or electricity is not available for the indoor kitchen.
For electric stoves:
  • ensure that an isolation switch is fitted within easy reach on the wall near the stove and that the stove is connected to a separate electrical circuit
  • specify solid hotplates, which are stronger than coil elements, but can corrode when used in tropical and coastal areas
  • consider installing a stove timer switch to cut off power after a time specified by residents, to prevent the stove operating for long periods resulting in wasted electricity and expense to the household
  • where possible, use a plug, cable and power point to connect the stove to electricity, rather than a fixed connection, to allow the stove to be removed for cleaning, maintenance and replacement.
For gas stoves:
  • consider using bayonet type gas connections for gas cooking appliances
  • specify a gas fuse to all burners and the oven to cut off gas supply when there is no flame
  • consider making provision for a portable gas cooker connected to a small gas bottle as a cooking option.

Quality control

Before making the final payment, check that:
  • cooking equipment and kitchen components are installed as detailed and specified in the contract
  • all burners, elements, oven and grill are working
  • all control knobs are fitted
  • the oven door opens and fully seals when the door is shut
  • the stove has been secured with an anti-tilt device
  • vermin-proofing has been installed, if specified
  • shelves have not been fitted over the stove
  • the outdoor kitchen has been constructed as designed.
For an electrical stove, trade test:
  • the timer switch for the oven and stove
  • the isolation switch and check it has been installed in a location that can be reached by people with disabilities
  • the installation of a separate oven and stove circuit.
For a gas stove, trade test:
  • the installation is fully operational and issue a certificate of compliance.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • all stove burners or elements are working
  • the oven is working
  • all control knobs are fitted and working
  • the oven door opens properly and fully seals when closed, and that the glass is not cracked
  • on electric stoves, the timer, isolation and safety switches are working.
Consider:
  • organising annual maintenance and cleaning of all stoves to extend the life of the stoves.
When upgrading houses, consider:
  • installing a timing switch on electric stoves to cut off electricity after a time specified by residents, for example, two hours
  • replacing electric stoves with other cooking options that will be cheaper to use and discuss the advantages and disadvantages with residents and housing manager
  • installing a stove with side or front controls with raised crossbars, which are easier for people with disabilities to grip.
Survey data
Cooking food Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003
Energy available for cooking      
Electricity 95% 3,661  
Bottled gas 22% 3,661  
Mains gas piped to the house 3% 3,661  
       
Cooktops      
No cooktop 9% 3,631  
Electric cooktop 72% 3,631 <
Gas cooktop 19% 3,631  
Wood or oil burning cooktop 1% 3,070  
All cooktop hotplates and control knobs working 59% 3,312  
       
Ovens      
Oven installed (gas or electric combined, or separated from cooktop) 85% 3,631  
Oven working (gas or electric) 70% 3,104 +
       
Alternative cooking options      
Houses with other ways to cook in the house (frying pans, microwave ovens, and so on) 53% 1,672  
Outside cooking areas 41% 3,662  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 1428.1–2001, Design for access and mobility—General requirements for access—New building work.

AS 4299–1995, Adaptable housing.

Peter, S. and Tietz, C. 1997 in B Lloyd (ed.), Indoor stoves for remote communities. NTRC report, 97/8, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs.

Teitz, C 2000, Kitchen Design, Installation and Maintenance in G Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, pp. 155-72.

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B4.5 Kitchen design generally House Icon

If houses are overcrowded there may be a need for many places to cook inside the house, on verandah areas and outdoor cooking areas in the yard. Cooking preferences may differ between age groups, regions and type of food available.

Whether the facilities are located in the house or in the surrounding yard area, all the component parts of the kitchen should support the storage, preparation and cooking of food to improve the nutrition available to all family members. The following list summarises the main design issues detailed in preceding B4 subsections.

The summary of house function data in Appendix 1 shows that only five per cent of surveyed houses had a kitchen that allowed residents to store, prepare and cook food.

Design and specification

For indoor cooking areas, consider:
  • locating the kitchen where it is easily accessed from inside and outside eating areas, and can be accessed by people with disabilities
  • ensuring the kitchen has natural light and ventilation
  • shading or protecting the kitchen from hot afternoon sun
  • making provision for high level storage and bench space, as set out in previous sections
  • allowing enough space for a fridge and freezer to be stored in the kitchen
  • locating the kitchen away from the access to bathroom and toilet areas
  • using non-slip water proof flooring, such as a welded sheet vinyl
  • using an easy-to-clean wall surface from floor to underside of benches or cupboards, such as vinyl wall sheet or large ceramic tiles
  • waterproofing the floor, the floor wall junctions to the underside of cupboards and behind the sink
  • supplying non-tempered hot water at the kitchen sink (approximately 60ºC) to help flush grease and fats through the waste pipes
  • providing a separate tap for supplying rainwater at the kitchen sink
  • providing a floor waste outlet to help when cleaning the kitchen
  • providing a space for a kitchen rubbish bin that features a secure lid, can be lined and is not easily accessed by dogs and children
  • selecting and locating power points, switches, stove controls and taps to allow people with disabilities to reach and use them.
For verandahs and yard kitchens, consider:
  • locating the outdoor cooking area where it is protected from extreme weather conditions, such as winter winds and summer sun
  • providing a robust, waterproof bench, finished in a material like stainless steel
  • including a sink or tub with running water and connected to the drainage system, for washing food and utensils
  • providing high shelves to store food and utensils away from children and animals, sheltered from the weather
  • creating a dry, secure place to store fire wood that is away from the walls of the house
  • providing a place to cook, such as a barbeque or drum oven, ideally using a different fuel from the inside stove
  • supplying a secure storage area for the rubbish bin to deposit food scraps and kitchen waste
  • making a sheltered place to eat
  • providing a slip resistant path between indoors and the outdoor cooking area, which is accessible to people with disabilities.

References

Wright, A. 2006 Review of the robust bin in 5 sites across WA. Centre for Appropriate Technology and Department of Housing and Works.

Centre for Appropriate Technology ‘Drum Oven’ http://www.icat.org.au/documents/drum_oven.pdf#search=%22drum%20oven%22

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B5 Reducing the impacts of over-crowding

Crowded living conditions increase the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, such as meningococcal disease, rheumatic fever, tuberculosis and respiratory infections. In a crowded house it can also be more difficult to access health hardware, such as hot water, showers and clothes washing facilities. To reduce these risks, consider how to minimise the effects of crowding when planning the living environment.

At the beginning of a housing project, it is essential to estimate the number of people likely to be using houses, especially at peak times. As the following example shows, estimated population per house cannot be calculated by simply dividing a community’s population by the number of houses in the community.

In a community with 300 people and 50 houses, it could be assumed that an average of six people live in each house. Consultation with the community may reveal that only 25 of the 50 houses have health hardware working, and residents of the non-working houses have to use the houses in which health hardware is working, which means the average house population would be 12 people.

If a sports carnival is held in the community or during the annual wet season, the population could double or treble and the demand on working houses to could increase to 24 – 36 people per house.

Beware estimating house population by dividing population by house numbers because this could mean that houses will not be designed to have sufficient space and health hardware, and the residents will experience increased health risks.

It is also possible that specific parts of a house can become crowded at particular times. For example, in extreme climatic conditions, all members of the household are likely to congregate in the one room of the house that is able to be cooled or heated and this can lead to the increased spread of infection, even in small households.

Even if all houses in a community are fully functional, some families will choose to live in large, multi-generational households, despite other houses being available in the community. These families will not necessarily consider their house to be crowded, but could suffer health effects if the health hardware is not adequate for the number of people living in the house. A large household population can also cause health hardware to fail prematurely simply because it is constantly in use. Large populations may also result in high power bills for the main residents unless energy efficiency has been considered in house design and specification.

More houses can reduce the negative impacts of over-crowding, however the example above shows that it is also necessary to design for peak populations. This can be achieved by providing more health hardware in houses, developing the yard and edges of houses to provide more household service, cooling and heating several rooms in the house, providing additional sleeping areas, and ensuring the health hardware in most houses in a community is functioning most of the time through regular maintenance.

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B5.1 Performance of health hardware in large households House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

When designing new houses, upgrading a house or developing a maintenance program, find out from residents and housing managers how many people are likely to be living in and using the health hardware in the house and yard.

When undertaking a housing project, obtain population data, including seasonal variations and peak periods, from as many sources as possible such as residents, the housing manager, community council, health clinic and local store. These data sources may vary significantly, but the combined data will help to estimate the potential size of the household, to ensure the house is designed to minimise the negative impacts of crowding.

Data shows a significant variation between the living areas per person available in households. Where less people live in the house (0 – 4), an average 47.9 square metres is available per person. In large households (10 people or more), an average 9.3 square metres is available per person.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • health hardware such as taps, shower fittings, laundry tubs, washing machines, power points and light switches are good quality, will withstand high usage in large households and can be used by people with disabilities
  • that enough hot water is available to meet the needs of the household and cope with fluctuations in household population
  • there are clothes washing and drying facilities sufficient to meet the needs of the household
  • toilets and wet area services meet the requirements of the household size, and are separated so that shower, laundry and toilet facilities can be used by several people at once
  • at least one toilet and shower area is sized to be accessible to people with disabilities or can be adapted in the future to be fully accessible
  • the waste removal system is adequate for the population size and can cope with expected peak loads in the house 
  • there are at least two options for cooking food, and the food storage areas in the kitchen are sufficient for household size
  • the bedrooms have heating and/or cooling systems suited to the climate, and people will not have to share one cooled or heated common space for sleeping
  • the plan of the house and the location on site can accommodate future alterations and additions.
Consider:
  • the privacy needs of people using the house and implications of local cultural requirements
  • reducing the operating costs of all health hardware by using energy efficient options for, in order of priority: hot water, cooking, heating and cooling
  • installing a second outdoor toilet such as a dry toilet, or a second toilet and wet area facilities in the house that can easily be accessed from outside areas
  • installing outdoor cooking facilities as well as an indoor kitchen
  • specifying robust windows and doors and associated hardware that will withstand high usage
  • having solid core or semi-solid core doors throughout the house, because they are more durable, require minimal maintenance and provide better sound proofing between rooms
  • specifying durable floor coverings and wall finishes that will withstand high levels of use
  • that bedrooms will often be used by more than one person and should be sized to fit two or three mattresses and associated storage space
  • the orientation, shading, insulation, and installation of active heating and cooling systems to moderate the local climate and allow people to use all parts of the house throughout the day and night
  • locating a hand basin in bedrooms used by people who have long term illnesses or reduced mobility.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • all health hardware has been provided as specified in the drawings and the contract, and that the health hardware is fully functional.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • organise regular assessment and maintenance of essential health hardware for houses with large populations.
Survey data
House size and population Percentage of houses or areas in square metres Total houses surveyed
House area    
House area less than 100 square metres 41% 3,615
House area greater than 100 square metres and less than 200 square metres 52% 3,615
House area greater than 200 square metres 6% 3,615
     
People per house    
0 to 4 people per house 49% 3,614
5 to 10 people per house 44% 3,614
More than 10 people per house 7% 3,614
     
For houses with population of 0 to 4 people    
Average population 2.5 1,770
Average area in square metres 118 1,770
Average area (square metres) per person 47.9 1,770
     
For houses with population of 5 to 10 people    
Average population 6.2 1,577
Average area (square metres) 126 1,577
Average area (square metres) per person 20.4 1,577
     
For houses with population of 10 people or more    
Average population 13.6 267
Average area (square metres) 125 267
Average area (square metres) per person 9.3 267

Note: The house sample is reduced because the ‘number of bedrooms’ question was not asked in some projects.

Standards and references

Booth, A. and Carroll, N. 2005 Overcrowding and Indigenous health in Australia, Discussion Paper No 498, Centre for Economic Policy research, Australian National University

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, p.p. 24-30.

Ross, H. 1987, Just for Living, Aboriginal perceptions of housing in northwest Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.

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B5.2 Developing the edges of the house and the yard House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

The effects of crowding can be reduced by designing useful yards and ‘edge’ spaces around the house, such as verandahs, decks, sleep-outs, shady areas for summer, and sunny, wind protected areas in winter. Allowing space between houses will increase the size of the yard and the capacity to use it for different activities. It will also reduce the overall level of crowding in the community.

Data show over a third of houses have yard areas larger than 900 square metres, which offer potential for developing the areas around the houses, for example, for food planting, shade planting, and cooking.
Around a third of housing has no yard fencing, and less than half of all houses had a yard fence and gates in good condition.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the edges of the house in hot or tropical climates catch cool summer breezes 
  • house edges are accessible to people with disabilities
  • house edges in cooler climates catch the winter sun and shelter from cold winds
  • the design of the house and yard allows for the resident or community housing organisation to change, adapt or extend the house to meet future needs.
Consider:
  • ways that outdoor living areas support cultural practices such as avoidance relationships, and relieve over-crowding at times of peak population
  • providing at least one outdoor living area that is positioned to suit prevailing weather conditions, and that the outdoor area is shaded, rain-protected, well lit, and easily accessed from the house
  • making the outdoor living area(s) suitable for visitors to sleep in
  • in cold climates, providing an outdoor fire pit for warmth during winter
  • providing insect/privacy screening to outdoor living areas
  • installing at least two yard taps on robust tap stands with drainage directly underneath
  • providing additional outdoor cooking facilities, such as a drum oven or barbeque
  • including rainwater tanks as an additional source of water for people using yard areas
  • making the yard area safe, particularly for children, by enclosing it with robust fencing materials and providing car and pedestrian gates at key access points
  • planning yard services, such as septic disposal trenches, dry toilets, air conditioning units and hot water discharge points away from outdoor living areas
  • grading the yard area to drain away from outdoor living areas and edges of the house
  • providing and securing rubbish bins in yard areas.
Consider designing the yard area so that it is accessible to people with disabilities, by:
  • selecting a level or gently sloping site with up to 1:14 gradient
  • providing a well lit, continuous, accessible path of travel and clear line of sight from street frontage and vehicle parking to entry, complying with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility
  • providing additional paths and walkways which are continuous, slip resistant and hard surfaced, with gradients complying with AS 1428.1
  • pathway lighting which is at a low height to avoid glare and provides a minimum of 50 lux at ground level
  • building wide pathways to suit people using a walking frame
  • locating drainage grates so they do not run parallel to the direction of travel and can be crossed in a wheelchair
  • ensuring the width of car parking spaces, garages and carports suit people using wheelchairs or prams.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the edges of the house and the yard comply with the detailed specifications
  • the yard has been graded to drain away from living areas
  • fences and gates are installed and secure.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • fences and gates are in good condition
  • yard taps are available, working and drained
  • outdoor cooking facilities are functional.
Survey data
Developing the edges of the house and the yard Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Fencing and increasing the potential development of the yard area      
No fenced yard 30% 3,661  
Fenced yard area at least 900 square metres 37% 3,661  
Fenced yard area less than 900 square metres 33% 3,661  
Houses with yard fence and gates 78% 2,952  
Houses with yard fence and gates all in good condition 41% 2,952 ++
       
Cooking and water      
Outside cooking facilities 41% 3,662  
No yard taps 4% 3,660  
1 yard tap 26% 3,660  
2 yard taps 59% 3,660
3 or more yard taps 11% 3,660
Water meter found and functional 50% 3,659  
Water isolation valve available and OK 25% 3,651  
Rainwater tank 26% 3,099  
Rainwater tank functional 20% 3,099  
Outside cooking areas 41% 3,662  
Houses with food planting 25% 3,662  
Wind break planting (as a positive sheltering feature in cold climates and not a hindrance to airflow in tropical climates) 22% 3,662  
       
Rubbish and waste systems      
Rubbish system (kitchen bin and regular collection of rubbish available) 46% 3,099  
Septic tank lid protected from damage 60% 1,089  
       
Working motor cars in yard      
None 56% 3,660  
1 28% 3,660  
2 10% 3,660  
3 or more 6% 3,660  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Fantin, S. 2003 “Yolngu Cultural Imperatives and Housing Design” in Memmott, P. & Chambers, C. (ed) Take Two. Housing design in Indigenous Australia. RAIA, Canberra

Murphy, P & Sinatra, J. 1997, Landscape for Health, Settlement planning and development for better health in rural and remote Australia, ORA RMIT Outreach Australia Program, Melbourne, pp. 70-1.

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S & Torzillo, P  1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, pp. 48-73, 82-5.

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B5.3 Storage House Icon

Lack of storage can be inconvenient in a house with a small population but when a house population increases, the availability of storage may impact on the safety and health of residents.

Storage is discussed in other sections of this guide, particularly in B.4 ‘Improving nutrition, the ability to store, prepare and cook food’ and B.6 ‘Reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin’. Important issues that relate to storage are summarised below.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • high level secure storage is provided in bathrooms and laundries for medicines and chemicals, to prevent accidental poisoning
  • some secure storage is provided that could be used by people with disabilities
  • there are plenty of rails, hooks and shelves for storage of clothes, towels and toiletry items in bathrooms, to prevent these items being placed on the floor where they could block drains
  • kitchens include high level shelves and cupboards for storage of food and utensils away from dogs, cockroaches, rats and other vermin
  • there are cupboards in bedrooms, hall ways and the laundry, to prevent clothing and bedding being stored on the floor where it is at risk from worms and mites carried by animals and other bacteria that can result in transmission of disease
  • shelving materials are strong and resistant to damp, mould, rot and insect infestation.
Consider:
  • providing lockable kitchen cupboards or a lockable pantry
  • in large households, providing each bedroom with a small lockable cupboard for secure storage for medicines
  • providing cupboards that can be accessed by people with disabilities, including using D-handles on cupboards and locating them to allow people with disabilities to reach them
  • that bedrooms will probably be used by more than one person, and sufficient cupboards need to be provided to store the personal possessions of several people
  • including lockable storage in living areas for residents to securely store televisions and other electronic items
  • building ventilated and storm proof, outside storage for lawn mowers, bins, car parts, hunting and fishing equipment, and fuel, to separate children from these potentially dangerous items and enable secure storage during cyclones or high winds
  • providing dry storage for fire wood in houses that have wood burning heaters or stoves
  • including reels or hooks for storing garden hoses above the ground, to reduce damage by animals, lawn mowers and grass trimmers
  • securing sections of the verandah with wire mesh and lockable door to store items such as tyres, garden tools, car parts.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • all storage has been provided as specified in the contract and is secure.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • storage is in good condition and is secure.

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B6 Reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin

People’s health can be adversely affected by contact with animals, vermin and insects in the living environment. It is important to consult residents and housing managers about the animals, vermin and insects that are commonly found in the local area and incorporate design strategies to minimise the negative impact on people.

Dogs can carry and transmit bacteria and parasites, which may cause the following conditions in children and adults:

  • skin infections
  • diarrhoeal disease such as Giardia, which is a common cause of chronic diarrhoea in young children
  • chronic gut parasite infection.

Yard fencing, verandah fencing and gates, screened doors and high shelves rather than low cupboards in kitchens, are strategies that can reduce the negative health impacts of dogs on people.

Examples from around Australia of health risks that may be caused by animals, insects and vermin, include:

  • Some types of flies can spread eye infections
  • Mosquitoes can carry potentially life threatening viruses such as Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue Fever
  • Dust mites and cockroaches have been linked to the incidence of asthma
  • Contact with some caterpillars and beetles can cause serious skin irritation
  • Vermin, such as mice and rats, can spread disease by contaminating food and food preparation and eating surfaces
  • Vermin can also cause major faults in electrical cables in walls and ceiling spaces, which may lead to fires or electric shocks
  • Camels, pigs, horses and donkeys may damage water taps and pipes, and contaminate the water supply.

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B6.1 Dogs, horses, pigs and other large animals House IconHouse Icon

Animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, horses and donkeys can scavenge for food in and around the house, and they may contaminate the food and spread disease and litter. Animals will also drink from dripping yard taps and pools of water in the yard. This can contaminate the water and surrounding area where children might play. Animals also deposit faeces around the living area, which can transmit worms and bacteria.

Data shows that dogs were present in nearly half of surveyed houses (44 per cent) and many residents reported the presence of other pests (39 per cent). A rubbish bin and rubbish collection system were available in 46 per cent of houses, which is slightly less than the number of houses with these services in 2003.

Design and specification

Consider:
  • locating food storage cupboards and shelves above 900mm, with handles located towards the bottom of the door to allow easy access
  • using lockable self-closing pantry doors, for example with a tapered hinge
  • providing storage for clothes and personal effects in bedrooms, bathrooms and laundries to prevent these laying on the floor and accessible to dogs, cats and other pests
  • providing storage areas for food, clothes, bins that are accessible to people with disabilities by locating handles and locks 900mm to 1100mm above the floor or ground level, ensuring the paths to bin areas are at least 1 metre wide and specifying circulation around cupboards and bin enclosures to allow access
  • using self-closing screen doors to stop animals entering the house
  • providing screens and gates to verandahs, to keep animals out of these areas
  • screening off the area under suspended floors to prevent access by animals, but provide a gate for maintenance access
  • fencing the yard area with high, robust fences to keep out horses, pigs, camels or cattle
  • installing high shelves for storing food and utensils near outdoor cooking facilities
  • draining yard taps and downpipes to a sump or pit to reduce water drinking points for animals in and around the house yard area
  • in remote areas, protecting taps from wild horses, pigs, camels or cattle by supporting the supply pipe with a strong ground post fixed to a concrete ground pad and/or boxing the head of the tap to prevent animals turning on the tap or chewing off the tap handle
  • animal proofing rubbish bins, such as providing a fixing post to avoid overturning of the bin, or providing a covered secure enclosure for bins.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • high level shelves are provided and are secure and the pantry door and lock are working
  • screen doors, fences and gates have been installed as specified
  • under floor areas to houses have been screened and there is a gate for maintenance
  • there is a secure storage area for bins, accessed from the house by a pathway
  • the yard taps are secure and working
  • there is a working drain, sump or pit under all yard taps and down pipes.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • high storage shelves are in good condition
  • the pantry door and lock are working 
  • screen doors, gates and fences are in good condition
  • under floor area of the house is screened and the gate is working
  • the bin enclosure is in good condition
  • yard taps are secure and not dripping.
Survey data
Dogs, horses, pigs and other large animals Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No dogs seen or reported at survey 38% 3,661 +
One to four dogs seen or reported at survey 44% 3,661  
Five or more dogs seen or reported at survey 18% 3,661  
No cats seen or reported at survey 82% 3,661  
One to four cats seen or reported at survey 15% 3,661  
Five or more cats seen or reported at survey 4% 3,661  
Other pests present (pigs, spiders, camels cause damage to yard taps, horses damage fences and yard taps) 39% 3,661  
Rubbish system—kitchen bin, therefore less vermin in the house; and regular collection, therefore less chance of animal scavenging in the yard 46% 3,099 <
Rubbish system—no kitchen bin, therefore greater chance of vermin in the house; but  regular collection, therefore less chance of animal scavenging in the yard 45% 3,099  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Harris, G & Irving, R 2000, ‘Community dogs and their health’ in G Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, pp. 59-72.

Nganampa Health Council Inc., South Australian Health Commission and Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia 1987, Report of Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, An Environmental and Public Health Review within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Alice Springs, p. 21.

Pholeros, P 1991, AP Design Guide, Building for Health on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, p. 45.

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B6.2 Rats, mice, snakes and other vermin House IconHouse Icon

Rats, mice and other vermin such as snakes, spiders and birds can spoil food, contaminate surfaces in the house, and pollute the water in the rainwater tank or main water supply. As discussed in A1.3 ‘Cabling and wiring’ and B6 ‘Reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin’, mice and rats can also cause electrical faults by chewing the protection from cables, particularly in ceiling spaces above bayonet light fittings. Some vermin, such as snakes and spiders, can also lead to direct injuries.

Rats, mice and other vermin can gain access to houses through ventilation panels, cracks in walls, edges of roofs, wall, floor, door and window junctions, or the access points for electrical wiring and plumbing. They may also live and nest in framed walls, sub-floor spaces, ceiling spaces, under stoves, and around hot water systems.

Before commencing design, talk to the residents and housing manager about local vermin and identify appropriate design strategies.

Data shows that most houses (69 per cent) had some type of framed wall construction that could provide habitat for rats, mice, snakes and other vermin. There was a significant decrease since 2003 in the number of houses with holes or cracks in internal walls allowing access for these pests, however nearly a third of houses (29 per cent) were still found in this condition.

Almost half of surveyed houses (46 per cent) had evidence of rats or mice present at sometime during the year.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • drawings show how the junctions between floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings, eaves, and the roof will be sealed to prevent entry by rats, mice and other vermin
  • walls, eaves and ceiling linings can resist accidental damage, which could create entry points for vermin
  • corrugated metal walls are sealed around the edges using a metal barrier made from similar material to prevent entry by mice and other vermin
  • ventilation openings are screened to prevent entry by vermin
  • penetrations in the wall and floor for drains, electrical cabling and water supply are sealed with a solid material to prevent entry by vermin
  • doors stops are fitted to prevent holes in walls, which could create entry points for vermin.
Consider:
  • using conduits for electrical cables
  • using strong internal wall materials up to at least 1800mm from the floor to prevent accidental damage that might enable access by rats, mice and other vermin
  • designing vermin proof pantries or food storage cupboards
  • selecting stoves with a vermin proof shell or vermin proofing kit
  • avoiding the use of standard bayonet-type light fittings on the ceiling to prevent mice nesting in the ceiling space above the fitting
  • specifying solid seals around plumbing, drains and electrical conduits
  • fitting weather strips on external doors
  • avoiding sandwich panel construction particularly for walls, which might harbour rats, mice and other vermin.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check:
  • wall materials and floor to wall detailing inside and outside the house for gaps and voids
  • the eaves and wall to ceiling junctions for rodent entry points
  • the door stops have been fitted
  • the weather strips are fitted on external doors, if specified
  • metal flashings or cover strips are properly fixed on steel clad houses.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • establish a pest reduction program carried out by a licensed contractor
  • repair holes, cracks or gaps that allow rodent entry
  • cut back tree branches that are near to, or touching, the house.
Survey data
Rats, mice, snakes and other vermin Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Wall type and condition that may offer habitat for vermin      
Type of walls—brick veneer 23% 3,662  
Type of walls—steel frame and fibrous cement, timber, or steel 30% 3,662  
Type of walls—timber frame & fibrous cement, timber, or steel: 16% 3,662  
Inside wall condition—poor = holes, cracks, may give entry to vermin 29% 3,660 <<
Outside wall condition—poor = holes, large cracks may give entry to vermin 21% 3,658 <<
       
Mice and rats (based on residents’ reports or survey evidence)      
No survey evidence 57% 3,660  
No survey evidence but reported (may be seasonal) 30% 3,660  
Survey evidence 16% 3,099  
No other pests present 61% 3,660  
       
Rubbish system      
Kitchen bin and regular collection; if functioning may reduce vermin in and around the house      
Kitchen bin, regular collection 46% 3,099  
Kitchen bin, no regular collection 3% 3,099  
No kitchen bin, regular collection 45% 3,099  
No kitchen bin, no regular collection 6% 3,099  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

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B6.3 Ants and cockroaches House IconHouse Icon

Ants and cockroaches can spoil food, contaminate kitchen surfaces and may cause electrical faults. Cockroaches and their excreta have also been linked to asthma. Both ants and cockroaches are attracted to food scraps in the kitchen area.

Different species of ants may also be attracted to water, silicone, and electrical fittings and appliances that generate heat such as refrigerator motors, stoves and hot water systems. Cockroaches are ‘thigmotactic’, which means they prefer to have as much body surface in contact with another surface as possible. They also prefer to live in dark and damp environments and will seek out nooks and crannies for breeding.

Data show that 39 per cent of houses had ants and/or cockroaches present at the time of survey.

Forty one per cent of surveyed houses did not have a functional splashback behind the kitchen sink to prevent moisture building up under the kitchen sink and in the cupboards. Although this was a slight improvement on the performance of splashbacks in 2003, the lack of a functional splashback could provide an ideal breeding habitat for cockroaches and ants.

Design and Specification

Ensure:
  • particle board is not used, particularly in kitchens, because ants and cockroaches can eat the adhesives and tend to nest and breed in the material
  • the wall to floor junctions are sealed with a solid material
  • pantries have light, are screened and are ventilated to reduce humidity to reduce the incidence of cockroach infestation
  • the holes in cupboards and walls through which electrical conduits and pipes pass are sealed with a solid material, and not sealed with silicone which is subject to attack by ants
  • there is storage in kitchen, bathroom and laundry area to prevent food, wet clothes and towels being left on the floor, which might attract cockroaches and ants
  • electrical appliances are sealed with a solid or fine mesh material to eliminate gaps
  • joinery is detailed to eliminate gaps and spaces against walls and floors.
Consider:
  • using mesh shelves to deter cockroaches
  • keeping the area under sinks and around stoves open, lit and dry, to reduce cockroach infestation
  • keeping cupboards under the bench at least 300mm above the floor to allow light penetration and easy access for cleaning
  • using benches with integrated splashbacks
  • selecting electrical fittings that are less easily infested by ants and cockroaches.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • joinery, bench top and wall junctions are sealed
  • floor to wall junctions are sealed
  • openings in cupboards and walls for electrical conduits and pipes are sealed
  • the pantry is ventilated.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • establish a pest reduction program carried out by a licensed contractor
  • check for, and destroy, ant mounds and cockroach nests
  • check that gaps, cracks and junctions are sealed
  • cut back tree branches or plants that are near to, or touching, the house.

If sprays are used against cockroaches as part of a pest management program, ensure the spray is applied twice in one month: the first time to kill the live cockroaches and the second time to kill the recently hatched cockroaches. There are other alternatives, such as gels or foams that may be used as a single application that will act over time to kill live and newly hatched cockroaches. Consult with a licensed pest management contractor about the best system for the local conditions.

Survey data
Insects—ants and cockroaches  (based on residents’ reports or survey evidence) Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No survey evidence 26% 3,661  
No survey evidence but reported (may be seasonal or weather related) 41% 3,661  
Survey evidence 39% 3,099  
Splash back well sealed to prevent water penetration 59% 3,630 +

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

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B6.4 Mosquitoes and flies House IconHouse Icon

Mosquitoes and flies transmit disease including trachoma, which is carried by some types of flies and many mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River Fever, Barmah Forest Disease, Dengue Fever and Murray Valley Encephalitis.

Houses and yards should be designed to reduce mosquito and fly breeding areas and areas of potential contact between mosquitoes, flies and people. Poorly graded or blocked gutters, rainwater tank inlets, pooling water from dripping taps and/or poorly drained yard area could be breeding places for these insects.

Data shows that more than half of surveyed houses (52 per cent) had some mosquito breeding areas and 36 per cent of houses had flies or mosquitoes present at the time of survey.

One of the main strategies for reducing contact between flies, mosquitoes and people is screening doors and windows with insect mesh. Data shows that only 12 per cent of surveyed houses had most (more than 80%) external openings fully screened.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • in areas subject to mosquito borne disease, metal insect screening has been fitted to all doors and windows
  • the frames of screens are designed, specified and constructed to allow the mesh to be easily replaced, see information about fire escape requirements for screens at A3.3 ‘Escape in the event of fire’
  • rainwater tank inlets and overflows are screened
  • gully traps, vent pipes, septic tank soakage trench inlets, dry toilet vent pipes and other drains are screened
  • gutters are graded to fall towards the downpipe, can be easily cleaned and are designed to prevent damage by ladders during cleaning 
  • sumps or pits are provided under all yard taps, downpipes, evaporative cooler and hot water system overflow, to prevent water ponding
  • the yard is graded to allow stormwater to drain away from the house and yard
  • outdoor food preparation areas can be hosed out and are connected to the waste water disposal system, to remove food scraps that could attract flies.
Consider:
  • offsetting lights away from doors and windows to deter insects from entering the house while ensuring that access is well lit
  • using insect repellent light globes for external areas
  • using woven stainless steel insect mesh
  • providing outdoor power points and television antenna points to prevent residents piercing screens or leaving doors and windows ajar to connect power cords
  • fencing the yard to keep out unwanted animals and reduce the amount of faeces in the yard that could  attract flies
  • selecting and placing plants to minimise mosquito breeding areas, and to deter flies and other insects.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • screens are fitted to all openings, are secure and intact, with no gaps between the screen and the window or door frame
  • all sewer vents, gully traps, soakage trench inlets and vents, rainwater tank inlets and overflows, and dry toilet vent stacks have been fitted with an insect screen
  • the yard has been graded to drain water away from the house and yard, and there are no flat spots beneath floor areas
  • there are drainage sumps or pits under all yard taps, downpipes, evaporative cooler and the hot water system overflow
  • planting layout has been carried out according to the specifications, if previously agreed.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check for leaking waste water or taps and repair
  • clean gutters
  • trim plants and remove any plants that harbour water
  • repair or replace any torn mesh on window and door screens
  • repair or replace any torn mesh on sewer vents, gully traps, soakage trench inlets and vents, rainwater tank inlets and overflows, and check that dry toilet vent stack screens are intact.
Survey data
Insects—mosquitoes and flies Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No mosquito breeding areas 48% 3,661 <
One to four mosquito breeding areas 36% 3,661  
Five or more mosquito breeding areas 16% 3,661  
All waste water around the house OK 72% 3,660  
No evidence of mosquitoes or flies at time of survey 28% 3,660  
No evidence of mosquitoes or flies at time of survey but reported by residents (may be seasonal or weather related) 42% 3,660  
Evidence of mosquitoes or flies at time of survey 36% 3,099  
Rubbish system—kitchen bin, no regular collection 3% 3,099  
Rubbish system—no kitchen bin, no regular collection 6% 3,099  
Screening out insects      
No data recorded 6% 3,662  
All external doors and windows screened 13% 3,662  
Between 80% to 99% of doors and windows screened 12% 3,662  
Less than 80% of doors and windows screened 69% 3,662  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Healthabitat and Pormpuraaw Community Council 1997, Pormpuraaw Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Cape York Communities, project report, p. 16

Bailey, C, Moran, M & Henderson, G 1995, A Response to the Encephalitis Outbreak on Badu Island in the Torres Strait in 1995: Improvements in Environmental Health,Queensland Health, Cairns

Queensland Government Department of Housing Policy and Standards, Document #13 ‘Security and Insect Screening Policy’

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B6.5 Dust mites House IconHouse Icon

Dust mites and their excreta have been linked to asthma. Dust mites cannot be seen but they inhabit clothes, bedding, hair, carpets and soft furnishings. They require a high humidity environment to breed. They do not survive in ultraviolet light from the sun and they are unlikely to survive in a dry, well-ventilated environment.

The prevalence of asthma can also be increased by environmental allergens such as pollen and industrial pollutants. It is important to discuss the incidence of asthma with the community and identify external factors that may also be contributing to asthma.

Whilst the majority of surveyed houses do not have fitted carpets (75%), only around a third of houses (34%) had roof insulation. Lack of roof insulation can significantly increase humidity in the house because vapour condenses on uninsulated, cold ceiling surfaces.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • wet areas and the kitchen have effective permanent ventilation to remove steam and reduce house humidity, without reducing security and privacy
  • the entire house has effective insulation and cross ventilation to reduce humidity
  • the house is sited to reduce the impact of environmental allergens; for example, orient the house to gain winter sun, which reduces humidity and decreases habitat for dust mites
  • residents are alerted to the fact that fitted carpets provide an ideal breeding area for dust mites and that other types of floor coverings might reduce the presence of dust mites
  • an external clothes line is available and accessible by a path, complying with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility.
Consider:
  • reducing humidity in the house by supplementing natural ventilation in the bathroom with exhaust fans that are ducted to an outside vent and fitted with a timer switch
  • providing an externally vented exhaust fan in the kitchen
  • insulating the walls, as well as the roofs, in high humidity areas such as the bathrooms, laundry and kitchen
  • separating high humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms from living rooms and bedrooms
  • in cold climates, using heating fuels that do not release water vapour - for example, kerosene and gas heaters tend to release water into the air
  • using rugs or other floor coverings rather than fitted carpets (rugs can be aired in the sun, and hard floor surfaces do not provide as good a breeding environment for dust mites)
  • in rooms that will be artificially heated or cooled, providing a means of venting air and admitting fresh air
  • in tropical climates, fitting rain protection and security screens to all windows, so they can be left open, to assist in cross ventilation of the house (for information about fire escape requirements for screens, see A3.3 ‘Escape in the event of fire’).

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • insulation has been correctly installed to the entire ceiling space, and it is the specified rating of insulation (called the ‘R’ value)
  • the bathroom can be naturally ventilated
  • mechanical exhaust fans are working and ducted to the outside
  • the roof space is vented and the vents are fitted with a screen
  • the clothes line has been installed and is secure, and has an accessible footpath from the house.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check
  • windows can be opened
  • exhaust fans are working.
Survey data
Insects - dust mites Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Carpets in houses (providing a known place for dust mites to breed)      
No carpet, or rugs only 75% 3,661 <
Some carpeted rooms 10% 3,661  
All rooms carpeted 15% 3,661  
       
Insulation and ventilation to reduce condensation and humidity in the house      
Roof insulated 34% 3,660 <<
No roof insulation or not known if insulation installed 66% 3,660  
Walls insulated 22% 2,788 <<
No wall insulation or not known if insulation installed 78% 2,788  
Shower room ventilation 87% 3,643  
House ventilated 86% 1,671  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Asthma Foundation

Sercombe, J, Liu-Brennan, D, Causer, S, Tovey, E. The vertical distribution of house dust mite allergen in carpet and the effect of dry vacuum cleaning. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2006; 0:0 

Leeder, S, Habibullah, M, Mahmic, A, Jalaludin, B, Tovey, E. The effect of season on house dust mite allergen (Der P1) concentrations in reservoir and aeroallergen samples in Australia. Environmental Health. 2004; 4:35-44

Mihrshahi, S, Marks, G, Criss, S, Tovey, E, Vanlaar, C, Peat, J. Effectiveness of an intervention to reduce house dust mite allergen levels in children's beds. Allergy. 2003; 58:784-789

Asthma Foundation of Victoria 1994, Specification for an Asthma Friendly House.

Fifoot, A, Sieber, L & Tovey, E (eds) 1995, Mites Asthma and Domestic Design 2, University of Sydney, Sydney.

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B6.6 Termites House IconHouse Icon

Termites, or white ants, do not pose a direct health risk, however they can cause major damage to unprotected timber, which makes the house structurally unsafe and can create entry points for other pests. Talk to the housing manager about the level of termite risk as part of the design stage. Remember that some timber treatments are not guaranteed for use in northern Australia, where termites tend to be more destructive, and that CCA treated timbers (copper chrome arsenate - a wood preservative) are potentially harmful to health and are not suited to internal use.

Australian Standard (AS 3660 Termite management) sets out specific requirements for managing the threat of termite attack, which include:

  • use of treated timbers
  • physical separation techniques such as steel sub-floor structures
  • additional slab reinforcement to prevent cracking and reduce access paths through cracks for termites
  • mechanical barriers such as seals around all penetrations in slabs, ant caps on footings and fine stainless mesh between foundations and the structure above.

Another essential strategy is regular inspection for termite trails or mounds. It is important to provide access points in and around the house to check for termites, for example, under floors and in empty spaces.

Most surveyed houses did not report the presence of termites (72%), however this was a slight decrease on previous data and could indicate that termites are prevalent in more houses.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the house is designed according to AS 3660 Termite management
  • ground floor walls in double storey homes are separated from upper floors with a physical barrier to prevent termites travelling undetected through the wall cavity
  • wet areas are waterproofed to prevent leaks because termites are attracted to wet timber and soil
  • houses with suspended floors have a minimum clearance of 600mm above ground to allow safe inspection and the sub-floor space is well ventilated and can easily be accessed.
For additional protection, consider:
  • using  termite resistant materials for the structure and wall cladding, such as masonry, steel, concrete and fibre cement sheets
  • using termite resistant materials for architraves and trimming around doors, windows, skirtings and for garden bed edges
  • keeping all cupboards and joinery off the floor
  • using metal mesh barriers, which termites cannot cross, instead of in-ground chemical treatments
  • fixing cladding, or some keys parts of the cladding, with screws rather than glue or nails for easy removal to inspect the structure behind for termites
  • locating the yard taps away from the house to prevent the base of walls and surrounding ground from getting wet.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • a termite protection system has been installed and a copy of the warranty provided by the builder
  • termite resistant materials have been used in all concealed and hard to access parts of the house, such as the sub-floor areas and roof space
  • there is enough clearance under the floor for inspections
  • there are access hatches or panels for inspections
  • metal flashings and ant caps on footings and walls are folded down and not torn.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance,
  • check all houses for evidence of termite trails or other termite activity
  • implement a program of regular termite inspections and treatments by a licensed pest management contractor, with written reports for all houses.
Survey data
Insects - termites Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
No evidence or reports of termites present 72% 3,660 <

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbol used in this column.

Standards and references

AS 3660.1–2000, Termite management—New building work.

AS 3660.2–2000, Termite management—In and around existing buildings and structures—Guidelines.

AS 3660.3–2000, Termite management—Assessment criteria for termite management systems.

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B7 Reducing the health impacts of dust

Many communities experience problems with dust, either caused by unsealed roads and surfaces in the community or blown into the community from surrounding arid, rural or drought affected lands.

Dust causes direct health problems by irritating the skin and parts of the body that secrete mucus, which contributes to eye diseases such as trachoma, respiratory disease and skin infections. This section deals with design strategies for the house and living area that will reduce the direct impact of dust on people’s health. Most wind driven dust occurs within a metre of the ground and causes the majority of problems.

Where roads or the edges of a road are not sealed, motor cars may generate high levels of dust. If the house yard is not fenced, it will be hard to control the movement of vehicles around the house and to establish landscaping, which can reduce dust from surrounding areas entering the house.

Evaporative cooling systems, which are most efficient in hot, dry climates, push large volumes of cool air into the house and the pressure generated in the house reduces the entry of dust.

Dust can also affect the performance of health hardware. For example, solar hot water collection panels will be less effective when covered in dust; appliances such as washing machines have a shorter life due to the build up of dust in moving parts; and the function of sliding doors and windows can be affected by dust build up. In dust prone areas, particular attention needs to be given to the selection of health hardware to ensure it will not fail.

Dust can transmit animal and bird droppings and bacteria to roofs and may contaminate the water supply.It may be necessary to disinfect the community’s water supply, after other treatments, to protect against contamination by dust borne particles.

Survey data shows that 44 per cent of houses had at least one working motor car in the yard at the time of survey. Less than a third (30 per cent) of surveyed houses had a fenced yard and only 22 per cent had windbreak planting to reduce the movement of dust in the yard. However, 96% of surveyed houses had at least one working yard tap available to assist in establishing dust control planting.

Over half of surveyed houses (58 per cent) were located in a climate in which the maximum summer temperature regularly exceeded 40°Celsius, indicating hot, dry and dusty conditions. However, ducted evaporative cooling systems were present in only ten per cent of all houses and a third of houses (33 per cent) had no cooling system installed.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • wall to floor junctions are detailed to exclude dust from the house
  • weather strips are specified for all external doors 
  • windows can be sealed against dust coming into the house
  • insect screens are fitted to windows and doors to assist in filtering dust and the screens can easily be removed for cleaning
  • in areas prone to dust storms, all openings and vents in the house can be secured against dust entering the house
  • concrete, paving or gravel is used near house entrances to reduce dust
  • at least one of the verandahs or outside living areas is facing away from prevailing, dust-carrying wind
  • yard areas are covered with lawn, ground cover, gravel or mulch, and the yard is shaped to capture and direct rainwater that can be absorbed by plants in the yard
  • yard taps are provided and located to allow a hose or drip irrigation line to reach all areas of the yard.

Drip irrigation lines are known to consume large volumes of water because they can be turned on and forgotten; to avoid wasting water fit a timer device between the tap and the irrigation line and check local water restrictions.

Consider:
  • raising floor levels to above 1 metre, or a combination of floor and window sill levels to 1 metre above the ground
  • not using timber decking in extremely dusty areas as the dust could blow up from below the deck
  • having all window sills at approximately 1 metre above the ground but consider whether this will reduce effective cross ventilation in the tropics, and talk with community members about whether this would change what they can see from the house
  • providing low walls, screens or landscaped mounds to verandahs and outside living areas
  • using fences, rocks or other barriers, to keep vehicles out of landscaped and unsealed areas
  • sealing driveways, parking areas and paths
  • building landscaped earth mounds, growing vines on low fences, or planting dense shrubs on the yard perimeter and on the edges of any outside living areas that are exposed to dust carrying winds
  • installing rainwater tanks to collect water for watering plants and, if the water is also used for drinking, using a first flush device to divert the first load of polluted water from the roof away from the tank (see B4.1 Quality of Drinking Water)
  • providing an irrigation system, particularly along the fence line or landscaped mounds, to water trees, fruit and vegetable plants, and create wind breaks with vines inside and outside the yard.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • wall to floor junctions are sealed
  • weather strips are fitted on external doors 
  • areas around doorways and windows are sealed as specified
  • yard taps and irrigation systems are installed, secured and working
  • the yard has been landscaped and planted as specified in the contract, and the plants are alive and established
  • fencing, if specified, is installed and secure and all gates work
  • rainwater tanks, if specified, are secure and downpipes are connected to the tanks and if the water is to be used for drinking, a first flush device has been fitted
  • the yard has been shaped and graded to direct water to garden areas.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check and, where necessary, repair or replace:
  • weather strips on doors and seals on windows
  • fences and gates
  • the condition of lawns and plants
  • the function of taps and irrigation systems
  • gutters, downpipes and rainwater tanks
  • clean insect screens to remove dust.
Survey data
Reducing dust in the community Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Yard fences encourage the development of dust reducing landscaping      
No fenced yard 30% 3,661  
Fenced yard area at least 900 square metres 37% 3,661  
Fenced yard area less than 900 square metres 33% 3,661  
Wind break planting in the yard 22% 3,662  
No yard taps 4% 3,660  
1 yard tap 26% 3,660  
2 yard taps 59% 3,660  
3 or more yard taps 11% 3,660  
       
Cars can generate dust      
No working motor cars in yard 56% 3,660  
One working motor car in yard 28% 3,660  
Two working motor cars in yard 10% 3,660  
Three or more working motor cars in yard 6% 3,660  
       
Cooling systems—that may reduce dust entering the house      
Maximum summer temperature regularly greater than 40°C 58% 3,662 <<
Reverse cycle, refrigerated, air ducted cooling system 4% 3,662  
Reverse cycle, refrigerated, air non-ducted cooling system 10% 3,662  
Evaporative ducted cooling system 10% 3,662  
Evaporative non-ducted cooling system 3% 3,662  
Ceiling fans 40% 3,662  
No cooling system 33% 3,662  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Lansingh, Dr Van C 2005, Primary health care approach to trachoma control in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. PhD thesis, Ophthalmology, Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne

Seidel, M. 2002, Dust control, Bush Tech #14, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Godjin, Z 2001, Harvesting of Stormwater in Remote Arid Indigenous Communities using examples from Kalka and Piplayatjara in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands South Australia, Rio Tinto/Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc.

Pholeros, P 1991, AP Design Guide, Building for Health on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, pp. 46-7.

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B8 Controlling the temperature of the living environment

Living in houses that are too cold or too hot can contribute to a range of physical illnesses and can cause emotional distress for residents. Exposure to cold temperatures increases the likelihood of developing chest infections and pneumonia, particularly for children and elderly people. If the house is cold and all members of the household sleep in one heated room, these infections can rapidly spread. Extended exposure to high temperatures can also result in illness, with increased risk of dehydration and heat stress for sick children and elderly people.

Survey data from over 1,000 houses shows that, on the day of survey when the outside shaded air (ambient) temperature was above 30ºC, the average improvement in the internal air temperature of the house was less than 2ºC. Survey data also shows that in some houses (31 per cent), the internal temperature on these days was hotter than the outside temperature. 

In cooler climates, survey data from 147 houses shows that, on the day of survey when the outside air temperature was less than 15ºC, the average improvement in the internal air temperature of the house was slightly greater than 3ºC.

This data indicates that these houses provide little benefit to residents in terms of protection from temperature extremes.

It can be expensive to use ‘active’ heating and cooling systems, such as heaters and air conditioners to make poorly performing houses more comfortable. ‘Active’ means a heating and cooling system that requires additional energy to make the house warmer or cooler, including gas, fire and electricity.

The alternative to an active heating or cooling system is a ‘passive’ system, which does not use additional energy. A verandah that shades a wall and reduces heat inside the house is an example of passive cooling and a concrete slab that is warmed by the sun during the day in winter to keep the house warm at night is an example of passive heating.  Houses that incorporate passive design features will require less days of active heating and cooling and less energy will be required to heat or cool the house on extreme temperature days. This means reduced costs for the resident.

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B8.1 Human comfort and the Australian climate

All people constantly produce heat. To remain comfortable in a warm or hot climate, the body tries to lose heat at the same rate, or even a higher rate, than it is produced. The body’s natural way of losing heat is to sweat because the process of evaporating the sweat from the skin removes heat from the body. Australian research shows that, on average, the body can maintain comfort until the temperature is 29.5ºC. In higher temperatures, people usually start to feel uncomfortable.

In a humid climate, the rate of evaporation is lower because there is a higher amount of moisture already in the air. When relative humidity exceeds 60 per cent, the body has more difficulty cooling itself with sweat. However if air from a breeze, draught, or fan moves across the body, the evaporation rate will increase, which is why fans can be effective in tropical climates. It has been estimated that a breeze of 0.5 metres per second can provide a comfort benefit as high as a 3°C temperature reduction.

Our bodies can also lose heat by exposure to cooler air or through cool surfaces that cause the body to radiate heat to these surfaces. This is why lying on a cold floor or getting into cold water can cool the body down. The greater the difference in temperature between our bodies and the cool surface, the more body temperature we will lose.

In cold climates the body needs to make up for lost heat. The body’s natural defence against the cold is to shiver, which increases the internal heat produced; moving or exercising will also achieve this result. Putting on more clothes helps to insulate the body against losing heat to the cold air, as does moving away from cold winds.  Australian research suggests that, if properly dressed, the body can maintain comfort at temperatures of around 15ºC. Below this temperature, most people begin to feel uncomfortable.

Our bodies can gain heat that is radiated from a warm surface, such as a heater. This is why artificial heating is useful in colder climates especially where temperatures fall below 15ºC.

There is substantial variation in climatic conditions across Australia, as shown in the map below. When designing new houses, or major housing upgrades, it is essential to know the local climatic conditions and understand the passive design strategies that apply to those conditions. The characteristics of the six climatic zones in Australia and design strategies are also summarised below.

Climate zones based on temperature and humidity

Source: Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, 2003

The transitions between these zones are gradual and there can be substantial variation within a region, even over relatively short distances. For example, Cairns rarely experiences minimum temperatures of less than 15°C, towns and communities on the tablelands only 40 kilometres from Cairns may experience nights when the temperature falls below zero.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology web site often has data about local or regional climatic conditions and community members are a useful source of information about local weather conditions. Consider also that local people will be, to some extent, acclimatised to the prevailing conditions in their community and may have different perceptions of hot and cold comfort levels.

‘Tropical’―hot humid summer and warm winter

Overview of climate
  • high temperatures all year, and seasonal change distinguished more by change in humidity and rainfall than temperature
  • little change between day and night temperatures, meaning little cooling effect on building fabric
  • hot, wet summer with average maximum summer temperature and humidity level exceeding human comfort levels
  • warm, dry winter with average mean winter temperature within range of human comfort.
Design strategies
  • use lightweight (low mass) construction
  • maximise cross-ventilation
  • locate the house for exposure to breezes and shading all year.

‘Sub-tropical’―warm humid summer and mild winter

Overview of climate
  • warm temperatures all year with only two seasons, distinguished by change in temperature and rainfall
  • moderate to low change between day and night temperatures
  • warm, wet summer with the average maximum temperature within the upper limit of the human comfort range, but a significant number of days exceeding these temperatures
  • average summer humidity exceeds human comfort levels
  • mild, dry winter with average mean temperature within range of human comfort, but falling below the range at nights and on a number of days.
Design strategies
  • use lightweight (low mass) construction where change between night and day temperatures is low, consider using some thermal mass where there is a bigger day to night temperature (diurnal) change
  • maximise cross-ventilation, but provide shelter from cold winter winds
  • site for exposure to breezes and shading in summer months
  • position living areas to capture the northern sun in winter.

‘Arid tropical’―hot, dry summer and warm winter

Overview of climate
  • significant change between day and night temperatures
  • hot to very hot summers and average maximum temperature regularly exceeding human comfort levels but humidity within human comfort levels
  • warm, very dry winters with average mean temperature within the range of human comfort but falling below the range at nights.
Design strategies
  • use passive solar design with insulated thermal mass that is well shaded in summer
  • maximise cross ventilation, but provide shelter from cool winter winds
  • site for exposure to breezes and shading in summer months
  • position living areas to get northern sun in winter.

‘Hot arid’―hot, dry zone and cold winter

Overview of climate
  • low rainfall all year, at least two and often four distinct seasons distinguished by temperature
  • high variation between day and night temperatures
  • very hot summers with hot, dry winds, average maximum temperature exceeding human comfort levels, and average humidity within human comfort levels
  • cold, dry winters with cold winds and average mean temperature below the range of human comfort, particularly at nights.
Design strategies
  • use passive solar design with insulated thermal mass that is fully shaded in summer
  • use convective cooling (venting of high level hot air to draw in cooler air from lower levels) to maximise night time cooling in summer
  • provide protection from prevailing winds in summer and winter
  • position the living areas and glazing to capture the northern sun in winter.

‘Temperate’―warm summer and cool winter

Overview of climate
  • four distinct seasons, with middle seasons of spring and autumn being ideal for human comfort range
  • moderate variation between day and night temperatures (higher for inland locations)
  • warm to hot, dry summers with average maximum temperatures within the human comfort range, but some days that exceed this temperature
  • summer humidity within human comfort range
  • cool to cold, wet winters with average mean temperature below the range of human comfort.
Design strategies
  • use passive solar design with insulated thermal mass that is well shaded in summer
  • use cross ventilation, passive cooling and convective cooling in summer
  • provide protection from prevailing winds in summer and winter
  • position the living areas and glazing to capture the northern sun in winter.

‘Cool temperate zone’―mild to warm summer and cold winter

Overview of climate
  • four distinct seasons, with middle seasons of spring and autumn being within human comfort range
  • high variation between day and night temperatures
  • warm to hot, dry summers with average maximum temperatures and humidity within human comfort range
  • cold to very cold, wet winters with average mean temperature below the range of human comfort.
Key design strategies
  • use passive solar design with insulated thermal mass that is well shaded in summer
  • use cross ventilation and passive cooling in summer
  • extensive north facing rooms and glazing for sun in winter
  • consider double glazing.
Survey data
Summary of climate types represented in houses surveyed Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
When cooling may be required      
Maximum summer temperature between 25°C–40°C 41% 3,662  
Maximum summer temperature regularly greater than 40°C 58% 3,662 <<
When heating may be required      
Minimum winter temperature regularly less than 0°C 20% 3,661  
Minimum winter temperature between 0°C–10ºC 54% 3,661 ++
Minimum winter temperature greater than 10°C 26% 3,661  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website http://www.bom.gov.au

Reardon, C. and Marker, A. 2002, Your Home Guide, Design for Climate Section, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney

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B8.2 Passive design in tropical zones

Tropical climates are generally characterised by hot, wet summers, high levels of humidity and little change between day and night temperatures. Movement of air is an important strategy for cooling people down, because the body has more difficulty cooling itself with sweat in humid climates. The most important passive design strategy in the tropics is to open up houses as much as possible, even during the heat of the day, to achieve maximum cross ventilation and convective air flow.

The use of lightweight materials for the walls and roof is recommended because they do not store much heat and shed heat quickly, even with small changes in temperatures. Heavy mass products, such as brick and block, will re-radiate the heat they have stored during the day, which keeps the house hot after sunset. When these products are used, it is essential to ensure they are well shaded. Regardless of the construction materials, windows need to be shaded from the sun and protected from rain.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the orientation of the house is clearly shown on the drawings
  • the roof and/or ceiling is insulated
  • the roof space is vented
  • there are eaves at least 600mm deep to all walls and as wide as possible for rain protection, including the southern walls, because the sun moves to the southern sky in summer in the tropics
  • at least one living room and as many bedrooms as possible, are positioned to catch the prevailing summer cooling breezes
  • every living room and bedroom has at least two openings (external or internal) to create breeze paths through the room
  • the building is engineered to withstand cyclones.
Consider:
  • developing a long, thin floor plan with as many rooms as possible having windows or openings on at least two walls to achieve maximum cross-ventilation
  • providing windows and openings in internal walls to encourage air flow between rooms and through the house but do not compromise privacy
  • providing covered external living areas that are positioned to catch the prevailing breezes in both the wet and dry seasons
  • providing a screened ‘sleep out’ style verandah positioned to catch the night-time summer breezes
  • using lightweight materials such as a steel or timber stud frame with metal, timber or fibre cement claddings
  • if using brick or block, fully shading the eastern and western walls with battens, screens, shade cloth, awnings or spaced trees (dense planting will block breezes)
  • insulating the eastern and western walls, and possibly the northern wall
  • using lighter, more reflective colours on roofs and walls
  • using vented ridges or ‘whirly-bird’ ventilators
  • raising the ceiling height to greater than 2700mm or using sloping ceilings with a minimum height of 2400mm
  • choosing windows that catch the breeze and can be left open in wet conditions, such as louvres, casements or awning windows
  • using at least some louvre windows, either metal louvres at a low level to admit cool breezes, or glass louvres high above the windows to let out hot air and admit light above the curtained areas
  • using opaque glass in windows to reduce the use of curtains which block breezes
  • fitting security and insect screens to all doors and windows, so they can be left open to improve air-flow
  • using awnings to shade windows and provide rain protection
  • putting high level windows or vents in all rooms, to let out the hot air and draw in cooler air (it is important that windows or vents can be closed in storms)
  • planting tree varieties with a canopy above window level and little foliage at lower levels to shade the roof, walls and ground around the house, but still allow air flow at house level (the shade will cool down the air that is drawn into the house)
  • using grass and ground covers around the house rather than concrete and sealed surfaces that will absorb heat and re-radiate it into the house
  • avoiding shrubs and dense planting up to 2100mm high that will block breezes, make internal rooms darker, and provide breeding areas for mosquitoes and other pests
  • positioning the kitchen or part of the living room towards the north-east to capture winter sun on cooler mornings
  • locating septic disposal trenches down wind of living areas, but in a location that will get sun in the wet season.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the roof is insulated and vented
  • an engineer’s certificate is provided, certifying the building has been designed to suit the wind terrain category
  • eastern and western walls are shaded and insulated if specified in the contract
  • all windows open and close properly
  • landscaping includes planting and measures are in place to water and protect the plants to make sure they are properly established.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance and to sustain thermal performance:
  • clean insect screens to improve ventilation through windows
  • maintain planting and thin out vegetation to maintain airflow
  • repair or replace shade cloths and other screens
  • clean the roof so that the build up of dust and mould does not reduce reflectivity (the amount of heat the roof can reflect), and therefore reduce temperatures inside the house.
When upgrading old houses, improve thermal performance by:
  • insulating and venting all roofs
  • fixing awnings, verandahs or other shade devices to northern, eastern and western walls
  • installing more and/or bigger windows
  • knocking out openings internally to improve cross ventilation
  • installing high level vents in rooms.

Note: For data that may be relevant, but not specifically related to this section, see B 8.4 ‘Active cooling of houses’.

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B8.3 Passive design for houses in arid and temperate climates

In arid and temperate climates, houses must remain cool in the extremely hot summers and warm in cold winters. The air temperature is often hotter than in tropical climates, and there is little relief provided by rain or breezes during the day, so people tend to shut up their houses against the extreme outside temperatures. People may also use a shady outdoor place that is sheltered from hot, dry winds during the day.

Cooler nights in arid climates and cool changes in temperate zones can provide an opportunity to cool the building fabric and flush hot air from the house. A good passive design strategy in summer in these regions is to shade and insulate the house against the heat of the day and flush out any stored heat during the cooler nights.

In winter, dry, sunny days provide plenty of opportunity to capture and store solar energy in a solid material such as a concrete floor or brick walls (thermal mass). This stored energy can be radiated from thermal mass into living areas of the house during the night. Excluding cold winds from internal and external living areas, while admitting sun through glass areas, will increase the benefits of thermal mass.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • that the orientation of the house is clearly shown on the drawings
  • the house is sited so that in winter, as much of the yard as possible is exposed to the northern sun and neighbouring houses do not shade the yard
  • the roof and walls are insulated with reflective foil & bulk insulation or thermo-cellular reflective insulation, to reflect heat and retain warmth or coolness
  • the roof space is vented
  • windows are placed to take advantage of any cooling breezes in summer
  • eastern and western walls are well shaded
  • there is an extensive area of wall and glazing facing north, including living areas, and that the depth of eaves means walls and glazing are shaded from the summer sun but exposed to the winter sun
  • there is an outdoor living area facing north for winter warmth and a shaded outdoor living area protected from summer winds
  • the building includes some thermal mass in floors and/or walls to store winter heat.
Consider:
  • using a more compact floor plan with less external wall area than in the tropics to minimise the length of eastern and western walls
  • using insulated thermal mass for all walls
  • having very small, well shaded windows on the eastern and western walls
  • maximising night time cooling with internal windows and high level windows or vents in the centre of the house to let out the hot air and draw in cooler air (it is important that windows or vents can be closed in winter and during dust storms)
  • providing vents between rooms to allow the transfer of warmth in winter from heated rooms to non-heated rooms
  • providing window coverings to reduce summer heat gain and the loss of heat in winter
  • use draught seals on doors and windows
  • planting deciduous trees and using pergolas with deciduous vines to shade walls in summer and admit winter sun (if funds are limited, prioritise the western walls, then the eastern and then the northern walls)
  • using shaded courtyards or gardens areas, with ponds or water features, to cool the low level air that is drawn into the house
  • planting vines on fences and building wind breaks to cut out cold and dusty winds (consult with the community about prevailing winds)
  • locating drive ways, waste water disposal trenches, clothes drying areas and other yard facilities away from the northern edge of the yard (the northern part of the garden is usually the best place for outdoor living in the winter)
  • insulating floor spaces, or enclosing under floor spaces, in houses that have suspended floors in cold climates (ideally 95 per cent of under floor spaces should be enclosed, allowing 5 per cent of unenclosed space for ventilation of sub-floor timbers)
  • using double glazed window systems in very cold climates, only after all other principles in this section have been implemented.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that the:
  • roof is insulated and vented
  • walls are insulated
  • eastern and western walls are shaded
  • all windows open and close properly
  • door seals are fitted
  • landscaping is provided as specified.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, and to sustain thermal performance:
  • prune deciduous vines in autumn
  • check, repair or replace door seals as required
  • repair or replace shade cloths and other screens
  • clean the roof so that the build up of dust and mould does not reduce reflectivity and thermal performance.
When upgrading old houses, improve thermal performance by:
  • insulating and venting all roofs
  • fixing awnings, verandahs or other shade devices to northern, eastern and western walls
  • insulating suspended floors
  • installing more and/or bigger windows to northern faces
  • installing high level vents in rooms for night time cooling
  • planting around the house.

Note: For data that may be relevant, but not specifically related to this section see B8.5 ‘Active heating of houses’.

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B8.4 Active cooling of houses House IconHouse IconHouse IconHouse Icon

An active cooling system uses energy to cool the house. Some examples of active cooling systems include fans, evaporative air conditioners, and refrigerative air conditioners such as ‘split systems’ but these systems can consume varying amounts of energy, water and money. For example, in a desert environment, the electricity used to operate an evaporative cooler can cost over $8 per day and these appliances can use 450 litres of water a day to cool an average house.

While fans do not actually reduce air temperature, they cool the body by increasing the rate of air moving across the skin. Fans are most effective in the tropics and can be used on their own or in combination with other cooling systems to reduce energy costs and improve the overall efficiency of the cooling system. For example, fans combined with evaporative cooling in desert regions can reduce the number of days when evaporative cooling is used in mid-season periods.

Cooling the house needs to be taken into account at the design stage to ensure that the most effective and efficient system is installed during construction. This will avoid the need for residents to purchase cheap, poor quality systems that require installation after construction and have high running and maintenance costs.

Survey data shows that most houses do not improve the comfort of residents in hot conditions and 58 per cent of houses surveyed are located in areas where summer temperatures regularly exceed 40ºC.

Over one quarter of the houses were surveyed at a time when outside shaded air temperature (ambient) was above 30ºC.  In these hot conditions, almost a third of these houses (31 per cent) showed no improvement in the inside living environment temperature under these circumstances. The majority of houses showed that residents experienced only minor improvements in the inside temperature in the range of 0ºC to less than 4ºC.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • passive design strategies have been incorporated to make the house cooler
  • insulation is installed in the ceilings of rooms that are going to be used as living space
  • that the power circuit for all air conditioning units is on a separate protected circuit and is fitted with no-volt relays to ensure that the air conditioner has to be manually restarted after a power outage.
For fans, consider:
  • installing fans in all living rooms and bedrooms, even when other cooling systems are also provided
  • installing fans on verandahs and outside living areas
  • making the finished height of blades on ceiling fans not too close to the ceiling where they will stir up hot air but not so low as to be dangerous to people (minimum height of 2350mm above the floor and 200mm below the ceiling)
  • positioning lights around the ceiling fans to prevent a strobe effect; lights need to be well outside of the diameter of the fan and need to be located around the fan
  • selecting robust fan controllers that are resistant to fluctuations in power supply
  • choosing timber or stainless steel blades that are not prone to rust
  • using oscillating fans on walls or ceilings in bedrooms or where the ceiling level is lower, or in larger rooms to direct air movement across the room
  • providing fans in bathrooms to evaporate moisture and reduce mould.
In desert and dry regions, consider:
  • finding out whether the community has enough water available to run evaporative cooling systems and whether the quality of this water is suitable for this type of unit
  • mounting evaporative cooling systems beside the house on an independent stand to avoid:
  • damage to roof sheeting and structure if the unit leaks
  • damage to roof sheeting by service personnel
  • penetrating the roof with ducts and increasing the chance of the roof leaking
  • noise transferring from the unit into the house
  • foul air from the sewer vent pipe being drawn into the house by a roof mounted system
  • directing the ‘bleed-off’ water from the evaporative cooling system away from the house and re-using it in the yard to water shade trees, or disposing of it safely
  • positioning the ducting to deliver cool air to the main living areas of the houses only not in the toilet and shower areas.
In the tropics, consider:
  • if using a refrigerated air conditioning system, using a split system with an inverter and fix the fan coil unit on the wall away from young children, water and vermin
  • using vented ridges or ‘whirly-bird’ ventilators
  • draining the condensation from a refrigerative air conditioning unit onto a garden bed
  • if not installing air conditioning units, providing ‘knock-out’ openings in the walls and power points to allow residents to install their own air conditioning units without placing them in windows that would prevent the windows from being opened.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the finished height of ceiling fans is as specified
  • the fan is secure and works on all speeds without wobbles or noise and the controller is securely fixed to the wall
  • the specified cooling system is provided and correctly installed
  • evaporative coolers:
  • are not located near vent pipes because foul air can be drawn into the house
  • are not mounted on the roof because water leaks or overflow may corrode the roof, particularly in areas with high levels of mineral salt in the water
  • are protected and easy to access for maintenance
  • cooling is only ducted to the living areas and bedrooms
  • external fan coil units for refrigerated air conditioning are fixed to walls and not placed on the ground
  • run-off from air conditioning units is directed away from the house to a garden bed
  • the power is on a separate protected circuit and no-volt relay switches have been installed
  • ‘knock-outs’, with a power point on a dedicated circuit, have been provided in living rooms and bedrooms without air conditioners.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • inspect evaporative air conditioners before summer, check water flow, and replace filter pads, if necessary.
To reduce running and maintenance costs:
  • plant shade trees around houses
  • keep air conditioning units, especially evaporative systems, cleaned and fully maintained
  • consider using rainwater in evaporative cooling systems to reduce the effect of mineral salts on filter pads
  • if evaporative cooling systems have been mounted on the roof, take overflow pipes to the ground to stop mineral salts from corroding the roof; also consider soakage beds
  • monitor the temperature in houses and the cost of cooling houses to identify more energy efficient housing designs and cooling systems.
Survey data
Cooling Percentage of houses, or temperature, or number of windows Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Climate      
Maximum summer temperature between 25°C–40°C 41% 3,662  
Maximum summer temperature regularly greater than 40°C 58% 3,662 <<
       
House performance in hot conditions      
Houses where outdoor temperature was greater than 30ºC at time of survey (ambient shaded air temperature) 28% 3,653  
Houses that provided no improvement on the outside air temperature 31% 1,018  
Average improvement in all houses surveyed, when outdoor temperature was greater than 30ºC at time of survey 1.2ºC (1,018)  
Houses that provided 0°C–2ºC improvement 52% 1,018  
Houses that provided 2ºC improvement or better 28% 1,018  
Houses that provided 4ºC improvement or better 10% 1,018  
Houses that provided 6ºC improvement or better 5% 1,018  
Houses that provided 8ºC improvement or better 2% 1,018  
Houses that provided 10ºC improvement or better 1% 1,018  
       
Outside the house      
Shade trees or planting in the yard 51% 3,662  
Houses with any sun protected windows 44% 3,660  
No verandah 16% 3,661  
Verandah on one side of the house 30% 3,661  
Verandah on two sides of the house 35% 3,661  
Verandah on three sides of the house 10% 3,661  
Verandah on four sides of the house 8% 3,661  
       
Insulation      
Roof insulated 34% 3,660  
No roof insulation or unknown 66% 3,660  
Walls insulated 22% 2,788  
No wall insulation or unknown 78% 2,788  
       
Windows      
Total windows―all houses 49,888 3,662  
Windows—average number per house 13.8 3,662  
Windows not functioning OK 24,209 3,662  
Windows—average number not OK per house 6.7 3,662  
Houses with all windows OK 18% 3,662  
       
Cooling systems      
No cooling system 33% 3,662  
Ceiling fans 40% 3,662 <<
Evaporative non-ducted cooling system 3% 3,662  
Evaporative ducted cooling system 10% 3,662  
Reverse cycle refrigerated air non-ducted cooling system 10% 3,662  
Reverse cycle refrigerated air ducted cooling system 4% 3,662  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Australian Council of Building Design Professionals, BDP Environment Design Guide, Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology  web site, <http://www.bom.gov.au>

Australian Greenhouse Office―energy rating, <http://www.energyrating.gov.au>

Building Code of Australia

Far West Area Health Service 2001, Temperature of houses: Data logging Murdi Paaki region Weilmoringle and Enngonia.

Australian Greenhouse Office 2002 Your Home Design for Lifestyle Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney <http://www.yourhome.gov.au>,

Hill, J 2005 Improving thermal performance of social housing for better health of occupants and to reduce costs of temperature control, thesis available through University of Sydney Rare Book Library Masters Theses at http://opac.library.usyd.edu.au/search/aHill+J&/ahill

Hollo, N 1997, Warm house cool house: inspirational designs for low-energy housing, Choice Books, Marrickville, New South Wales.

Nganampa Health Council Inc. 2000-01, Thermal performance, energy use and water consumption of round 2 health clinics and duplex staff accommodation units during critical winter and summer periods.

Pholeros, P 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPKNganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, pp. 11-12.

Pholeros, P & South Australian Aboriginal Housing Unit 1998, Temperature Control and Health, pp. 1-4.

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B8.5 Active heating of houses House IconHouse IconHouse Icon

An active heating system uses energy to heat the house. Some examples of active heating systems include wood heaters, gas heaters, electric fan heaters, radiators and reverse cycle air conditioners. Active heating systems can consume large amounts of energy and money. Standard plug-in electrical heaters, typical in many communities, can cost over $27 a day to heat an average house. Wood heaters can consume up to 28 kilograms of wood a day.  A well designed house will reduce the need for active heating and an efficient heating system can also reduce running costs to residents.

Heated houses can quickly become stuffy and a lack of fresh air entering the house can cause problems for people with asthma and may contribute to the spread of respiratory disease. Government regulations prevent the use of gas heaters in bedrooms. Gas heaters without a flue can produce harmful gases inside the house.

Survey data show that relatively few houses were subject to cold conditions, with only 147 houses recording an ambient temperature of less than 15ºC at time of survey. Surveys occur during daylight/work hours and the coldest temperatures would generally be recorded at night or very early in the morning.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the house has been designed and built or upgraded for cold conditions
  • the rooms to be heated can be sealed against cold draughts.
Consider:
  • installing efficient slow combustion wood heaters where fire wood is available and constructing a small covered area for the storage of firewood
  • venting the fire place to improve the efficiency of the fire
  • providing built-in gas heaters with a flue where gas is readily available and affordable
  • if using electric heaters, providing built-in ceramic heaters or electric panel heaters or energy efficient heating systems in the living areas and bedrooms
  • in very cold climates, using in-slab heating systems
  • locating the heater near surfaces with high thermal mass such as concrete slab floors and stone or masonry walls to store excess heat and re-radiate it when the heater has been turned off
  • installing convection ducting or mechanical systems such as heat shifting fans to distribute heat from the heated area to other rooms in the house
  • installing low volume air-exchange fans to draw some fresh air into the room.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • heaters are supplied and installed according to the manufacturers requirements and according to building regulations (gas heaters will require a certificate from a licensed gas fitter)
  • wood heaters are located the minimum required distance from walls and flammable materials and are placed on a non-flammable hearth
  • vents through the floor, wall and roof for wood and gas heaters are sealed against vermin and flashed to prevent water penetration.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance, check that:
  • heaters are working efficiently and safely
  • the doors on wood heaters close and seal properly
  • there are no cracks in the glass face of gas or wood heaters
  • non-flammable materials around a wood heater are intact
  • flues or chimneys are cleaned regularly.
To reduce running and maintenance costs:
  • consider developing timber wood lots using waste water and use the harvested timber for fire places
  • monitor the temperature in houses and the cost of heating to identify more energy efficient housing designs and heating systems.
Survey data
Heating Percentage of houses, or temperature, or number of windows Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Minimum winter temperature regularly less than 0°C 20% 3,661 +
Minimum winter temperature 0°C –10ºC 54% 3,661 ++
Minimum winter temperature greater than 10°C 26% 3,661  
       
House performance in cold conditions      
Houses where outdoor temperature was less than 15ºC at time of survey (ambient shaded air temperature) 4% 3,653  
Houses that provided no improvement on the outside air temperature 23% 147  
Average improvement in all houses surveyed, when outdoor temperature was less than 15ºC at time of survey 3.2ºC (147)  
Houses that provided 0°C–5ºC improvement 58% 147  
Houses that provided 0°C–10ºC improvement or better 77% 147  
       
Outside the house      
Wind break planting in the yard 22% 3,662  
Verandah on three sides of the house 10% 3,661  
Verandah on four sides of the house 8% 3,661  
       
Insulation      
Roof insulated 34% 3,660  
No roof insulation or unknown 66% 3,660  
Walls insulated 22% 2,788  
No wall insulation or unknown 78% 2,788  
       
Windows      
Total windows―all houses 49,888 3,662  
Windows—average number per house 13.8 3,662  
Windows not functioning OK 24,209 3,662  
Windows—average number not OK per house 6.7 3,662  
Houses with all windows OK 18% 3,662  
       
Heating systems      
Some heating system 48% 3,660 ++
Combustion heater (wood or solid fuel) 31% 3,660 <<
Plug-in electric heaters 5% 3,660 <<
Gas heating not ducted 5% 3,660  
Open fire 4% 3,660 <<
Reverse cycle heating not ducted 3% 3,660 <<
Ducted reverse cycle heating 1% 3,660  
Ducted gas heating 0% 3,660  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

AS1691 – 1985 Domestic oil fired appliances – Installation – Amdt 1 Sept 1985

AS/NZS2918 – 2001 Domestic solid fuel burning appliances – Installation

AS/NZS1200 – 2000 Pressure equipment

Australian Council of Building Design Professionals, BDP Environment Design Guide, Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

Building Code of Australia, Part 2.3.3 Heating appliances; Part 3.7.3 Heating appliances; Part 3.12.3.1 Chimneys and flues; Part 3.12.5 Services

Lane, A. House warming, Bush Tech #16, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Pholeros, P. & South Australian Aboriginal Housing Unit 1998, Temperature Control and Health, pp. 1-4.

Hollo, N 1997, Warm house cool house: inspirational designs for low-energy housing, Choice Books, Marrickville, New South Wales.

Pholeros, P 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPK Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, pp. 9-10.

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B9 Reducing hazards that cause minor injury (trauma)

If houses are poorly designed and constructed or not well maintained there is an increased risk that residents may be injured. Elderly people, people with disabilities and young children are particularly at risk. Injuries may require medical treatment or hospitalisation and could result in infections or even disability. Removing life threatening risks needs to take priority when designing, upgrading and maintaining houses, see section A ‘Safety’, and then consideration should be given to reducing hazards that could result in trauma.

Aspects of the house and living area that could potentially cause injury or trauma include:

  • hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead; prolonged exposure to these materials can have serious health impacts
  • sharp corners and edges on benches, cupboards and other fixtures
  • slippery floors, paths, stairs and ramps, and stairs or ramps without rails
  • poorly lit rooms, passage ways and door ways
  • hot water systems that produce water that can scald 
  • broken glass.

Houses and living areas should be designed for personal security including security screens and doors, fences and external lighting, and positioning the house to allow residents to see the street and entry points.

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B9.1 Hazardous materials House IconHouse Icon

If not handled properly some building materials can pose a risk to people’s health, particularly in older houses. These include asbestos, lead paints, treated timbers and insulation. When maintaining and renovating older buildings it is important to identify these risks and develop strategies to protect residents and workers from potential health threats. Workplace health and safety requirements in all states and territories set out the minimum precautions that must be followed when dealing with hazardous materials.

Asbestos

Asbestos was used in some building products in Australia until the mid-1980s. Asbestos fibres have been linked to serious lung disease. People who have prolonged exposure to these fibres, such as miners and builders, are particularly at risk. Asbestos might be found in the following areas in older houses:

  • internal and external wall sheeting, often called ‘fibro’
  • corrugated roofing, also known as ‘fibrolite’ and ‘fibro’ and ‘super 6’
  • insulation in ceilings and walls, around hot water pipes, hot water units and air conditioning ducts 
  • water, drainage and vent pipes
  • vinyl floor tiles and glues.

In most cases, the presence of asbestos in buildings does not pose a serious health risk. The exception to this is when materials containing asbestos are cut or broken up and dust and fibres become airborne. This can occur simply as a result of everyday wear and tear or as the result of building works. Special precautions are required when undertaking works in buildings that contain asbestos. Precautions may vary based on the extent of work and the risk and might include:

  • using high quality face masks with filters
  • wearing disposable, full-body overalls
  • wearing gloves and shoes
  • wetting down, and keeping wet, all asbestos products while working with them to prevent/reduce the release of dust
  • erecting tarpaulins or plastic sheets around the works to contain any dust within the work area
  • fully cleaning the site to remove all waste, and wrapping all asbestos waste in heavy plastic packages that are taped, sealed and labelled
  • ensuring safe disposal of all building materials and associated protective equipment.

Check the recommendations and requirements of the workplace health and safety office in your state or territory before commencing work in buildings containing asbestos.

Lead

Lead can have a toxic effect on the human body if large quantities are absorbed. Lead can be absorbed through the lungs as airborne particles and through the skin from contact with materials containing lead. Lead can retard development in children and may affect the development of the foetus in women of child-bearing age.

The health effects of lead have been known for many years and most building products no longer contain lead. However, lead was used in paints until the 1970s and may pose a health threat if it has been used on floors because it may be absorbed through bare feet; is peeling or flaking from the walls; or is being sanded or removed during building works. If in good condition on a wall or ceiling, lead paint does not pose a health risk and is probably best left alone.

A simple testing kit is available from most hardware and paint shops to test for the presence of lead in paint before sanding any painted surfaces in older houses. If lead paint is found in a house where building works are proposed, special precautions will need to be taken. These are similar to the precautions for asbestos, such as using dust masks, overalls, gloves and shoes to ensure the worker does not inhale or absorb lead; wetting down the works area and/or using plastic sheet to contain the dust; and fully cleaning up afterwards to remove all dust and paint flakes.

Copper chrome arsenate treated timbers (CCA)

Timbers that have been treated with various chemicals to increase resistance to insect attack and rot can produce noxious dust when they are being sawn, drilled or sanded. Builders should wear a face-mask when they work with treated timbers, particularly with CCA treated timber which contains copper and arsenic.

Exposure to timbers treated with CCA may be harmful to children. In the past, CCA timber was used for children’s play equipment and outdoor fencing and furniture. CCA treated timbers can be identified by a green-grey colour. If CCA treated timber is present in play equipment or other exposed locations in the community, consider painting the timber to reduce the risk of children being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Design and specification

For all hazardous materials, ensure that:
  • workers wear a dust mask with filter, full overalls and shoes,
  • precautions are taken to contain dust within the works area, including wetting down materials and erecting plastic sheets to prevent the spread of dust
  • the site is fully cleaned of all dust and debris on completion of works and before anyone moves back into the house, in particular remove treated timber that may be used by residents as fire wood.
For buildings with products containing or likely to contain asbestos:
  • seek an expert opinion on the extent of asbestos in the building before commencing any works
  • consider engaging experts to remove asbestos from the building as a separate contract, before the builder commences works
  • if removing asbestos, ensure the local rubbish dump is licensed to accept asbestos waste
  • ensure signs are placed advising of the presence of asbestos where it is known to exist, or there are serious concerns it may exist
  • ensure recycled building materials that may contain asbestos are not used in the works 
  • consider gluing new linings or claddings over old fibro sheets rather than removing them and place signs stating the presence of fibro if adopting this approach.
For buildings containing or likely to contain lead paint:
  • test all paint for lead before commencing any work
  • if lead paint is in good condition, consider painting over with a latex paint or similar product that will ‘capture’ the lead paint
  • ensure that any paint containing lead that is peeling and flaking is removed to avoid the risk of exposure, and that the paint removal is done according to the work place health and safety recommendations
  • consider covering over floors that have been painted with lead paints, or if removing the paint from floors, take all necessary precautions.

Quality control

During construction check that:
  • the builders follow a risk management plan and work place health and safety requirements, including wearing a face mask, shoes and overalls, and erect barriers to contain dust within the works area
  • builders are not handling, cutting or drilling into asbestos products, unless it has been specifically agreed those works are included in the scope of works
  • hazardous materials are wrapped in sealed, labelled plastic packages, and are taken to an approved licensed disposal area.
Before making the final payment, ensure that:
  • the works area, including house and yard, has been fully cleaned of all building dust and offcuts or debris.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • create a community register of all buildings that contain or may contain asbestos or lead paint, and make this available to all building and maintenance staff
  • regularly inspect houses for the presence of deteriorating materials containing asbestos, and immediately seal exposed edges of damaged building materials containing asbestos with a latex or bituminous paint sealer
  • regularly check the condition of lead paint to ensure it is not flaking or peeling
  • apply paint to exposed timbers that are CCA treated, particularly play equipment.

Standards and references

National Occupational Health and Safety Commission 2005 Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos, [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] available at: http://www.ascc.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/F4C389A8-11DD-4819-A190-AC458DC460D5/0/ASCC_SafeRemAsbestos_cop.pdf

Northern Territory Government, Asbestos alert, http://www.asbestos.nt.gov.au/

Enhealth Council  http://enhealth.nphp.gov.au/council/pubs/ecpub.htm

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B9.2 Personal security House Icon

Personal security involves the design of individual houses and community planning. Some residents want a house design that allows them to watch the street and all entries to their house and yard and view children’s play areas from the living area.  Gates and security screen doors can help residents to control who enters their living area and are generally requested by residents to keep their family and possessions safe.

In many Indigenous communities the transition from public to private space occurs at the front gate or at the verandah steps rather than at the front door. This is where residents will want control over who enters their place.  This point may vary between communities and can be determined by watching how community members approach a house. Observe whether visitors:

  • sit out the front in the car and sound the horn
  • stand at the gate and shout or
  • walk up to the verandah and then call out.

In households that combine many families, individuals may want to be able secure themselves and their possessions in bedrooms. Consider providing bedroom locks at the design stage to reduce the use of padlocks and bolts on doors as these may prevent escape from the house in the event of a fire.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • that fences and gates are provided
  • that lockable security screens are fitted to all external doors and that locks can be easily opened from the inside
  • that external lights are located and installed to allow residents to view house entry points and the yard area.
Consider:
  • planning the house so that the entry to the house and children’s play areas can be viewed from living areas in the house
  • providing fences or balustrades and gates to verandahs
  • fitting security screens to all windows with emergency release mechanisms
  • designing a toilet and bathroom for visitor use
  • locating the bedroom doors off the living areas
  • fitting locks that can be opened from the inside to each bedroom door
  • using some obscure glazing materials in bedroom windows

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment check that:
  • fences and gates have been installed and are secure and working
  • security screens have been installed to all external doors and locks can be operated from inside without a key
  • external lights are working
  • security screens have been fitted to windows if specified, including an emergency escape screen fitted to at least one window in each bedroom
  • the house keys have been clearly labelled and provided to the resident or housing provider.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check and maintain all fences and gates
  • replace faulty bulbs in external lights, and ensure fittings protect the bulb or tube from insects
  • replace damaged security screens on external doors and windows
  • keep bushes and shrubs trimmed to reduce hiding places for intruders.

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B9.3 Preventing slips, trips and falls House IconHouse Icon

There is an increased risk of slips, trips and falls if a house design does not consider:

  • floor surfaces and poor grading that combine to become slippery when wet
  • poorly drained pathways that become slippery
  • poorly lit steps
  • poorly located power points in rooms, requiring extension cords that cross main paths in the house
  • lack of light fittings
  • poorly located light fittings that can make working in a kitchen with hot water, a stove and hot oil more dangerous.

Trips and falls may also result from hazards such as loose steps, missing floorboards, or tears in flooring that should be repaired through routine maintenance.

Survey data show that, on average, surveyed houses only have one light fitting for every 10 square metres. In addition, this average includes external lights and hallway lights, therefore light fittings in the main rooms of the house could be required to light up to 15 square metres of floor area and the room will have a poor level of light.

Data also showed that just over half (53 per cent) of houses had more than 75 per cent of lights working at the time of survey. This data suggests that almost half the houses lacked sufficient lighting, which could contribute to falls or accidents.  To increase the available light in the house, residents sometimes place high wattage bulbs (100 watts) into light fittings that are designed to take a maximum 60 watt to 75 watt bulbs. This can increase the likelihood of damage to the light fitting and could lead to a greater risk of fire.

Slips, trips and falls can cause abrasions, dislocated joints or broken bones. Older people and people with diabetes or renal failure can take longer to recover from these injuries and can sustain permanent loss of mobility.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • non-slip floor finishes are specified for all wet areas and external verandahs and paths
  • steps and changes in floor level are clearly marked with a change of colour or texture
  • two-way light switches are specified at entries, in stairwells and under high set houses
  • lighting is designed and located in and around the house to illuminate, and provide safe access to, all areas
  • light globes and tubes in all light fittings can be easily accessed for replacement 
  • power points are located to accommodate likely walking paths and possible furniture layout and to reduce the use of extension cords
  • stair and ramp hand rails are structurally sound, protected from the weather, have a non-slip finish, and are designed to suit the needs of children, the frail aged and people with a disability.
Consider:
  • providing an awning or porch at all external doorways to keep the landing and threshold dry
  • providing child proof gates at the top of stairs and ramps
  • fitting energy-saving globes or tubes, or fluorescent fittings and tubes, that will last longer than incandescent bulbs (remember to check that replacement lamps will be available from a nearby store)
  • providing sensor lights at entries
  • using slip-resistant flooring in kitchens, living areas and hall ways
  • using concrete paths externally, rather than pavers which can move and become a trip hazard
  • providing hooks or reels for storing hoses
  • providing external weather-protected power points to reduce the use of extension cords.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • floors have non-slip finishes in wet areas and external areas
  • lights and switches have been fitted where shown on drawings and are working
  • power points have been fitted where shown on drawings and are working
  • stairs, ramps and hand rails are stable and firmly attached
  • steps and changes in floor heights are clearly marked
  • all floor surfaces have a level finish
  • there are no trenches, holes or uncovered pits in the yard area.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check that external and sensor lights are working and replace bulbs if necessary;
  • check that hand rails are secure
  • replace incandescent globes with long life globes or fluorescent fittings.
Survey data - Performance and availability of lights and increased risk of falls
Lights― performance Percentage of houses, or square metres, or number of lights Total houses surveyed
Lights―% tested OK (includes the switch, fitting and bulb or tube)    
All OK 22% 1,699
75%–99% OK 31% 1,699
25%–74% OK 36% 1,699
Less than25% OK 11% 1,699
     
Lights switches―all tested OK    
All OK 57% 1,699
Some not OK 43% 1,699
     
Light fittings―all tested OK    
All OK 48% 1,699
Some not OK 52% 1,699
     
Type of lights, bulbs/globes―most are …    
Incandescent 50% 1,699
Fluorescent 49% 1,699
Energy saving 1% 1,699
     
Lights―availability    
Floor area of the house per light fitting (includes external light fittings but not the external area of the house) 10 square metres 3,662
Average light fittings per house 12.5 lights 3,662
     
Floor grades and finish―wet, slippery or uneven floors that may contribute to slips and falls    
Floor finish in shower OK 76% 3,643
Shower floor graded to waste point 66% 3,642
Basin area floor finish OK 77% 3,400
Functional basin area floor grade to waste 63% 3,388
Toilet―floor finish OK 80% 3,661
Functional toilet, floor graded to waste outlet (or to a waste outlet next to the toilet area) 50% 3,660
Laundry floor―finish OK 75% 3,617
Functional laundry floor grade to waste outlet 56% 3,610

Standards and references

AS/NZ 3661.2:1994, Slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces—Guide to the reduction of slip hazards.

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B9.4 Preventing cuts and abrasions House IconHouse Icon

Minor cuts, abrasions and burns are painful. There is a real risk these injuries could become infected and lead to more serious illness. For people with diabetes or renal illness, minor cuts, abrasions and burns can have very significant health impacts. The risk to residents of cuts, abrasions and burns can be reduced at the design and planning stages and through effective housing maintenance.

Glass is one significant safety risk in houses. Under Australian Standards, all windows and doors should have laminated or toughened safety glass where there is any risk of a person falling onto or into the glass. These kinds of glass are much stronger than ‘normal glass’ and are less likely to break. If they do break, laminated glass and toughened glass does not break into shards that can hurt people. Safety glass breaks into many small pieces and laminated glass contains a plastic film that holds the broken glass together.

Polycarbonate is another alternative to glass that is widely used in remote communities. Polycarbonate costs about the same as laminated glass but is easier to transport and less likely to break, although it can burn and melt if exposed to high heat. Polycarbonate is also very susceptible to scratching and is not ideal in dusty areas. There are new polycarbonate products that have a toughened surface to make it easier to clean without damaging the surface. Polycarbonate is not as rigid as glass and may not be suitable for use in large windows or louvre windows unless it is thick enough to prevent sagging and bending out of shape.

Other window options include shutters and metal or timber louvres that do not contain glass. When considering these options, remember that having plenty of natural light helps to reduce power costs to residents. The type of glazing material and windows used in a house may also affect people’s personal security. When choosing different windows or glazing systems, consider that people may want privacy inside the house but still want to watch what is going on outside.

Design and specification

Consider:
  • providing security screens to all windows
  • using laminated glass, toughened safety glass or polycarbonate using a mar resistant grade that is less susceptible to scratching
  • reducing the number of low level windows
  • using metal or timber louvres when there is a need for low level airflow into the room
  • designing all shelves and cupboards with mitred or rounded corners
  • placing benches, shelves, hooks, rails and other wall mounted fittings clear of the path of travel, particularly in smaller rooms such as the shower and toilet areas
  • making sure there are no sharp points or hazardous objects sticking out from  the walls at eye height
  • using semi-solid doors rather than solid core doors, which can cause serious injury to children’s fingers
  • providing high level storage, particularly in kitchens to store dangerous items out of children’s reach.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • glazing material is supplied and installed as specified, and a glazing certificate is provided for the installation, to the appropriate safety, wind and water rating
  • polycarbonate is ‘mar resistant’ and the thickness of the polycarbonate is sufficient to prevent sagging and bending
  • all windows operate properly
  • there are no cracks, chips or scratches in any glazing materials
  • security screens are fitted as specified including safety escape screens to bedrooms for fire escape, see A3.3 ‘Escape in the event of fire’
  • there are no sharp edges, nails or screws sticking out, or other items likely to cause cuts and injuries
  • all builders’ rubbish has been removed from the house and yard.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • check all windows can be opened and closed and their catches are working
  • replace any broken glass
  • re-fix any screws or nails that may have worked loose.
Survey data
Windows Percentage of houses or number of windows  Total houses surveyed 
Houses with all windows OK 18% 3,662
Total windows―all houses 49,888 3,662
Windows not functioning OK (maybe unable to open and close easily or cracked glazing) 24,209 3,662
Windows―average number per house 13.8 3,662
Windows―average number not OK per house 6.7 3,662

Standards and references

AS/NZS 2208:1996, Amendment 1–1999, Safety glazing materials in buildings.

HB125–1998, The glass and glazing handbook.

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B9.5 Preventing burns

Children and elderly people are particularly susceptible to burns because their skin is thinner.  Burns can happen very quickly and severe burns can lead to an emergency evacuation, treatment can involve months, or sometimes years, of hospitalisation and sometimes surgery is required. Even minor burns can result in infection and serious complications, particularly for ill or elderly people.

Fires usually cause the most severe burns, see A3 ‘Fire safety’ for information about strategies to reduce the risk of fires. Household appliances such as hot water systems, stoves and heaters can also cause serious burns.

Hot water should be stored at around 60ºC to prevent microbiological growths. Legislation in all states and territory requires hot water supplies to bathrooms to be fitted with temperature limiting devices. There is some resistance to using temperature limiting devices in areas with poor water quality because the devices are likely to be affected by the water quality and require regular replacement.

Survey data show that almost half (46 per cent) of the total houses surveyed with functioning hot water services had water temperatures above 62ºC, which increases the risk of residents being exposed to scalding and burns, see also B1.2 ‘Hot water’. These data demonstrate the importance of incorporating technologies or strategies in every house to prevent scalding and burns from hot water.

Design and specification

Ensure:
  • the temperature of water produced by the hot water system can be regulated and kept below 62°C (as measured at the hot water system; measuring near or at the hot water system allows for some loss of temperature between the system and tap points in the house)
  • temperature limiting devices or other means are in place, to limit the temperature of hot water in the house and prevent burns (before ordering, provide water quality information to the manufacturers of temperature limiting devices to ensure the best product is specified)
  • the taps are positioned in the shower on the outside edge of the shower rose to allow residents to control the water flow and temperature from outside of the water stream
  • that all exposed hot water pipes are effectively insulated (lagged)
  • stoves and built-in heaters have an anti-tilt mechanism
  • built-in heaters are fitted with guards or other safety mechanisms
  • a fire guard is provided for internal fire places to prevent the spread of sparks.
Consider
  • fitting guard rails to cooktops
  • using wall ovens
  • providing wall mounted heaters to reduce contact with flammable items such as clothing.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:
  • the temperature of water produced by the hot water system can be regulated and is below 62°C
  • temperature limiting devices or other means are in place and suited to local water conditions
  • the taps are positioned in the shower on the outside edge of the shower rose
  • hot water pipes are effectively insulated (lagged)
  • ensure hot water from a hot water system pressure relief valve drains safely to the ground, tundish or gully, and not on to a path or outside living area
  • an anti-tilt bracket has been fitted to stoves and built-in heaters
  • a fire guard is provided for internal fire places.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:
  • test water temperature and check that the hot water temperature in bathroom areas is 50°C or less and at all other hot water taps is 60°C or less 
  • check that thermostat is set to 60°C
Survey data
Burns from hot water Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Hot water systems    
No hot water system 2% 3,093
Electric powered hot water system 51% 3,653
Solar powered hot water system 40% 3,653
Gas powered hot water system 6% 3,653
Heat pump hot water system 0.4% 3,653
Solid fuel hot water system 0.3% 3,653
     
Houses with hot water that would burn    
Hot water temperature greater than 62ºC 37% 3,615
Hot water temperature greater than 70ºC 8% 3,615
Hot water temperature greater than 80ºC 1% 3,615

Standards and references

Wood, F. M., Fowler B. V., McAullay, D. and Jones, J.R.  2005, ‘Major burns: incidence, treatment and outcomes in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Western Australia’, Medical Journal of Australia, 182 (3): 138NSW Health, Hot water burns like fire, The NSW scalds prevention campaign, Phases one and two 1992-1994. Final report - December 1998

Penny,M. Burns Prevention, Hazard edition 12, September 1992, Victorian Injury Surveillance System, Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Stathakis,V, Hospitalised injuries, Victoria, July 1992-June 1998, October 1999, Report No. 160, Monash University Accident Research Centre.

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Part C: Healthy communities

Individual houses depend on the availability and function of community infrastructure such as water, waste water disposal and power supply. If these essential services are not functioning properly, the health hardware in the house will be compromised.

The layout of the community, combined with environmental factors, can have a major impact on the overall health of the community. This section of the guide discusses the relationship between community planning, infrastructure, houses and health

When undertaking housing projects, the housing manager and other council staff, as well as consultants, builders and housing maintenance workers need to take into account what services are available; whether the services are adequate for the proposed housing; what constraints the services place on house and yard design; and how the proposed housing will affect the current and future planned capacity of community infrastructure. Works need to be planned and prioritised, in consultation with the community, to ensure a safe and healthy environment can be sustained for the entire community.

A good source of information about community services is the Environmental Health Handbook, written and published by the Menzies School of Health Research in 2000.

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C1 Water

Relates to Healthy Living Practices:

  • washing people
  • washing clothes and bedding
  • removing waste water safely
  • improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the health impacts of dust
  • controlling the temperature of the living environment

An adequate supply of water is a key resource for ensuring good health and at least six Healthy Living Practices depend directly on a reliable supply of water. However, in many rural and regional communities, it is difficult to guarantee a reliable supply of water and strategies to reduce water use need to be incorporated in every aspect of community, house and yard design. In some communities, strategies will also be required to supply potable water to the kitchen (see B4.1 Quality of drinking water).

Providing a water supply to any household involves collecting, storing, treating and distributing the water throughout the community. Important parts of the community water supply include:

  • source: where the water is collected; a bore, dam, lake, river or roof that the water is taken from
  • storage: a dam or tank that holds the water after it comes from the source and before it is used
  • treatment: the use of chemicals (such as chlorine) or other processes, to remove contaminants and pathogens (bacteria or virus) from the water to make it safe to drink and suitable to use in the house
  • reticulation: a system of pipes and valves that carries the water through the community to each house.

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C1.1 Water quality and treatment systems

Many rural and remote communities experience poor quality water. This is becoming an increasing problem as communities grow and good water sources are exhausted or contaminated as a result of development.

The quality of water may vary depending on use. Within the house and yard:

  • less than 10 per cent of the water is used for drinking or cooking. This small amount of water needs to be of a high quality that is fit for people to drink (potable).
  • twenty-five per cent of the water is used for washing people. Ideally, this water should also be potable because it comes into direct contact with people
  • the remaining 65 per cent of the water is used in laundries and to flush toilets, run air conditioners, water gardens and wash clothes. This does not need to be potable water.

Water may be unsafe for drinking if it contains:

  • disease-causing micro-organisms (pathogens), which cause a range of viral, diarrhoeal or gastric illnesses in people
  • biological contaminants like algae
  • chemical contaminants such as high concentrations of mineral salts, heavy metals, radio-active materials or other chemicals that are dangerous to people’s health.

Water sources can easily become biologically contaminated through contact with animals, people or waste. Community water supplies are usually disinfected as a precaution against the risk of biological contamination. The most common form of disinfection is chlorination because it is cheap and effective. Other options include ultra violet light sterilisation and micro-filtration.

Treatment systems to remove chemical contaminants are required if test results identify a level of contaminants that is dangerous to people’s health or will affect the function of taps, pipes and other health hardware. Chemical treatment processes range from filters, to more complex technologies such as desalination.

If water cannot be treated to a standard that is safe to drink, other sources of potable water will be needed. This might include a dual reticulation system in the community to supply a small amount of potable water to some parts of the house. Non-potable water would still be directed to the toilet, laundry and yard. Rainwater tanks at houses can also provide a supply of drinking water but may require a filter or first flush device.

The quality of a water source can change over time and the function of the treatment system might deteriorate, therefore the water system in a community must be regularly monitored. Water samples should be tested to check that the water is safe. Community members can test water using standard testing kits to take water samples from a number of points throughout the community supply, including the outlet on the tank and the taps at the furthest ends of the supply lines. These samples are then sent immediately to a laboratory for testing. However, the difficulties of testing in remote communities make implementing a risk management strategy a high priority. Support materials such as the Community Water Planner (NHMRC 2005) can assist in developing a risk management plan, and further materials should be developed for appropriate interpretation in communities.

Test results will provide information about the chemicals in the water and whether coliforms and/or E.coli are present. Coliforms are an indicator that the water may contain viruses or bacteria that will make people sick. The test results should state whether or not the water meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.12

The information provided about the chemical properties of community water should be considered when specifying plumbing fixtures and other health hardware. Examples of chemical properties that affect health hardware include:

  • dissolved salts in water form deposits on the heating element in a hot water system, which will eventually stop the element from working
  • dissolved salts in water form deposits around taps that may corrode the tap seat and cause permanent damage to taps, which could result in major leaks
  • dissolved salts in water build up on evaporative cooler pads and reduce the production of cool air
  • dissolved chemicals may cause the water to be acidic or alkaline, which may react with the metals used in plumbing fittings; acidic waters, in particular low pH, can cause aggressive corrosion in metal plumbing fittings and it may be better to use plastic fittings in these conditions.

See B1.2 Hot water, B1.3 Taps, and B8.4 Active cooling of houses, for further information about the effects of corrosive water on health hardware.

Design and specification

For new housing projects, ensure that:

  • there is enough water available for the increased demand arising from the new works and if not, that strategies are put in place to guarantee enough water to support the Healthy Living Practices in all houses in the community, by increasing:
    • the water supply through installation of additional bores, rainwater tanks and river pumps
    • the water storage capacity by installing additional tanks or dams
    • the treatment plant capacity
  • the capacity of the reticulation system by enlarging or extending supply mains to new areas
  • the specified materials for water pipes and fittings are suited to the water quality and environmental conditions, such as using plastic13 components where there is ‘aggressive’ or acidic water or soils that corrode metal components and, if using plastic pipes, ensure they are drinking water grade plastic
  • all components of the hot water system are specified to suit the water quality
  • non-return valves are specified for external taps to prevent water contamination, for example, by dogs or from cleaning fish because, if the water pressure drops in the community, contaminated water can be sucked into the mains line. 

Consider:

  • whether it is more cost effective to have two water distribution systems, one providing potable water to the kitchen and ideally to the bathroom, and the other providing untreated water to the rest of the house
  • connecting rainwater tanks or a micro-treatment system at the house to ensure a supply of potable water (see B4.1 ‘Quality of drinking water’).

If involved in planning a community water supply system, consider:

  • the quality of water available from all existing sources, the expected life of those sources and risks to the water quality
  • the expected growth of the community
  • the operating costs of treatment options and the complexity of operating and maintaining the treatment system
  • strategies to reduce demand, particularly on potable water supplies, such as providing different quality water for different uses within houses and/or across the community, and installing rainwater tanks or household treatment systems for providing potable water to households or to relieve pressure on potable supplies.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • plumbing materials have been provided as specified
  • only drinking water grade pipes and fittings are used for the drinking water supply and if using agricultural or drainage grade pipes or fittings, limit these to external areas
  • non-metal pipes are protected from direct sunlight because prolonged exposure to ultra violet light may break down the plastics and are protected from vermin attack
  • rainwater tanks are correctly installed, see ‘Design and specification’ in B4.1 ‘Quality of drinking water’ for information about installing rainwater tanks.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • regularly take water samples as per NHMRC Australian Drinking Water guidelines and send them to a laboratory for testing
  • review the test results and take action to improve water quality
  • ensure the water treatment plant operators have been properly trained, and follow all steps in the operation and maintenance manual
  • if rainwater is used to provide a source of potable water to houses, ensure the tanks are regularly maintained and that the water quality in the tanks is monitored, see B4.1 ‘Quality of drinking water’.
  • follow a prepared risk management plan based on maintaining water supply integrity, using the Community Water Planner available at www.nhmrc.gov.au

Standards and references

National Health and Medical Research Council 2004, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines available at
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/eh19syn.htm

Centre for Appropriate Technology 2002 ‘Rainwater harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #4, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002 Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/btb4.pdf


12The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 1996 were developed by the National Health and Medical Research and Council and are widely accepted as a drinking water standard in Australia.

13Plastic is used here to distinguish a range of polybutyl and PVC pipe materials from metal pipes, usually copper

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C1.2 Water quantity and demand management

Throughout Australia, cities, towns and communities are confronting the reality of water shortages. In some communities, water shortages are seasonal or caused by drought. Others, however, face dire water shortages that threaten the viability and long term sustainability of the community. Wherever there is a shortage of water, it is necessary to look at ways to manage the use of, or demand for, water. This is called ‘demand management’.

In communities where water use is high, children are often blamed for wasting water by leaving taps running. This is not confirmed by water use data collected during Housing for Health projects over a 10-year period and involving over 4,000 houses.

Housing for Health teams do, however, regularly find dripping taps, leaking hot water system pressure relief valves, and leaking toilet cisterns, see B1.3 ‘Taps’. A dripping tap can waste 600 litres of water a day, therefore poorly maintained plumbing fittings are a significant cause of water wastage in communities.

From existing survey data, the following calculation indicates the impact of apparently insignificant water wastage.

Example of water wastage caused by tap failure

Number of taps in a house (shower x 2, basin x 2, laundry tub x 2, washing machine x 2, yard x 2, toilet cistern stop tap and cistern valve, hot water relief valve, hot water stop valve, maybe a hot water system cold water relief valve, maybe bath taps x 2 kitchen sink x 2, isolation valve) 20 Taps
Approximately 25% of taps fail at testing, see B1.3 Taps 5 Failed taps
If only half of these failures result in water leaks, the other failures could be due to handle faults or taps jammed but not leaking 2.5 Number of leaking taps per house
If each of these taps has a moderate leak of 600 litres per day 1500
leaking litres per day per house
Water wastage every day from approximately 3,600 houses surveyed (before fix work was commenced) 5,400,000
wasted litres of cold and hot water per day

The problem of leaking taps is easy to fix. An effective plumbing maintenance program to repair leaks in pipes and replace washers in taps is the first and most important demand management strategy that can be implemented. Using water meters on community supply tanks, and at each house, is a simple way to detect leaks early and to measure water use and demand in the community. Repairs can then be targeted to leaks that are detected through the monitoring program. A regular program to reseat taps and replace washers can also prevent leaks. Reducing the pressure in the supply system can also lessen leaks in pipes and taps.

The combination of good housing design, specification and maintenance has a significant impact on water usage. For example, a well designed house will reduce the amount of time that active cooling is needed and this can reduce the water consumption of an evaporative cooling system.

Providing water efficient appliances such as low flow plumbing fixtures and water efficient washing machines will also save water. Before installing low flow plumbing fixtures, check how the water quality might affect them. Although appliances such as washing machines may not be provided by the housing organisation, it may be cost effective to provide or subsidise high quality, water efficient washing machines rather than building additional water infrastructure.

Community programs that educate residents about water use and ways to save water, such as the Waterwise program in Queensland can assist in managing demand. Charging for water, particularly for excessive water use, has also been used as a strategy to reduce water use.

Rainwater tanks have been proposed elsewhere in this guide as a means of providing potable water to houses. In communities where potable water is readily available, rainwater tanks can be used for watering gardens or for evaporative air conditioners as a way to reduce demand on the potable water supply.

Design and specifications

When planning housing projects, consider:

  • installing water meters to houses
  • using water efficient plumbing fittings and appliances
  • providing large capacity rainwater tanks to all houses, supplying garden taps and/or an evaporative cooling system
  • treating grey water from the laundry and bathroom, and then using it in underground irrigation systems
  • planting drought tolerant grasses, shrubs and trees, particularly plants that grow in the local area.

If involved in planning a community water supply system or demand management program, consider:

  • the expected growth of a community and develop strategies to meet the demand for water from proposed developments without exhausting the available water sources
  • installing water meters on mains supply pipes and all buildings, located in an accessible location above ground, and monitor meter readings to target urgent plumbing maintenance
  • implementing a local, regular plumbing maintenance program and charging for excessive water use
  • providing rainwater tanks to all buildings in the community
  • installing sub-surface tanks or developing swales and small dams to collect stormwater run-off in the community
  • installing a second reticulation system in the community to provide recycled water to landscape areas and toilets.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • water meters have been installed and are easy to find
  • if specified, water efficient plumbing fittings and appliances are fitted
  • pipes are secure and there is no water hammer (constant movement of unsecured pipes) that could break pipe joints and cause leaks in the wall cavity
  • rainwater tanks are correctly installed, see ‘Design and specification’ in B4.1 ‘Quality of drinking water’ for information about installing rainwater tanks
  • if specified, grey water fixtures are connected to a treatment system before discharge to an underground irrigation system
  • there are no water leaks.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • record meter readings and identify leaks in houses or the pipe work between houses in the reticulation system
  • check all taps, spouts and shower roses, including yard taps and pressure relief valves, for leaks
  • check pipes for water hammer and in-ground leaks and repair or replace
  • reseat taps and replace washers in taps every two to three years depending on water quality
  • check toilet cisterns for leaks and repair, if necessary 
  • flush out grey water irrigation systems
  • clean the pads in evaporative coolers
  • clean ‘first flush’ diverters and insect screens on rainwater tanks.

Standards and references

Department of Water 2006, Report for the Minister for Water Resources on Water Services in Discrete Indigenous Communities. Department of Water, Perth

Remote Area Developments Group 2000, National Assessment of the Colilert field test kit in remote Aboriginal Communities in Australia. Murdoch University, Perth

Anda, M and Ryan, J 1998, Saving water for healthy communities: a workbook for Aboriginal communities, Remote Area Developments Group, Murdoch University, Perth, pp 11

Khalife, MA, Dharmappa, HB & Sivakumara, M 1998, “An Evaluation of Septic Tank Performance in a Remote Australian Village Provides Insight for Optimizing Onsite Treatment Systems”, Journal of Water Environment Research, Edition 4, Volume 10, USA, Water Environment Federation, pp33 - 36

Pholeros, P 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPK Nganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs, p 13.

Pholeros, P, Rainow, S and Torzillo, P 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach, pp 39 - 45.

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C1.3 Rainwater, stormwater and recycled water for landscaping

Large quantities of water are used around houses for landscaping, food gardens and other activities. This can account for up to half of the water used by a community. There are examples throughout this guide of how the use of yard areas and outside areas around the house support the nine Healthy Living Practices. However, as water shortages increase, it can be hard to justify using potable water for gardens and landscaping. Rainwater, stormwater and recycled water are under-utilised water sources that could be used externally as part of a total water management strategy.

Regardless of the water used for external use, it is strongly recommended that native plants and other drought tolerant species be used to reduce water consumption and encourage water conservation in the community.

Rainwater tanks

Rainwater can be collected directly from roofs and stored in tanks on houses and community buildings and can be a good source of drinking water in communities where the water quality is poor, see B4.1 ‘Quality of drinking water’. Rainwater can be also used for gardens and outside areas to supplement the water supply in communities where potable water is readily available. It will usually be cheaper to install and maintain rainwater tanks than to expand the capacity of the community water supply system. Planning considerations include how much tank capacity can be afforded and how many tanks can be accommodated on the site.

Stormwater

Rainwater can also be ‘harvested’ from roads and open areas around the community, instead of being wasted by washing away in drains. This water is often called ‘stormwater’; it is not suitable for drinking as it picks up pollutants from the ground, but it is a useful resource for landscaping. Stormwater can be collected at ground level in small dams or directed via drains and swales to gardens and landscaped areas. It can also be collected from roads and other hard surfaces into underground tanks, however this is a less cost effective way of storing stormwater.

Recycled water

Recycled water is water that has been used once in a house and is then treated so the any solids and contaminants are removed and it can be used again. Water has been recycled for many years in many overseas countries, and in some places the water is treated to drinking quality. The use of recycled water is quite limited in Australia, but it is becoming more common as demand for water increases and water treatment technologies improve.

To date, the use of recycled water in many rural and remote communities has been limited to using the effluent from treatment ponds on woodlots or cattle pasture. However, in communities where water shortages are an issue, using treated waste water in underground irrigation systems to irrigate trees and landscaping throughout the community may be a viable option. Water from the treatment ponds cannot be used for above ground sprinklers, but there are treatment options that allow use of water in underground irrigation for trees, landscaping and food crops.

At a household level, water can be recycled in the following ways:

  • effluent from on-site sewerage systems can be run directly to underground irrigation systems in the yard area
  • ground covers and small shrubs can be planted between septic trenches as wind and dust breaks; they will also assist in the function of the septic trenches (do not use plants with invasive root systems)
  • after separation treatment to extract fat and oils, water from the laundry, shower and bath can be drained to yard areas in underground irrigation systems (check with state or territory and council regulations)
  • the water that is wasted from yard taps, hot water overflow and evaporative air conditioners can be specifically directed to yard planting in gravel drains or underground drains
  • water from gutters and downpipes can also be piped to planted areas in the yard or collected in swales to be absorbed slowly by yard planting.

Standards and references

Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council and Environment Protection and Heritage Council. 2006, National Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks. National Water Quality Management Strategy: Australian Health Ministers’ Conference

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. ‘Operation Desert Stormwater Harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #3, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002, Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/ op17.pdf

Anda, M & Ryan, J 1998, Saving water for healthy communities: a workbook for Aboriginal communities, Remote Area Developments Group, Murdoch University, Perth.

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C2 Energy

Relates to safety and the following Healthy Living Practices:

  • washing people
  • washing clothes and bedding
  • removing waste water safely
  • improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the effects of crowding
  • controlling the temperature of the living environment
  • reducing hazards that cause trauma

Energy is essential to many of the Healthy Living Practices and is required for most community activities.
Energy such as electricity, gas or solid fuel (wood or coal) may be expensive whereas renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro or wood may provide a cheaper alternative if available and if there is the ability to invest in the capital equipment required to convert these energy sources into a useable form. Many communities have little choice or control over the supply and cost of various energy sources.

The energy needs of a community need to be considered as a whole in order to deliver affordable services to residents. This requires consideration of the energy options for different items of health hardware and the most efficient fuel source available. It may be more cost-effective to install solar hot water systems and energy efficient appliances in housing, or a reticulated gas system to the whole community, particularly if an electrical power generation system is subsidised by the state or territory government and the capital cost of the installation is equivalent to the subsidy.

The relative advantage of selecting electrical devices with reduced power consumption, which includes an energy rating for the following appliances:

  • Electric stoves, ovens
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Ceiling fans
  • Electric hot water services
  • Boosted solar hot water services
  • Heat pump hot water services
  • Refrigerated air conditioners
  • Reverse cycle air conditioners (in heating and cooling modes)
  • Evaporative air conditioners
  • Electric fan heaters
  • Radiators
  • Washing machines
  • Fluorescent lamps
  • Incandescent lamps
  • TV sets
  • Water pumps
  • Appliances such as toasters

This section includes a brief discussion about the systems that generate electricity for communities and about gas supply systems. For information about solar hot water heating, see B1.2 Hot water. Other types of energy systems are beyond the scope of this guide.

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C2.1 Electricity

Most remote and regional communities have little control over the power generation and electrical supply systems available to them. Essential services providers and funding providers usually decide which type of system to use depending on the capital cost of the system and the size and location of the community. The table below sets out the power generation systems commonly found in communities across Australia.

Maintenance arrangements also vary. In most large communities, the power system is operated and maintained by an external authority. Smaller communities and outstations may own and operate stand-alone systems. Increased loads on the power system due to renovations or construction of new houses, or providing more health hardware in houses such as additional heating and cooling systems, will increase costs.

New power generation systems or system upgrades should take into account the likely development of the community over the next five to ten years. As well as the development of new housing and infrastructure, any other planned community buildings and businesses should be considered.

The majority of hot water systems (51 per cent) in surveyed houses use an electric power supply and a further 40 per cent use solar systems, most of which have electric boosters. Most surveyed houses have electric cooking appliances (72 per cent).

Overview of common community power systems
Community description Regional, any size, close to mains infrastructure Large to medium size community, not close to mains infrastructure Small remote community Very small remote community
Power system Connection to mains grid Power house with two or more diesel generators Power house with one or two diesel generators Renewable energy system or diesel-renewable hybrid power generation system (a)
Cost to consumer Power is usually cheaper than other sources because it is the same unit price is charged to all grid customersOff-peak low tariff rates may be available for hot water Power will be more expensive than mains power unless diesel fuel is subsidised Power usually very expensive unless diesel fuel is subsidised Power may be cheaper than from diesel power house because of fuel savings, initial capital outlay could attract a rebate
Reliability Reliable Usually reliable because back-up generator is available to supply power when one fails Not so reliable because no back-up when generator fails and have to wait for mechanics or parts Usually reliable because multiple components can pick up load when one part not working. Have to wait for specialists to fix problems
Maintenance No maintenance responsibility for community Often operated by external agency. If community does maintain they may need maintenance contract with a diesel mechanic and electrician Often operated by community, which requires a maintenance contract with a diesel mechanic and electrician May be operated by external agency or community. Can require specialist expertise for maintenance
Growth No limits to growth in community Growth limited by capacity of generators. Ongoing capital cost as community grows Growth limited by capacity of generator. Ongoing capital cost as community grows Growth limited by capacity of generators, batteries and renewable componentsHigh capital cost as community grows

(a)   A renewable energy generation system consists of batteries for storing power and renewable energy solar panels, wind generators or micro-hydro generators. Diesel-renewable hybrid power systems incorporate a diesel generator which runs in conjunction with the renewable energy input.

Design and specification

For new housing projects, ensure that:

  • the houses are designed to be energy efficient, including passive design strategies to make them warmer or cooler and use of energy efficient appliances, particularly cooking and hot water systems
  • the power generation system has the capacity to meet the load requirements of the proposed new buildings and associated infrastructure
  • power is available to the proposed housing sites
  • house designs take into account any load restrictions that may apply and use ‘no-volt’ relay switches for air conditioners and other appliances to manage loads.

If involved in planning a new or upgraded power generation and supply system, consider:

  • projected growth and development of the community and areas identified by residents for this development
  • the power requirements of proposed infrastructure and economic development initiatives in the community
  • the financial capacity of residents to pay for electricity or whether government subsidies are available to make the power more affordable
  • metering options such as ‘pay as you go’ card meters that may make paying for power manageable for residents
  • emerging technologies that allow residents to easily view their house’s power consumption
  • the financial and technical capacity of the community to operate and maintain the system, including access to fuel, spare parts and technical experts.

Quality control

Before making the final payment for new houses, check:

  • that power is available to all houses
  • the power supply installation in the street and the house connection has been tested and certified by the power provider or manager of the generation system, as well as an electrician.

Maintenance

Electrical safety is not limited to the house environment. Community power stations, power lines, transformers and pole fuses all play a part in ensuring the electrical safety of a community. It is essential for the safety of community members that power houses are kept secure from unauthorised access and that the generators, power lines, power poles, pole fuses and other parts of the electrical generation and distribution system are maintained in good condition.

Ensure:

  • a maintenance contract is in place for the power generation system and that the electrical supply system is regularly maintained and kept to a safe standard.
Survey data
High use electrical energy appliances Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Electricity available 95% 3,661  
Electric powered hot water system 51% 3,653  
Solar powered hot water system (most systems have electric boosters that use high amount of electricity) 40% 3,653  
Heat pump hot water system (uses small amount of electricity) 0% 3,653  
Electric cooktop installed 72% 3,631 <
Reverse cycle refrigerated air non-ducted cooling system 10% 3,662  
Reverse cycle refrigerated air ducted cooling system 4% 3,662  
Plug in electric heaters 5% 3,660  
Incandescent lights 50% 1,699  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Centre for Appropriate Technology ‘Renewable energy in remote communities’, Bush Tech Brief #2, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002 Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/op17.pdf

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C2.2 Gas

Gas is used in some communities as an affordable alternative fuel for cooking and heating, or to reduce the load demand on the electrical power generation system.

The most commonly available form of gas supply in rural and remote communities is bottled gas. However, bottled gas may be no cheaper than electricity due to high delivery costs. The initial capital cost of a large gas bottle can also be too expensive for households on a low income. It is important to investigate these costs and the logistics of delivery and installation of bottles before specifying bottled gas or gas powered appliances.

Some communities have opted to reduce costs and avoid the constant maintenance associated with replacing gas bottles by installing a large centralised gas cylinder and running underground gas reticulation throughout the community. When used in this way, gas may be more cost effective than electricity for cooking, heating and producing hot water.

Before specifying any sort of gas system it is important to confirm that residents are happy to use gas in houses. It may be necessary to implement a program to familiarise residents with using gas to cook food and heat their home.

Survey data
Gas availability and use Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Bottled gas available 22% 3,661
Mains gas piped to the house 3% 3,661
Gas powered hot water system 6% 3,653
Gas cooktop installed 19% 3,631
Gas heating not ducted 5% 3,660
Ducted gas heating 0% 3,660

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. ‘The use of gas for cooking’, Bush Tech Brief #32, Our Place, 28, Winter 2002, Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/op28.pdf

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C3 Waste water

Relates to Healthy Living Practices:

  • removing waste water safely
  • reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin
  • reducing the impacts of over-crowding

Waste water or sewage contains germs, also known as pathogens that can be very harmful to people’s health. Systems that remove waste water from the house, treat it and dispose of it safely are critical items of environmental health infrastructure in any community.

Increasingly, waste water in rural and remote communities is being treated and disposed of in off-site sewerage schemes that collect both the grey and black water from houses and treat and dispose of the waste water in a centralised facility. The advantage of an off-site system is that all waste water is removed from yards and living areas and handled at one place away from people, and the operation and maintenance happens in one place rather than in every yard in the community. A disadvantage is that the system can be more expensive to operate than onsite systems such as septic tanks.

There are three stages in the process of managing waste water. All three stages need to be considered when designing a sewerage system for the community and all three have some impact on decisions made during a housing project. These stages are described below.

Stage 1―Collection

Waste water is collected from the immediate living area and removed to a treatment facility in drain pipes. Initially this is done via the house drains, see B3.2 House drains. If the waste water is being treated off-site, the house drains will discharge to a communal sewer pipe, which is usually near one of the property boundaries.

Step 2―Drainage

The most common sewer drains in communities are deep sewers. Fifty four percent of surveyed houses had deep sewer drains. These are large diameter pipes with a slight fall. The household waste water flows through the pipes by gravity to the treatment ponds. In most communities, pumps are required at some points to pump the waste water back up to a higher point so that it will start flowing by gravity again. The pumps require power and maintenance. ‘Vacuum sewers’ have been developed to reduce the need for pumps; however, they require specialised maintenance and it is usually more cost effective to use pumps in remote communities, because they are easier to maintain or replace.

Another form of sewer drain is the ‘small bore’ sewer, which forms part of a common effluent disposal (CED) system. This consists of smaller, shallower pipes with a steeper fall. A small bore sewer may also require pumps to assist the gravity flow and can be subject to blockages if the on-site treatment tanks have failed. If connecting to a small bore sewer, it will be necessary to provide a primary treatment tank, that is, a septic tank, at the house.

Stage 3―Treatment

Waste water needs to be treated before it can be safely disposed of into the environment or recycled for use in the community. The level of treatment depends on how and where the effluent is disposed.

The first level of treatment (‘primary’ treatment) removes solids and some bacteriological pollutants. Septic tanks provide primary treatment to waste water. Effluent that has only received primary treatment poses a significant threat to people’s health, and is of such a poor quality that it must not be disposed of into the environment, except in underground trenches.

The next level of treatment of waste water is called ‘secondary’ treatment. During secondary treatment more of the pollutants that are harmful to health are removed, as well as some of the pollutants that are harmful to the environment. The treatment ponds in most sewerage systems treat waste water to a secondary level so that it can be discharged to the sea, a river, an evaporation pond, or some other licensed disposal point. A licence is required for any effluent discharge, and the license conditions will require a minimum quality of treatment to be achieved. Secondary treated effluent may be re-used for irrigation in sub-surface systems, but should not be sprayed or used for food crops or on playing fields. It may be suitable for use on a woodlot or community wind break or for growing pasture for stock.

The effectiveness of the treatment pond in treating effluent will depend on how long the water stays in the ponds. If there are multiple water leaks from faulty taps or toilet cisterns in the houses, there will be more water flowing through the treatment ponds, which lessens the treatment time and reduces the quality of the treated effluent. Some communities have made substantial improvements to the performance of their sewage ponds by fixing all leaking taps in the community. If stormwater pipes are connected to sewerage systems, the ponds will not work effectively whenever it rains due to the additional water load.

‘Tertiary’ treatment is a higher level of waste water treatment after which the effluent can be recycled in the community. However, tertiary treated effluent is not safe to drink unless the treatment system is specifically designed to produce potable water. Package treatment systems usually provide tertiary level treatment, and mechanical and chemical treatment systems can be added to treatment ponds to achieve tertiary level treatment. Although it is expensive to treat waste water to a tertiary level it may, in some situations, it can be more cost effective than developing additional water sources. In environmentally sensitive areas, government agencies may require tertiary treatment before effluent can be discharged to the environment.

Design and specification

For new housing projects:

  • confirm the type of sewerage system currently available in the community and any future planned upgrades, design the house drains to suit the circumstances
  • check the location and height of the nearest sewer pipe, and confirm there is enough fall to get the waste water from the house to the main sewer connection point and avoid using pumps wherever possible
  • ensure the overflow points in the main sewer line and overflow relief gullies in the yard are lower than the floor of the house, and that all house drains are located so that any emergency sewer overflow will not flood the house or outside living areas, will not pond in the yard and will not overflow near paths and door ways
  • if permitted by the local council, consider first treating grey water from the laundry and/or bathroom and then connecting these drains directly to a sub-surface irrigation system, as this will assist in saving water and in reducing the load on the treatment ponds
  • find out the level of waste water treatment available/planned for the community and, if appropriate, provide a second system of supply pipes in the yard and house that could be used for recycled water.

Quality control

During construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • all house drains have been inspected before backfilling and are legally connected to the disposal system
  • the local council or essential services operator has inspected, tested and approved the connection to the sewer
  • ‘as built’ drawings are completed, showing the location of house drains and the connection to the sewer
  • stormwater pipes are not connected or discharged to the house drains or mains sewer.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • repair leaking taps to reduce the load on the waste water disposal system
  • check and maintain house drains
  • ensure that downpipes and stormwater drains are not connected to the sewer, and disconnect or re-direct any drains that are connected
  • pump out septic tanks that form part of a CED system
  • service and maintain pumps and valves in the sewer to avoid failure
  • maintain the treatment ponds
  • fix broken or blocked stormwater pipes that are flowing into local land application areas.
Survey data
Waste water systems and detail Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*
Type of waste water system      
No waste water system 3% 3,658  
Deep sewer system 54% 3,658 <<
Houses using septic systems of any type
Septic tank and common effluent system 28%
Septic tank and soakage trenches 14% +
42% 3,658 ++
Aerobic waste water package treatment system 1% 3,658  
All drainage around the house OK (this question records if drainage failures are obvious in the yard area around the house) 73% 3,660  
       
Dry system toilets      
Dry toilet 5% 1,961  
In-ground pit toilet 2% 1,961  
Contained composting toilet 3% 1,961  
       
Details of the waste systems      
Grease trap 8% 3,632  
Septic tank not able to be located 5% 1,089  
Pump out truck had access to septic tank 91% 1,089  
Septic tank lid protected from damage 60% 1,089  
Septic tank lid not protected from damage 33% 974  
No soakage trench (CED (common effluent disposal) system) 58% 1,303  
Functional soakage trench 31% 1,303  
Non-functional soakage trench 12% 1,188  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

Standards and references

Marshall, G 2004 Monitoring of septic tanks on Central Australia remote Aboriginal communities, NT Department of Health and Community Services in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns, Alice Springs

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C4 Household rubbish disposal

Relates to Healthy Living Practices

  • removing waste water safely
  • reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin

Most communities have a system of collecting rubbish from households and disposing of it at a common point. This may range from an automated truck and wheelie bins through to collection of rubbish by a local team using a utility vehicle. Rubbish tips are usually subject to state/territory licensing regulations, although in some very small communities the tip could be a basic hole in the ground that is unfenced. Communities near regional centres may have recycling systems; other communities sort food scraps that will easily rot or decompose from other rubbish; and some communities have community wide composting programs.

When undertaking housing projects it is important to find out what rubbish collection systems are available in the community and to provide bins and bin storage areas that are suited to that system.

Design and specification

For new housing projects, ensure that:

  • every new house is provided with at least one large outdoor bin, and more bins are provided if the community has sorting, recycling or composting programs
  • there is an area where the bin can be stored that is accessible from the kitchen and can be easily accessed for emptying
  • a post or chain or other mechanism is provided to secure the bin in an upright position and prevent it being knocked over by dogs and other animals
  • for combined multiple dwellings, there is a designated garbage bin storage area.

Quality control

During housing construction and before making the final payment, check that:

  • bins are provided and secured.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • empty bins at least once a week, and maybe more often
  • replace broken or missing bins
  • consider developing waste minimisation programs, such as recycling or composting.
Survey data
Rubbish disposal systems Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed Change since 2003*>
Type of rubbish disposal system      
Kitchen bin, regular collection 46% 3,099 <
Kitchen bin, no regular collection 3% 3,099  
No kitchen bin, regular collection 45% 3,099  
No kitchen bin, no regular collection 6% 3,099  

* See ‘Changes in the conditions of houses’ for an explanation of the symbols used in this column.

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C5 Community planning

Relates to Healthy Living Practices:

  • improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the impacts of over-crowding
  • reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin
  • reducing the health impacts of dust.

The overall planning and layout of the community affects many of the Healthy Living Practices.

Examples of community planning decisions that affect safety and health include whether:

  • paths are provided for children to safely walk around the community
  • there are street lights to allow people to safely walk around the community at night
  • roads are laid out to avoid excessive speed and to reduce blind corners
  • space between houses allows a garden and outdoor living area
  • the new housing area is located on high ground to avoid being flooded in heavy rains
  • rural or remote communities are fenced to keep out feral animals
  • shrubs, ground covers and sealed roads are provided to prevent dust

New developments in communities are often based on urban design principles and engineering decisions related to power, water and sewerage services. Little consideration is given to the overall pattern of development and the community’s wishes. These approaches do not achieve the best outcome for residents and may have long term negative social and financial implications.

A community plan should be developed to reflect community priorities and preferences, taking into account safety, health and environmental constraints. Allow plenty of time during the consultation process for residents to think about the proposed growth and development. The plan should be discussed with the community and ideally, could be pegged out on site to demonstrate the practical application of the plan. Opportunities should be provided for the community to make changes during the development process.

A community plan should cover all aspects of the community development, from small projects that are important to the community such as landscaping and playgrounds, through to the location of new housing and community buildings and infrastructure. The plan also needs to show areas that cannot be developed because of environmental or cultural constraints. Once developed, all agencies working with the community should formally acknowledge and adopt the plan. However, plans must be considered as ‘living’ documents and a process put in place to regularly review and update the plan.

In the initial planning stage, identify:

  • current areas of development and the location of existing infrastructure
  • sites, vegetation and topographical features that the community do not want to develop for cultural, historical, environmental or other reasons
  • prevailing climatic conditions, such as hot and cold winds, dusty winds, the direction of storms and wind driven rain, and possible fire fronts
  • topographical constraints, including steep hills, land subject to flooding, or sites that can become isolated by seasonal creeks and flooding; it is particularly important to discuss this with residents in arid areas where the water flow patterns may not be obvious
  • areas subject to pooling or that retain stagnant water and may become mosquito breeding grounds
  • environmentally sensitive areas.

Consider and discuss with the community:

  • lines of sight people may want to maintain or develop in the community, such as to significant landscape features or of the main communal areas
  • areas of the site that the community would like to develop for housing, and the feasibility of extending services to these areas
  • the space people want between houses and how they want houses to be positioned in relation to other houses, streets and the whole community
  • other community priorities and planned projects and suitable locations for these, including the feasibility of providing essential services and infrastructure to those sites
  • providing safe foot paths for people to walk around the community
  • providing safe playgrounds and other recreation or public spaces
  • options for road designs, such as grid layouts versus cul-de-sacs and dead ends, speed reduction strategies, shared vehicle-pedestrian areas, car-parking and foot paths
  • ways to reduce the number of roads and tracks used by cars and strategies to make them safer and connect them to new development
  • opportunities for incorporating planting for shade, dust control and food bearing plants, along streets, around houses and in public places
  • planning for the development of mounds, swales and other landscape elements that allow the collection and use of stormwater for landscaping
  • the safe location of essential services infrastructure, such as locating treatment ponds down wind of living areas and in a location where they will not be flooded; and reducing noise and fumes from new power generators
  • locating down wind of living areas, any areas that generate dust and airborne contaminants, including ungrassed ovals, dirt roads, unsealed airstrips and the rubbish tip
  • in tropical communities, strategies to reduce pooling water and mosquito breeding areas
  • the need for fences or other measures to keep feral animal out of the community.

Standards and references

National Health and Medical Research Council 2005, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines – Community Water Planner, Australian Government, Canberra

Queensland Department of Health 2002, Guidelines to minimise mosquito and biting midge problems in new development areas.

Harris, G (ed.) 2000, Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina.

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. & Port Stewart Lamalama 1997, Moojeeba-Theethinji: Planning for a healthy growing community.

Djabugay Tribal Corporation & Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 1999, Mona Mona: Working Together for a Healthy Community Planning Report.

Marpuna Corporation, Centre for Appropriate Technology and Queensland Health 1995 Planning for a Healthy Community, Old Mappoon, A Pictorial Summary, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Cairns

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C6 Landscaping

Relates to Healthy Living Practices

  • improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the impacts of over-crowding
  • reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin
  • reducing the health impacts of dust
  • controlling the temperature of the living environment

Landscape strategies for the whole community will support individual household efforts to grow food plants, ground covers and shade trees related to the Healthy Living Practices. References to the use of plants and landscape to support Healthy Living Practices have been made throughout this guide. In particular, see B7 Reducing the health impacts of dust, which discusses the use of landscaping to control dust and B8 Controlling the temperature of the living environment, which includes ideas for shade trees and wind breaks.

This section considers ‘hard landscaping’ such a pavers, fences and earth mounds, and ‘soft landscaping’ such as planting and cultivating trees.

Design and specification

Consider:

  • constructing planted earth mounds or planting vines on high fences throughout the community, for use as wind breaks in colder climates
  • fencing all houses and buildings, and planting vines on the fences to stop dust
  • planting shade trees and food plants along walkways and around places where people meet
  • developing a community nursery to grow plants for household gardens, food plants and plants used for traditional ceremonies and crafts
  • planting drought tolerant grasses on sports fields, and using stormwater or stored rainwater on the grass
  • growing drought tolerant ground covers on open, unsealed areas to reduce dust
  • capturing stormwater from roads, paths and open areas and using it to water plants
  • planting trees or building earth mounds to prevent cars using unsealed tracks that cause dust and erosion
  • developing a program to seal all roads in the community to reduce dust
  • using native plants that need little water, wherever possible
  • planting woodlots for communities that need fire wood for cooking or heating
  • planning to make the public areas and houses more accessible to people with disabilities.

Maintenance

As part of cyclical maintenance:

  • employ and equip a parks and gardens team to maintain landscaping throughout the community.
Survey data
Landscaping Percentage of houses Total houses surveyed
Outside cooking areas 41% 3662
Windbreak planting 22% 3662
Food planting 25% 3662
     
Fenced yard    
No fenced yard 31% 3661
Yard >= 900 sq m 37% 3661
Yard < 900 sq m 33% 3661
Fence and gate OK 41% 2952
Fence and gate not OK 45% 2389
     
Working motor cars in yard    
No working motor cars in yard 56% 3660
1 working motor car in yard 28% 3660
2 working motor cars in yard 10% 3660
3 or more working motor cars in yard 6% 3660

Standards and references

Centre for Appropriate Technology ‘Rainwater harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #4, Our Place, 17, Winter 2002 Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/documents/btb4.pdf

C7 Communications

Access to telecommunications can be important for contacting emergency services in relation to safety and health, as well as a way of maintaining cultural, family, social and economic obligations. The current number of fixed telephone residential connections in remote Indigenous housing is extremely low by comparison with the wider Australian situation. For example, the service take-up rate amongst residents in remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities when surveyed in 2002 was estimated at 1.5% (Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts 2002) compared to about 38% Australia wide.

Further, access to public telephone services is limited. In 2002, only 267 of 1002 small Indigenous communities with a population of fewer than 50 had a payphone. 14 However, in addition to the safety factors involved, more facilities are being introduced to encourage the uptake of residential services. These include:

  • Country Calling Line, a Telstra low rental residential product that requires calls to all but 000 and some 1800 free call destinations to be made using a pre-paid phone-card;
  • Extended zone calling, whereby calls within and between adjoining calling zones in remote Australia are untimed and are charged at the local call rate. (Extended zones cover about 80% of Australia’s land mass and range between 8,000 and 300,000 square kilometres in area.)
  • A delayed hotline feature, whereby a residential caller is connected through to a pre-programmed number without needing to dial.

For new housing, ensure that provision is made for residents to have the phone connected. It is recommended that facility cabling with at least two phone access sockets should be provided in each new or refurbished dwelling, to provide residents with some flexibility in the location of their phones. External cabling will normally be provided by the telecommunications carrier to extend the connection from their network to one of these sockets. Where a group of houses is being built or undergoing a major refurbishment, the provision of network cabling in the area should be coordinated with the carrier.

At a community level, ensure that public phones are accessible and reliable, and that they are in a safe location.

If the community has difficulty accessing phone services, they may be able to get assistance by contacting the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman who can enforce the Community Service Obligation that requires telecommunication providers to offer services to rural and remote residents.

Also discuss with the community other communication needs, such as broad band internet, video conferencing and computer networking, and ensure the appropriate infrastructure is included in new and renovated buildings.

Contacts and references

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman can be contacted at http://www.tio.com.au/

Freecall: 1800 062 058*
Freefax: 1800 630 614
TTY: 1800 675 692
Translator & Interpreter Service: 131 450

Centre for Appropriate Technology ‘How to get a telephone’, Bush Tech Brief #8, Our Place, 18, Spring 2002 Alice Springs, http://www.icat.org.au/media/Resources/telecommunications/Bush Tech No.8 - How to get a Telephone.pdf

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Part D: Managing houses for safety and health

A cyclical maintenance program is essential for sustaining the safety and health of houses and yard areas in a community.  This program is best staffed by local people who have knowledge about the parts of health hardware that they can maintain and the components that require licensed tradespeople to be brought into the community. The following information sets out:

  • Safety and health priorities
  • Items that the community staff can check and fix, indicated by circled numbers on the drawings
  • Items that require licensed tradespeople to test and fix

Each diagram includes number labels for critical parts of the safety or health hardware, which are described in the text.

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D Safety

Electrical safety

Electrical Safety

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check power points (1) with a power point tester (2) available from electrical or hardware stores.
  • Check all power points, lights (3), switches (4), fans and other fittings are working properly and are not cracked, loose, broken or painted over.
  • Arrange for an electrician to fix any problems.
  • Replace light bulbs that are missing or faulty.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Load test the entire electrical installation.
  • Confirm all fittings are properly wired and are in safe working condition.
  • Replace faulty electrical fittings as a priority.

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Power points, light switches and lights

Power points

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check power points (1) with a power point tester (2) available from electrical or hardware stores.
  • Check all power points, lights (3), switches (4), fans and other fittings are working properly and are not cracked, loose, broken or painted over.
  • Arrange for an electrician to fix any problems.
  • Replace light bulbs that are missing or faulty.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Load test the entire electrical installation.
  • Confirm all fittings are properly wired and are in safe working condition.
  • Replace faulty electrical fittings as a priority.

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Gas safety

Gas Safety

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check that gas bottles (1), if available, are upright and securely fixed by chain (2) to the wall.
  • If necessary, provide a concrete pad or pavers (3) for the gas bottles to stand on.
  • If there are any gas smells or signs of leaks from pipe connections to bottles or at the regulator (4), arrange for a gas fitter to fix the problem immediately.
  • Confirm that a compliance plate of gas safety (5) has been provided for new houses and major renovations before anyone moves in.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Test the gas installation to ensure it complies with relevant codes and there are no leaks.
  • Test that all gas appliances are connected, installed to manufacturer’s instructions and have been secured in place.

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Fire safety

Fire Safety

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

To prevent fire:

  • Replace blown light globes or tubes to avoid the use of candles that can cause fire.
  • Check all gas fittings for leaks and get a gas fitter to fix any problems.
  • Clean flues of wood heaters and chimneys.
  • Check the operation of exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and clean the filters.
  • Check for signs of household pests such as mice and ants that can cause electrical faults, and run a pest management program.

To detect fires and ensure people can escape in the event of fire:

  • Use the test button (1) to check smoke alarms, and replace batteries regularly
  • Arrange for an electrician to install smoke alarms in all houses.
  • Check all doors have locks that can be operated from the inside without a key, so that people cannot be locked in rooms; replace locks if necessary Remove pad bolts or barrel bolts from bedroom doors.
  • Check that release catches and locks on security screens are working.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Test that all smoke alarms have been installed as required, are connected to the mains power, and are working.
  • Load test the electrical installation to identify for faults that could cause fires.

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Structural safety and reducing hazards that cause trauma

Structural safety

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check regularly for rust, rot (1), termites and other signs of structural deterioration, and re-apply paints and protective coatings to exposed timber and steel.
  • Fix water leaks (2) that may attract termites or cause rot or corrosion.
  • Check garden beds (3), timber floors (4) and ramps for termites, and talk to residents about removing garden beds that are against walls.
  • Ensure there is a working light (5) at all external doors to prevent slips and falls.
  • Check that steps (6) and handrails (7) are secure, and fix loose or broken steps and handrails.
  • Check for and replace any broken glass (8).
  • Ensure external steps and porches have a non-slip finish or are sheltered from rain.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Organise for a qualified pest controller to undertake a regular program of termite inspections and treatments.
    • In high wind areas, organise a program to inspect, tighten, replace or install the structural tie-downs between roof, wall and floor and, if the roof is nailed on, replace the nails with screws and cyclone washers.

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D1 Washing people

Hot water

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check that the hot water temperature at taps is greater than 45°C and less than 60°degrees (1); if not, get a plumber to check and adjust the system.
  • Check that the hot water pressure relief valve (2) and cold water pressure relief valve, if fitted and hot water system shut off valve (3) are functioning, and get a plumber to replace any faulty valves.
  • Replace the washers (4) in hot water taps.
  • Check and repair lagging on hot water pipes (5).

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Test the condition of the anode and element and replace if required.
  • Test the main storage cylinder for corrosion or build up of mineral salts.
  • Test the thermostat is set between 50°C and 60°C.
    • Test the condition of collector panels and the heat exchange fluid in solar units (6), and the condition of collector panels and levels of refrigerant gas in heat pump units (not shown).

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Washing people - bath, basin, tub and shower

Washing People

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check that hot and cold water is available and pressure is okay (1) at the bath, basin, tub and shower and the hot water temperature is between 45°C and 60°C (2).
  • Check taps (3), spouts (4) and shower roses (5) for leaks, organise a plumber to fix all leaks and consider replacing all washers regularly. 
  • Check that the drains (6) are working and are not blocked or leaking; get a plumber to fix blockages or leaks.
  • Replace missing plugs at the bath or basin.
  • Check for signs of water leaks, decay, rot and rust in the walls, floors and cupboards; get a builder to inspect if there are problems.
  • Check that the bath and basin are securely fixed to the wall or floor, and fix if loose.
  • Install clothes hooks, towel rails and shelves if there are none available
  • Check the door lock works and fix if necessary.
  • Replace any missing or blown light bulbs.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Replace washers in taps, spouts and shower roses, and reseat taps if required.
  • Inspect for possible water leaks or failure of waterproofing to prevent structural failure.

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D2 Washing clothes and bedding

Laundry tub and washing machine services

Laundry

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

Check taps (1), spouts (1) and washing machine hoses (2) for leaks and organise a plumber to fix all leaks.

  • Consider a program to replace all tap washers regularly to prevent leaks.
  • Check that the drains (3) are working and not leaking, including a dedicated drain (4) for the washing machine.
  • Replace the plug at the laundry tub if it is missing.
  • Check for signs of water leaks, decay, rot and rust in the walls, floors and cupboards, and get a builder to inspect if there are problems.
  • Check that the tub (5) is securely fixed to the wall or floor, and fix if loose.
  • Check that the washing machine (6) is level, and adjust the feet if it is not.
  • Check power points (7) with a power point tester.
  • If there is no shelf in the laundry, install one.
  • Check that there is a clothes drying line (8); replace any missing or broken wires. If there is not drying line, consider installing one.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Replace washers in taps, spouts and shower roses and reseat taps where required.
  • Test for possible water leaks or failure of waterproofing, to prevent damage.

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D3 Removing waste water safely

Flush toilet

Flush Toilet

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check the function of the toilet by putting three lengths of toilet paper, each 1.8 metres long, in the bowl (1) and check that they are flushed away in a single flush; if not, get a plumber to fix the toilet.
  • Check that the toilet cistern (2) can refill in less than three minutes (3), or get it fixed.
  • Check that the tap behind the toilet (stop valve) is not leaking (4), and can be turned fully on and off. Leave the tap fully open and back one turn. If there is a problem, get the plumber to fix it.
  • Check that there are no other leaks from the toilet cistern or drains, and that the pan (5) is securely fixed to the floor and is not cracked; get a plumber to fix any problems.
  • Check that the toilet seat (6) is not cracked or broken, and is secure. Tighten or replace if necessary
  • Install a toilet roll holder if it is missing or broken.
  • Check that the door lock works, and fix it if it does not.
  • Replace any missing or blown light bulbs.
  • If there is a floor drain, check that it is not blocked

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Test the full function of the toilet and floor drains, and fix any leaks or problems.
  • Replace cracked or damaged pans and cisterns.

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Drains

Drains

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Run water through all house drains to make sure that they are not blocked (1).
  • On the outside of the house, look for any signs of overflowing drains, and check for long grass in the garden that might indicate a water leak or failed drain.
  • Get a plumber to fix any drainage problems.
  • Check the grates (2) are in place on drains, and replace missing or broken grates
  • Check that there is a screened cap on the top of all vent pipes; replace missing caps
  • Check the grate is in place on the overflow relief gully; replace if missing
  • If there is a grease trap, empty it out regularly and check it is not overflowing
  • If there is a septic system (3), organise for it to be pumped out at least once a year; check the lid (4) and inspection openings are in place on the tank, and that traffic cannot drive over the trenches (5).
  • Check that caps are fitted on all inspection openings (6) and replace any missing caps
  • Check that there are drains or splashpads under yard taps (7) and downpipes; if not, arrange to install them where required.
  • Undertake regular maintenance on package treatment systems or composting toilet systems, as recommended by the supplier.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Undertake a full test of the drainage system and fix any blockages or leaks.
  • Test to ensure stormwater is not connected to the wastewater disposal system.
  • Undertake scheduled trades maintenance on package treatment systems or composting toilet systems, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

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D4 Improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food

Rainwater collection and storage

Rainwater Collection

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check and clean the rainwater collection system, including roof gutter and downpipe inlet point (1) and tank overflow (2).
  • Secure, repair or replace broken or rusted gutters or downpipes.
  • Check the rainwater tank tap (3) is working and change the washer if required.
  • Check and repair the screens to inlets (4) and overflows (2) on the rainwater tank.
  • Empty out first flush diverters (5) and check they are working.
  • Regularly empty and clean inside of tanks to remove build up of algae and sediment and check that the tank stand or pad (6) is sound.
  • If a filter is installed, replace the cartridge regularly.
  • Check that there are drains or splashpads under taps and downpipes; if there are not, arrange to put some in.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Regularly test the quality of rainwater from tanks, particularly for contaminants.

D4 Improving nutrition: the ability to store, prepare and cook food

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Storing and preparing food

Storing and Preparing food

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check that there is hot (1) and cold water available at the sink (2), that the taps and spout (3) are not leaking, and also check the drain (4); get a plumber to fix any problems.
  • Check whether there are enough power points (5) and check they are working, not cracked and not covered in grease; get an electrician to fix problems and install more power points if required.
  • Check that freezer temperature is colder than minus 10°C15 (6) and fridge is colder than 4°C (7); if not, organise for a fridge mechanic to check the door seals and/or re-gas the fridge.
  • If the fridge is hot, discuss with the resident a better location that is not as hot and has good airflow around the fridge and freezer.
  • Check and fix cupboard door handles (8), locks, hinges, benches (9), shelves (10), drawers (11) and screened pantry/food storage areas.
  • Install additional shelves and benches if there is not enough storage or preparation area.
  • Replace the light bulbs if they are missing or blown.
  • Organise a regular pest management program.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Service refrigerators to improve performance, including re-gassing and replacing door seals.
  • Replace washers at leaking taps and spouts.
  • Undertake a regular pest management program, particularly for cockroaches, ants and rodents.

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Cooking food

Cooking food

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check that all burners or elements are working on the stove (1), grill (2) and oven (3); organise for an electrician or gas fitter to replace faulty elements or burners.
  • Check the timer switch if available and isolation switch (4) are working on electric stoves.
  • Clean gas burners in hot water with a stiff brush to unclog them.
  • Clean the entire stove and oven with heavy duty cleaners.
  • Check and replace control knobs (5).
  • Check that the oven door (6) opens and fully seals when closed, and that the glass is not cracked.
  • Consider organising annual maintenance and cleaning of all stoves in the community to extend the life of the stoves.

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Arrange for an electrician or gas fitter to undertake full service of all stoves and replace parts that are not working, including elements, burners, control knobs, oven door and seals, as required

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D5 Reducing the negative impacts of over-crowding

Overcrowding

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

For houses with large populations, consider a program to check and fix the following health hardware items every few months because they may need more maintenance due to wear and tear.

  • safety switches for electrical safety
  • smoke alarms for fire safety
  • stairs and hand rails (1), floor coverings and other building components for safety
  • function of all house taps, yard taps (2), spouts, shower roses, toilet (3) and drains
  • function of septic system and grease trap, and look for leaks or pools of water in yard
  • function of hot water system, check there is enough hot water at 45°C
  • clothes drying facilities (4)
  • stove function (5) and outdoor cooking facilities (6), if available
  • doors and door handles (7)
  • windows and security screens (8)
  • replace missing or blown light bulbs
  • all cupboards and robes (9)
  • fences and gates (10).

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Undertake regular electrical safety tests, and prioritise urgent maintenance.
  • Arrange for regular tests of plumbing and gas installation, and prioritise urgent
  • Prioritise works to make sure the building is safe.

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D6 Reducing negative effects of animals, insects and vermin

Reducing negative effects of animals, insects and vermin

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check for and destroy ant and termite mounds and cockroach nests around houses.
  • Seal gaps, cracks and junctions, particularly between walls, floors and cupboards (1), and between benches, sinks and cupboards.
  • Check and fix high storage shelves in the kitchen and wet areas; if none available, consider installing them.
  • Check and fix doors, handles, locks and catches to the pantry and kitchen cupboards. 
  • Check and fix security screen doors (2).
  • Check and fix fences and gates (3).
  • Check that there is a secure fixing point for the bin (4); if not, install one.
  • Check yard taps (5) are secure and not dripping, and that there are drains beneath the taps to prevent water pooling.
  • For houses built high enough above the ground, check the area under the house is fully screened (6) or enclosed.
  • Cut back tree branches (7) that touch the house, and remove garden beds that touch the walls or house posts.
  • Check and fix insect screens (8) to doors and windows; if none available, consider installing them.
  • If there is pooling in the yard, fix the drains or fill the yard to prevent future pooling.
  • Clean gutters and the first flush device on water tanks, so they don’t hold water
  • Check and replace mesh on rainwater tanks, drainage vent pipes, septic systems, and composting toilets, to prevent breeding of flies and mosquitoes
  • Empty out any containers that are holding water.
  • Consider a regular community clean up program to remove objects from the yard that harbour pests such as wood piles, old furniture and old cars.
  • Consider organising a dog (9) health program, feral animal control (10) and regular pest management program.

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D7 Reducing the health impacts of dust

Reducing the health impacts of dust

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check and fix fences and gates (1).
  • Check and fix doors and windows (2) to ensure they open and close properly, and clean out the tracks in sliding windows and doors regularly to improve function and extend their life.
  • Check the function of yard taps (3) and ensure that there are enough taps to water all parts of the yard (4), check local water restrictions.
  • Check and fix insect screens to doors and windows (5); if none available, consider installing them.
  • Regularly clean insect screens to remove dust.
  • Check and fix weather strips on doors and seals on windows.
  • Provide sand, gravel or concrete to cover drive ways and paths (6).
  • Consider installing irrigation systems in yards.
  • Consider a community landscape project, particularly to provide wind break planting (7) along fence lines to reduce dust.
  • Fence the yard (8) and public areas in the community, to prevent cars driving everywhere and creating dust.

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D8 Controlling the temperature of the living environment

Controlling the temperature

COMMUNITY CHECK AND FIX

  • Check, repair or replace door seals.
  • Regularly clean insect screens to improve ventilation through windows.
  • Clean and maintain air conditioning units (1).
  • Check that the doors on wood heaters (2) seal properly and there are no cracks in the glass door of the heater, if fitted
  • Clean flues or chimneys (3) to heaters.
  • Repair or replace shade cloths and other screens that shade the house and yard.
  • Clean the roof so that the build up of dust and mould does not reduce thermal performance.
  • In hot climates, thin out vegetation that is getting too thick to allow breezes through.
  • In cold climates, maintain wind break planting, and cut back deciduous trees and vines in autumn.
  • Consider community wide program to insulate and vent all roofs, and to install awnings, verandahs or shade trees to northern, eastern and western walls

TRADE TEST AND FIX

  • Service electrical, gas or wood heaters and air-conditioning units regularly.

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Appendixes

  1. Appendix 1: Housing for health methodology
  2. Appendix 2: Issues to consider in the design and construction of houses
  3. Appendix 3: Using this guide for design and specification of a project with reference to the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards and other relevant guidelines

Appendix 1 - Housing for health methodology

The Housing for Health approach to assessing and fixing Indigenous housing has been developed and refined by the environmental health and design consultants, Healthabitat Pty Ltd, since 1987.

The approach has a safety and health focus and is underpinned by the philosophy of ‘no survey without service’ where, at the time of testing houses, there is also immediate fix work carried out to improve house performance.

Poor environmental and living conditions promote the spread of infectious diseases. Without the ability to wash and remove waste from the living environment, infectious diseases will flourish. Living environments must be equipped with the health hardware to perform Healthy Living Practices. Public health research shows that to achieve health outcomes, most houses in a community must have health hardware functioning most of the time. To achieve this, houses must be designed well, soundly constructed and regularly maintained.

Housing for Health involves a team of people, including local Indigenous community representatives and licensed tradespeople, conducting a 250-point check of health hardware items in each house in a community.

The local teams fix health hardware during the assessment of each house. Within 24 hours, licensed tradespeople carry out the most urgent fix works. Critical health hardware relating to electrical safety, water and waste removal are given the highest priority. Health hardware that cannot be repaired or replaced immediately is fixed by the tradespeople over the next six months. A second survey/fix is conducted when all repairs have been completed to ensure that all the work is satisfactory and to assess the improvement in health hardware function.

Since 1999, Healthabitat has surveyed and fixed over 4,000 houses in Indigenous communities in suburban, rural and remote environments in four states and the Northern Territory. Reports from licensed tradespeople completing the fix works demonstrate that health hardware failure is primarily due to a lack of routine maintenance and poor initial specification and construction. In projects completed over a seven-year period, vandalism, abuse or over-use accounts for nine per cent of all fix work.

In summary, the Housing for Health methodology:

  • assesses the function of health hardware in all houses in a community by standard repeatable tests
  • ensures the immediate fixing of urgent health hardware faults in houses by local Indigenous teams or licensed tradespeople
  • provides accurate data to assist in housing maintenance and management in communities within days of the commencement and at regular intervals throughout the project
  • provides to governments and agencies accurate data for policy development, evaluation and program planning
  • ensures community involvement in the projects, including paid employment for all participants
  • ensures the provision of training in health hardware assessment and basic repairs for local Indigenous people
  • raises community awareness about the relationship between functioning houses and good health.

The National Indigenous Housing Guide acknowledges the 25,000 residents, 2,000 local Indigenous staff, 500 licensed tradespeople, managers and technical staff who have participated in Housing for Health projects.

Reference

Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2006 Evaluation of FHBH 2, 3 and 4, SGS Economics and Planning in conjunction with Tallegalla Consultants, Canberra

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Appendix 2 – Issues to consider in the design and construction of houses

Consultation and Socio-Cultural Factors

People’s housing needs arise from a range of social, cultural, climatic and environmental factors, which vary between communities and may change over time. This guide is a technical resource and makes recommendations about safety, health, climatic and environmental factors. There are often community specific factors that also need to be considered when designing houses that benefit residents.

Consultation
To develop appropriate design responses, a housing designer needs to determine the specific requirements of each community and the people who will live in the house. This will involve continuous consultation throughout the design and construction process. Housing consultants who have not previously worked with Indigenous people might consider undertaking cross-cultural training before starting work. It can also be useful to employ a community member, such as the local housing officer, to assist with consultation and, if necessary, translation, during the project.

Social factors
There are three main social factors to consider when designing houses for Indigenous people:

  • providing adequate open space between houses in crowded communities
  • incorporating semi-independent accommodation spaces in houses to meet the needs of large, extended families
  • providing a secure housing perimeter in communities that wish to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol abuse on community members.

Cultural beliefs
Cultural beliefs and practices can affect how Indigenous people interact within the home and there may be a need to consider ways of increasing privacy for individual residents. When cultural groups practice ‘avoidance relationships’, these can place constraints on family relationships, such as the relationship between mother and a son-in-law. Designers can assist people to observe these avoidance relationships by taking these cultural beliefs into consideration at the design stage. For example:

  • if a house design provides a second exit in a room, this will allow one person to leave a room by another door if someone they have an avoidance relationship with enters that room
  • the house design would not include a common passage way leading to all the bedrooms and the bathroom because this would make it difficult for people to practice avoidance relationships

In some cultural traditions, young women should not be seen going to the bathroom by their brothers. In situations like this, the design should ensure that all members of the house can access bathroom facilities by providing separate bathroom for male and female, or separate entrances to the wet areas.

There are many cultural beliefs about night spirits that can affect how people use the perimeter of the house. These beliefs may mean that an externally located wet area or outdoor cooking facility will not be used at night; therefore as a minimum, an internal wet area and kitchen should be included in the house design. Alternatively, external lighting and meshed verandah or breezeway connection to the external wet area or outdoor cooking facility could be specified if the residents agreed with this approach.

References

Fantin, S. 2003 “Yolngu Cultural Imperatives and Housing Design” in Memmott, P. & Chambers, C. (ed) Take Two. Housing design in Indigenous Australia. RAIA, Canberra

Universal Access

Universal access means designing houses that can be used and accessed by all people in a community. Over time, houses in Indigenous communities may be occupied or visited by people with different needs and different levels of mobility. High incidences of diabetes, renal failure and other chronic illness can also mean that the mobility of permanent residents will change.

Several different terms are used to describe the level of access available in a house.

  • ‘Fully accessible’ means a house in which the bathroom, laundry, kitchen, living areas, external areas and at least one bedroom are designed so that they can be accessed and used by a person with a disability (to comply with AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility and AS 4299 Adaptable housing).
  • ‘Adaptable’housing means houses that can be modified easily in the future to be fully accessible, for example, room and door sizes comply with AS 1428.1 and AS 4299 but fittings and fixtures may need to be modified in the future (refer to AS 4299 Category C).
  • ‘Visitable’ housing means visitors with a disability can enter the house and use the main living area and the toilet.

In all housing projects, consideration should be given to designing houses that incorporate the principles of universal access. Designers should discuss needs and priorities with the community and develop strategies to provide more houses in the community that can be fully accessed by people with disabilities. Designers should also consider designing all new houses so that a person with a disability can at least visit.

If people with disabilities cannot access all or most of the existing housing stock, it may be necessary to build new houses to an adaptable or fully accessible standard to provide more options in the community. Although this can add to the construction cost of new houses, it will save the community the significant cost of adapting houses in the future to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Housing providers may also have obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) to meet the housing needs of community residents who have disabilities.

Strategies to achieve greater accessibility in houses are discussed throughout this guide. AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility and AS 4299 Adaptable housing set out the requirements for accessibility and provide detailed drawings. Many state/territory housing organisations and disability support groups also provide useful references. As a minimum, design should consider the need for:

  • access from the street to the house by a continuous, slip resistant, accessible path
  • no barriers and step free entry to the house
  • wider door ways (minimum 870mm wide door leaf) and lever handles to doors
  • at least one toilet, size of shower and hand basin, including barrier free access to shower
  • grab rails, or provision for future grab rails
  • laundries and kitchens designed with 1550mm clear circulation space in front of benches and fixtures, and accessible taps, power points, fixtures, appliances and shelves accessible to a person in a wheelchair (otherwise they need to be easy to alter)
  • interiors and hall ways that provide adequate circulation space
  • correct height of power points and light switches (between 900mm and 1100mm and set out at least 600mm from corners of rooms)
  • full access to car parking areas, clothes drying and bin storage
  • provision to modify the house to accommodate access needs of residents.

Managing the Construction Process

Sections A and B of the guide include suggestions to improve ‘quality control’ in the construction process. These listed items must be checked during the construction process through rigorous inspections to identify and overcome problems as they occur and guarantee the final quality of the house.

Legal requirements and rules provide one layer of quality control. They are usually administered by state/territory or local governments, and vary between states and territories. It is generally a requirement that drawings and specifications must be checked and approved by a licensed building certifier or local government authority to get a building approval before works start, and that a building certifier inspects works at key stages and at completion. A certificate of completion or occupancy should be issued before residents occupy the house.

In addition to these inspections, it is recommended that the project be inspected at the following stages to ensure that the builder follows all the requirements of the drawings and specifications:

  • site/pad preparation and building set out, in-ground drainage prior to backfilling, footings/foundation, termite barriers and in-slab drainage prior to concrete pour
  • wall and roof framing prior to enclosure, first fix of plumbing and electrical services prior to concealment
  • waterproofing of wet area walls and floors, and that wet area falls to drains
  • joinery/cabinets prior to delivery to site
  • roofing and rainwater system after installation, hot water systems, including roof mounted systems
  • operation of all parts of the house, including appliances and fittings, prior to final payment to the builder and handing the house over to the housing provider.

Works must also be inspected and checked prior to making any payments to the builders. There is no obligation on the owner to pay for works that have not been done according to the drawings and specifications. When the works are finished, the builder must provide warranties for many of the items included in the works. Many of these warranties that are needed appear under ‘Quality control’ headings throughout this guide.

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Appendix 3: Using this guide for design and specification of a project with reference to the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standards and other relevant guidelines

Trade Item Reference in Guide Australian Standards Building Code of Australia Volume 2 , 2006 Other Relevant References
Site and Groundworks
Demolition B 9, especially B 9.1 AS 2601 - 2001 Demolition of structures   HB Guide to the use of recycled concrete and masonry materials
Site preparation and earthworks A 4
B 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4
B 5.2
B 6.1 and 6.4
B 7
AS 1289 - 1997 Methods of testing for engineering purposes
AS 3798 - 1996 Guidelines on earthworks for commercial and residential developments
AS 1411 - Sampling and Testing Aggregates
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 2.2.1 Surface Water
Part 3.1.1 Earthworks
Part 3.2.2 Preparation
Part 3.2.4 Site Classification
 
Stormwater drainage B 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4
B 6.1, 6.4 and 6.6
B 7
C 1
C 6
AS 3500.3 - 2003 Plumbing and drainage - stormwater drainage Part 2.2.1 Surface Water
Part 3.1.2 Drainage
 
In-ground drainage B 3 (all)
B 9.3
C 3
AS 3500.5 2000 - National plumbing and drainage - domestic installations - Amdts 1 2002., Amdts 2 2004., Amdts 3 Feb 2006    
Termite Control A 4
B 6.4
AS 3600.1 - 2000 Termite management - new building work Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 3.1.3 Termite Risk Management
HB 135 - 1999 Keeping pests out of buildings.,
Timber Queensland. Technical Data Sheet No.12 Protecting buildings form subterranean termites: Recommended practice (February 2004).
Gelder, John. Management of subterranean termites for new buildings. PRO 23 May 2005. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Structure and Carcass
Concrete footings and slabs B 1.1
B 3.2
B 6.2, 6.5 and 6.6
B 7
B 8
B 9.3
AS 2870 - 1996 Residential slabs and footings - construction - Amdts 1 Jan 1997., Amdts 2 June 1999., Amdt 3 Nov 2002., Amdt 4 May 2003.,
AS 3600 - 2001 Concrete structures  - Amdt 1 May 2002., Amdt 2 Dec 2003.,  
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 2.2.3 Dampness
Part 3.2 Footings and Slabs
Part 3.10 Additional construction requirements (high winds and earthquakes)
Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
HB 28 - 1997 Design of residential slabs and footings.,
HB 64 - 2002 Guide to concrete construction .,
HB 67 - 1995 Concrete practice on building sites.,
HB 71 Reinforced concrete design handbook.,
CCA T49 - 2003 Guide to residential floors
Masonry construction A 4
B 6.6
B 8.2 and 8.3
AS 3700 - 2001 Masonry structures Amdt 1 May 2002., Amdt 2 Oct 2004.

AS/NZS 2699.1 - 2000 Built-in components for masonry construction - Wall ties.

AS/NZS 2904 - 1995 Damp-proof courses and flashings - Amdt 1 March 1998.
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 2.2.3 Dampness
Part 3.3 Masonry
Part 3.7.1 Fire Separation
Part 3.10 Additional construction requirements (high winds and earthquakes)
Part 3.12.1.4 External walls
Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
CMAA Concrete Masonry Handbook - Walling
Structural steel and steel framing A1.2 and 1.3
A 4
B 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6
B 8.2 and 8.3
AS 3623 - 1993 Domestic metal framing.

AS 4100 - 1998 Steel Structures.

AS/NZS 4600 - 2005 Cold - formed steel structures.

AS 1170 Minimum design loads on structures
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 3.4.2 Steel framing.
Part 3.4.4 Structural Steel Members
Part 3.7.1 Fire Separation
Part 3.9.1 Stair construction
Part 3.10 Additional construction requirements (high winds and earthquakes)
 
Structural timber and timber framing A 4
B 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6
B 8.2, 8.3
B 9.1 and 9.3
AS 1684 - 2006 Residential timber -framed construction Part 2 Non-cyclonic., Part 3 Cyclonic areas., Part 4 Simplified - Non-cyclonic areas

AS 1604 - Timber treatments

AS 4440 - Truss installation
Part 3.4.3 Timber Framing
Part 3.7.1 Fire Separation
Part 3.9.1 Stair construction
Part 3.10 Additional construction requirements (high winds and earthquakes)
Timber Queensland. Technical Data Sheet No.26 Energy efficient timber framed construction: Recommended practice (February 2004).

Timber Queensland. Technical Data Sheet No.25 Outdoor timber performance: Recommended practice (February 2004). 

Webster, John. Timber building for durability PRO 21 May 2005. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Suspended floors A 4
B 6.2, 6.3, 6.5 and 6.6
B 7
B 8.2, 8.3
B 9.3
AS 1684 - 2006 Residential timber - framed construction Part 2 Non-cyclonic., Part 3 Cyclonic areas., Part 4 Simplified - Non-cyclonic areas

AS 1604 - Timber treatments
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions

Part 3.4.1 Sub-floor ventilation

Part 3.7.1 Fire Separation

Part 3.12.1.5 Floors

Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
 
Enclosure
External Waterproofing A 4
B 6.6
  Part 2.2.2 Weatherproofing
Part 3.3.4 Weatherproofing of Masonry
Part 3.5.3.6 Flashings to wall openings
 
Insulation and sarking B 8.2, 8.3, 8.4 and 8.5
B 9.1
AS 3742 - Batts and blankets
AS/NZS 4200 parts 1 and 2 - 1994 Pliable building membranes and underlays
AS 4859 - 2002 Materials for the thermal insulation of buildings - general criteria and technical provisions.
Part 2.4.6 Sound Insulation
Part 2.6.1 Building (energy efficiency)
Part 3.12.1.1 Building fabric thermal insulation
Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
Sustainable Energy Authority, Victoria. Thermal insulation in domestic buildings for temperate climates - product and installation guide PRO 8. August 2001. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Roofing B 9.1 AS 2049 - 2002 Roof tiles -  Amdt 1 Nov 2005.,
AS 2050 - 2002 Installation of roof tiles - Amdt 1 Dec 2005., 
AS 1562.1 - 1992, 1562.2 - 1999,  1562.3 - 1996: Design and installation of sheet roof and wall cladding
AS/NSZ 4256.1- 1994, 4256.2 - 1994, 4256.3 - 1994, 4256.5 - 1996: Plastic roof and wall cladding materials
AS 3500.3.2 - Roof plumbing
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions
Part 2.2.2 Weatherproofing
Part 2.6.1 Building (energy efficiency)
Part 3.5.1 Roof Cladding
Part 3.12.1.2 Roofs
Part 3.12.2.2 Shading
Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
 
Claddings, trims and seals B 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6
B 8.2 and 8.3
B 9.1 and 9.4
AS/NZS 2908.2 - 2000 Cellulose cement products : flat sheets.,
AS/NZS 2269 - 2004 Plywood-structural.,
AS/NZS 2904 - 1995 Damp-proof courses and flashings - Amdt 1 March 1998.,
ISO 8336 - 1993E Fibre cement flat sheets
Steel and plastic sheet walling design and installation: To AS 1562
Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride (uPVC) sheet: To AS/NZS 4256.2.
Glass fibre reinforced polyester (GRP) sheet: To AS/NZS 4256.3.
Polycarbonate: To AS/NZS 4256.5.
Part 2.2.2 Weatherproofing
Part 3.5.3 Wall Cladding
Part 3.7.1 Fire Separation
Part 3.12.1.4 External walls
Part 3.12.3.5 Construction of roof, walls and floors
Timber Queensland. Technical data sheet No.5 Cypress and hardwood cladding: recommended practice (February 2004).
Timber Queensland. Technical data sheet No.3 Treated pine cladding : recommended practice (February 2004)
Doors A 2
A 3.3
B 1.1
B 5.1
B 6.1
B 7
B 9.2 and 9.4
Timber doors: AS 2688, AS 2689 &  AS1909 Glazing: AS 1288Aluminium windows /sliding doors: AS 2047Security screens: AS 2803 & AS 2804 Part 2.4.3 Facilities

Part 3.6.5 Doors

Part 3.12.3.3 External Windows and Doors

Part 3.12.4 Air movement
 
Windows A 2
A 3.3
B 1.1
B 4.6
B 5.1
B 6.5
B 7
B 8.2 and 8.3
B 9.2 and 9.4
AS 1288 - 2006 Glass in buildings - selection and installation.

AS 2047 - Windows in buildings - selection and installation - Amdt 1 Jan 2001., Amdt 2 June 2001
Part 2.1 Structural stability and resistance to actions

Part 2.4.4 Light

Part 2.4.5 Ventilation

Part 3.6 GlazingPart 3.8.4 Light

Part 3.8.5 VentilationPart 3.12.2 External glazing

Part 3.12.3.3 External windows and doors

Part 3.12.4 Air movement
HB 125 - 1998 The glass and glazing handbook.

Lyons, Peter. The energy impact of windows in building design PRO 3. February 2001. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Security screens A 3.3
B 9.2
Security window screens: To AS/NZS 4604 & AS/NZS 4605    
Door and window hardware A 3.3
B 1.1
B 4.2
B 5.1
B 9.2
  Part 3.8.3 Facilities  
Finishing Work
Linings, trims and seals A 1.3 and 1.4
A 3.1
B 1.1
B 2.1
B 4.6
B 5.1
B 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6
B 8.2 and 8.3
B 9.1 and 9.4
Cypress pine: To AS 1810

Softwood timber trims: AS 1785

Contact adhesives: To AS 2131

Fibre cement: To AS 2908.2
   
Waterproofing   Wet area installation: To AS 3740 Part 2.4.1 Wet areas
Part 3.8.1 Wet areas
 
Flooring B1.1
B 2.1
B 3.2
B 4.6
B 6.5
B 9.3
Resilient sheet and tiles - Laying and maintenance practices: AS 1884 1985

Adhesives for floor and wall application: AS 3553 1988

Slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces: AS/NZS 3661

Adhesives - For fixing ceramic tiles AS 2358 1990

Ceramic tiles AS 3958
   
Painting and protective finishes B 1.1
B 9.1
General: To AS 2311 Sections 3, 6 and 7.
Protection of steelwork: To AS/NZS 2312 Sections 5, 8 and 10.
   
Metal fixtures and hardware A 4
B 1.1
B 2.1
B 3.1 and 3.6
B 4.2 and 4.6
B 5.3
B 9.1
Structural steel welding AS/NZS 1554
Metal finishing - Preparation and pre treatment of surfaces AS 1627
Rules for the use of aluminium structures AS 1664 1979
Hot-dipped galvanised coatings on fabricated ferrous articles AS/NZS 4680 1999
Steel Structures AS 4100 1998
Part 2.5.1 Safety from Falling
Part 3.9.2 Balustrades
 
Cabinets and joinery B 1.1
B 2.1
B 4.2 and 4.6
B 5.3
B 6.1, 6.3 and 6.6
Domestic kitchen assemblies - AS/NZS 4386
Adhesives - For bonding decorative thermoset laminates -AS 2131 1987
Adhesives for timber and timber products - AS 2754
Decorative overlays To AS/NZS 1859.3.
Decorative thermosetting laminated sheets - AS 2924 1987
Plywood Interior use generally: To AS/NZS 2270.Interior use, exposed to moisture: To AS/NZS 2271.
   
Fencing B 2.2
B 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5
B 5.2
B 6.1
B 7
B 8.2 and 8.3
B 9.2
C 6
  Part 2.5.3 Swimming pool access  
Landscape B 3.4 and 3.5
B 5.2
B 7
B 8.2 and 8.3
C 6
    CMAA MA 52 Segmental concrete reinforced soil retaining walls - Design and Construction guide (2004)., CMAA MA 53 Segmental concrete gravity retaining walls - design and construction guide (2005)
Electrical and Mechanical Services
Cabling A 1 Electrical Installations (AS/NZS wiring rules):  AS/NZS 3000 2000
Conduits and fittings for electrical installations:  AS/NZS 2053 1995
Part 3.4.2.6 Installation of services  
Switchboards A 1
B 1.1
     
Lighting A 1.4
B 1.1
B 5.1 and 5.2
B 6.4
B 9.2 and 9.3
AS 1680.0 - 1998 Interior lighting - Safe movement Part 3.8.4 Light Coyne, Steve and Isoardi, Gillian. A basic guide to the daylighting of buildings. DES 63. November 2004. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Ruck, Nancy. Daylighting of buildings. DES 6. August 2004. BDP Environment Design Guide.
Cooling B 8.2, 8.3, 8.4 and 8.5   Part 2.4.5 Ventilation
Part 3.8.5 Ventilation.
Part 3.4.1 Sub-floor ventilation.
Part 3.12.4 Air Movement.
Part 3.12.3.6 Evaporative Coolers
Part 3.12.4.3 Ceiling fans and evaporative coolers
Part 3.12.5 Services
Aynsley, Richard, Natural ventilation in passive design. TEC 2.May 2001. BDP Environment Design Guide
Heating B 8.2, 8.3, 8.4 and 8.5 AS 1691 - 1985 Domestic oil-fired appliances - Installation - Amdt 1 Sept 1985.,
AS/NZS 2918 - 2001 Domestic solid fuel burning appliances - Installation., AS/NZS 1200 - 2000 Pressure equipment
Part 2.3.3 Heating Appliances
Part 3.7.3 Heating Appliances
Part 3.12.3.1 Chimneys and flues
Part 3.12.5 Services
 
Cooking     Part 2.4.3 Facilities
Part 3.12.3.4 Exhaust fans
 
Fire detection and alarms A 3.2 AS 3786 - 1993 Smoke alarms - Amdt 1 April 1994. Amdt 2 Dec 1995. Amdt 3 Nov 2001. Amdt 4 Jan 2004. Part 2.3.2 Fire detection and early warning
Part 3.7.2 Smoke Alarms
 
Hydraulic
Sanitary Fixtures B 1.1, 1.4 and 1.5
B 2.1
B 3.1 and 3.6
B 4.3
AS 3500 Part 2.4.3 Facilities
Part 3.8.1 Wet Areas
Part 3.8.3 Facilities
Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc, Bush Tech Brief No.15 Choosing the right toilet.,
Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc, Bush Tech Brief No.18 Pit Toilets
Tapware B 1.3 and 1.6
B 2.1
B 3.1
B 4.3
B 5.1 and 5.2
B 6.1
B 7
  Part 3.8.1.9 Penetrations  
Hot Water heaters B 1.2
B 2.1
B 9.5
AS 3500.4 - 2003 Plumbing and drainage - heated water services. Amdt 1 2005

Solar hot water heaters AS 2712
Part 2.6.2 Services
Part 3.12.5 Services
HB 263 - 2004 Heated Water Systems., Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. Bush Tech Brief No.1 Hot Water
Rainwater B 4.1
B 5.2
B 7
B 8.4
C 1.3
AS 2179.1 - 1994 Specification for rainwater goods, accessories and fasteners - metal shape or sheet rainwater goods and metal accessories and fasteners.,
AS 1273 - 1991 Unplasticized PVC (UPVC) downpipe and fittings for rainwater
AS 3500.3 stormwater drainage
Part 3.5.2 Gutters and Downpipes HB 230 - 2006 Rainwater tank design and installation handbook.,
Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc, Bush Tech Brief No.4 Rainwater harvesting.
Wastewater B 3 (all)
B 5.2
B 7
C 3
Septic tanks AS 1546
AS 3500 sanitary plumbing and drainage
AS 1547 on site wastewater
  Qld. Department of Local Government and Planning, On-site sewerage code. November 2003
Gas A 2
B 4.4
B 8.5
B 9.5
C 2.2
  Part 2.4.3 Facilities
Part 2.3.3 Heating Appliances
Part 3.7.3 Heating Appliances
Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc, Bush Tech Brief no.5 - Gas fittings

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Useful resources and references

Australian standards

AS 1170, Minimum design loads on structures

AS/NZS 1200:2000, Pressure equipment

AS 1273:1991, Unplasticized PVC (UPVC) downpipe and fittings for rainwater

AS 1288:2006, Glass in buildings - selection and installation

AS 1289:1997, Methods of testing for engineering purposes

AS 1411, Sampling and Testing Aggregates

AS 1428.1:2003, Design for access and mobility

AS 1546, Septic tanks

AS 1547, On site wastewater

AS/NZS 1554, Structural steel welding

AS 1562.1:1992, 1562.2:1999, 1562.3:1996, Design and installation of sheet roof and wall cladding

AS 1604, Timber treatments

AS 1627, Metal finishing - Preparation and pre treatment of surfaces

AS 1664:1979, Rules for the use of aluminium structures

AS 1680.0:1998, Interior lighting - Safe movement

AS 1684:2006, Residential timber -framed construction, Part 2 Non-cyclonic., Part 3 Cyclonic areas, Part 4 Simplified - Non-cyclonic areas

AS/NZS 1859.3, Decorative overlays.

AS/NZS 2270, Plywood Interior use generally

AS 2047, Amendment 1-2001., Amendment 2-2001, Windows in buildings - selection and installation

AS 2049:2002, Amendment 1-2005. Roof tiles

AS 2050:2002, Amendment 1-2005, Installation of roof tiles

AS/NZS 2053:1995, Conduits and fittings for electrical installations

AS 2131:1987, Adhesives - For bonding decorative thermoset laminates

AS/NZS 2208:1996, Amendment 1-1999, Safety glazing materials in buildings

AS/NZS 2269:2004, Plywood - structural

AS 2601:2001, Demolition of structures

AS 2754, Adhesives for timber and timber products

AS 2870:1996, Amendment 1–1997, Amendment 2–1999, Amendment 3–2002, Amendment 4–2003, Residential slabs and footings—Construction

AS/NZS 2699.1:2000, Built-in components for masonry construction - Wall ties

AS/NZS 2904:1995, Amendment 1–1998, Damp-proof courses and flashings

AS/NZS 2908.2:2000, Cellulose cement products: flat sheets

AS/NZS 2918:2001, Domestic solid fuel burning appliances - Installation

AS 2924:1987, Decorative thermosetting laminated sheets

AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1 – 2001, Amendment 2 – 2002 Electrical installations

AS 3500.3:2003, Plumbing and drainage - stormwater drainage

AS/NZS 3500.4.2:1997, Amendment 1–2002, National plumbing and drainage code—Hot water supply systems—Acceptable solutions, clause 1.6.1

AS 3500.5: 2000, Amendment 1–2002., Amendment 2–2004., Amendment 3–2006, National plumbing and drainage - domestic installations

AS 3623:1993, Domestic metal framing

AS 3600:2001, Amendment 1–2002., Amendment 2–2003, Concrete structures 

AS 3660.1:2000, Termite management—New building work

AS 3660.2:2000, Termite management—In and around existing buildings and structures—Guidelines

AS 3660.3:2000, Termite management—Assessment criteria for termite management systems

AS/NZ 3661.2:1994, Slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces—Guide to the reduction of slip hazards

AS 3700:2001,Amendment 1–2002., Amendment 2–2004, Masonry structures

AS 3740, Waterproofing of wet areas within residential buildings

AS 3742, Batts and blankets

AS 3786:1993, Amendment 1–1995, Amendment 2–1995, Amendment 3–2001, Amendment 4–2004, Smoke alarms

AS 3798:1996, Guidelines on earthworks for commercial and residential developments

AS 3958.1:1991, Ceramic tiles—Guide to the installation of ceramic tiles

AS 3958.2:1992, Ceramic tiles—Guide to the selection of a ceramic tiling system

AS 4100:1998, Steel Structures

AS/NZS 4200 parts 1 and 2:1994, Pliable building membranes and underlays

AS/NSZ 4256.1:1994, 4256.2:1994, 4256.3:1994, 4256.5:1996, Plastic roof and wall cladding materials

AS 4299:1995, Adaptable housing

AS 4796:2001, Water Supply – Metal bodied and plastic bodied ball valves property service connection

AS/NZS 4386, Domestic kitchen assemblies

AS 4440, Truss installation

AS/NZS 4600:2005, Cold - formed steel structures.

AS 4859:2002, Materials for the thermal insulation of buildings - general criteria and technical provisions

AS 5601:2004, Gas installations

HB125:1998, The glass and glazing handbook.

HB52:2000, The Bathroom Book 3.

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References

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Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Pormpuraaw Community Council,  Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Healthabitat Pty Ltd.1997, Pormpuraaw Housing for Health project report: Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Cape York Communities: Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Cairns

Asthma Foundation: http://www.asthma.org.au

Attorney-General’s Department 2005, Telecommunications Cabling Provider Rules 2000 as amended: Australian Government, Canberra

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Housing and Infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, edited on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission: Australian Government, Canberra

Australian Communications Authority 2004, Report of the Payphone Policy Review, Melbourne

Australian Council of Building Design Professionals  2006,  BDP Environment Design Guide, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Knowledge Services, Melbourne available at: http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=60

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Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au

Australian Government 2005, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines Community Water Planner - A tool for small communities to develop drinking water management plans, National Health and Medical Research Council available online: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au

Australian Government 2004, Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra, http://www.nhmrc.gov.au

Australian Government 2004, Guidance on use of rainwater tanks, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra

Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, Asbestos

Australian Greenhouse Office, Your Home Design for Lifestyle Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney http://www.yourhome.gov.au

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Booth, A. & Carroll, N. 2005, Overcrowding and Indigenous health in Australia, Discussion Paper No 498, Centre for Economics Policy Research, Australian National University

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Building Standards and Policy Branch 2000, Ministers Specification SA 78A: Housing on designated Aboriginal land,Planning South Australia, Adelaide

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Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2006, Buyers Guide to Stoves, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology 2006, ‘The use of gas for cooking’, Bush Tech Brief #32, Our Place,28, Alice Springs

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Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2002, ‘Renewable energy in remote communities’, Bush Tech Brief #2, Our Place, 17, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2002, ‘Operation Desert Stormwater Harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #3, Our Place, 17, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2002, ‘Rainwater harvesting’, Bush Tech Brief #4, Our Place, 17, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2002, ‘Gas fittings’, Bush Tech Brief #5, Our Place, 18, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 2002, ‘How to get a telephone’, Bush Tech Brief #8, Our Place, 18, Alice Springs

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. & Port Stewart Lamalama 1997, Moojeeba-Theethinji: Planning for a healthy growing community, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Cairns

Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 1996, Our Place, 1, pp 12-13

Commonwealth State and Territory Ministers’ Working Group on Indigenous Housing 1999, National Framework for the Design, Construction and Maintenance of Indigenous Housing, http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/indigenous/indigenous_housing_framework.htm

Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment 2005, Public Health Aspects of Rainwater Tanks in Urban Australia, Occasional Paper 10, Salisbury, South Australia

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) 2005, Food Science Australia Fact Sheet, http://www.foodscience.csiro.au/storagelife2.htm

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Department of Natural Resources 1999, Interim Code of Practice for On-Site Sewerage Facilities, Queensland Government Printer, Brisbane

Department of Water 2006, Report for the Minister for Water Resources on Water Services in Discrete Indigenous Communities, Perth

Djabugay Tribal Corporation & Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc. 1999, Mona Mona: Working Together for a Healthy Community Planning Report, Cairns

Downs, S. 1997, ‘Aerobic Waste Water Treatment Systems in Aboriginal Communities’(draft report), Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs

EnHealth Council 2004, Guidance on the use of rainwater tanks, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra

Fantin, S. 2003, ‘Yolngu Cultural Imperatives and Housing Design’ in Memmott, P. & Chambers, C. (ed) Take Two. Housing design in Indigenous Australia, RAIA, Canberra

Far West Area Health Service 2001, Temperature of houses: Data logging Murdi Paaki region Weilmoringle and Enngonia, Broken Hill

Fifoot, A., Sieber, L. & Tovey, E. (eds) 1995, Mites, Asthma and Domestic Design 2, University of Sydney, Sydney

Godjin, Z. 2001, Harvesting of Stormwater in Remote Arid Indigenous Communities using examples from Kalka and Piplayatjara in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands South Australia, Rio Tinto/Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs

Grey-Gardner, R., Wright, A. & Boyce, S. 2005, Harvesting water that falls on country: Planning for rainwater tanks in remote Australia, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

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Harris, G & Irving, R 2000, ‘Community dogs and their health’ in G Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina

Hill, J. 2005, Improving thermal performance of social housing for better health of occupants and to reduce costs of temperature control, thesis available through University of Sydney Rare Book Library Masters

Hollo, N. 1997, Warm house cool house: inspirational designs for low-energy housing, Choice Books, Marrickville, New South Wales

Khalife, M. 2001, Waste water workshop, sponsored by the Aboriginal Housing Authority of South Australia and Nganampa Health Council Inc

Khalife, M.A., Dharmappa, H.B. & Sivakumara, M. 1998, ‘An Evaluation of Septic Tank Performance in a Remote Australian Village Provides Insight for Optimizing Onsite Treatment Systems’, Journal of Water Environment Research, Edition 4, Volume 10, USA, Water Environment Federation, pp. 33-36

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Lansingh, V.C 2005, Primary health care approach to trachoma control in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. PhD thesis, Ophthalmology Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne

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Lloyd, B., Wilson, L. & Adams, A. 2000, Hot water use and water heating systems in remote Indigenous communities, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs

Lloyd, C.R. 1998, Hot Water Project Draft Progress Report, NTRC report cat no. 98/4, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs,  pp. 1-7

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Marshall, G. 2004, Monitoring of septic tanks on Central Australia remote Aboriginal communities, NT Department of Health and Community Services in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns, Alice Springs

Marshall, G. 2000, ‘Sewage’ in G. Harris (ed.), Environmental Health Handbook: A Practical Guide for Remote Communities, Menzies School of Health Research, Casuarina, Northern Territory

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Martin, M. 2002, ‘Choosing the right toilet, Bush-Tech 15’ in Our Place, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs

Memmot, P. & Chambers, C. 2003, Take Two. Housing design in Indigenous Australia. RAIA, Canberra

Mihrshahi, S., Marks, G., Criss, S., Tovey, E., Vanlaar, C. & Peat, J.  2003, ‘Effectiveness of an intervention to reduce house dust mite allergen levels in children’s beds’ in Allergy, Vol 58, pp. 784-789

Moran, M. 2004, ‘The practice of participatory planning at Mapoon Aboriginal settlement: Towards community control, ownership and autonomy’ in Australian Geographical Studies Vol 42, p.339

Murphy, P. & Sinatra, J. 1997, Landscape for Health, Settlement planning and development for better health in rural and remote Australia, ORA RMIT Outreach Australia Program, Melbourne

National Health and Medical Research Council 2004, Water made clear - A consumer's guide to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

National Occupational Health and Safety Commission 2005, Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos, [NOHSC: 2002(2005)] available at: http://www.ascc.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/F4C389A8-11DD-4819-A190-AC458DC460D5/0/ASCC_SafeRemAsbestos_cop.pdf

Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council and Environment Protection and Heritage Council 2006, National Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks, National Water Quality Management Strategy, Australian Health Ministers’ Conference

NSW Health 1998, Hot water burns like fire, The NSW scalds prevention campaign, Phases one and two 1992-1994. Final report - December 1998

Nganampa Health Council Inc., South Australian Health Commission and Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia 1987, Report of Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, An Environmental and Public Health Review within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Alice Springs

Nganampa Health Council Inc. 2001, Thermal performance, energy use and water consumption of round 2 health clinics and duplex staff accommodation units during critical winter and summer periods, Alice Springs

Northern Territory Department of Health guidelines

Northern Territory Government, Asbestos alert

Peter, S. & Tietz, C. 1997, ‘Indoor stoves for remote communities’ in B Lloyd (ed.) National Technical Resource Centre report 1997/8, Centre for Appropriate Technology Inc., Alice Springs

Penny, M. 1992, Burns Prevention, Hazard edition 12, Victorian Injury Surveillance System, Monash University Accident Research Centre

Pholeros, P. 2002, ‘Housing for Health and Fixing Houses for Better Health’ in Environmental Health, vol 2, no 4, pp. 34-38

Pholeros, P. 2001, Thermal performance, energy use and water consumption of round 2 health clinics and duplex staff accommodation units during critical winter and summer period, Nganampa Health Council Inc. Alice Springs

Pholeros, P. & South Australian Aboriginal Housing Unit 1998, Temperature Control and Health, South Australian Aboriginal Housing Unit, Adelaide

Pholeros, P. 1997, Energy and Water Use Required for Health in Housing on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands North West of South Australia, for UPKNganampa Health Council Inc., Alice Springs

Pholeros, P., Rainow, S. & Torzillo, P. 1993, Housing for Health, Towards a Healthy Living Environment for Aboriginal Australia, Healthabitat, Newport Beach

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Queensland Government Department of Housing Policy and Standards Document #5 ‘Hot water temperature control’, available at:

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Reardon, C. and Marker, A. 2002, Your Home Guide, Design for Climate Section, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney

Remote Area Developments Group 2000, National Assessment of the Colilert field test kit in remote Aboriginal Communities in Australia, Murdoch University, Perth

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South Australian Department of Human Services 2000, Eat Well SA Forum Report, Food Supply in Rural South Australia—A Survey on Food Cost, Quality and Variety Department of Human Services, Adelaide

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Tietz, C. 1994, The Washing Machine Report, Transform, Waverley, New South Wales

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Wright, A. 2006, Review of the robust bin in 5 sites across WA, Centre for Appropriate Technology and Department of Housing and Works, Perth

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Glossary

Aerosol droplet transmission Transmission of infectious agents in droplets from respiratory secretions.
‘Active’ heating and cooling systems ‘Active’ means a heating and cooling system that requires additional energy to make the house warmer or cooler; includes gas, fire and electricity systems.
ARIA Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia
‘As-built’ drawings A set of drawings that include all changes made during the construction process.
(AP) Lands Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands
AS Australian Standard
AS/NZS Joint Australian and New Zealand Standard
BCA Building Code of Australia
Booster Electric element that can be switched on to supplement (boost) the temperature of hot water (usually on solar hot water systems).
Black water Waste water from the toilet.
Capstan Level tap handles with a single outlet (spout) that can be used by people with limited mobility
CCA Copper Chrome Arsenate
CED Common effluent disposal
Certificate of completion Documentation indicating a building is safe to inhabit.
Certificate of compliance/
certification
Document confirming correct construction and/or installation by a licensed tradesperson, for example electrical or water and drainage works.
Check Visual inspection to confirm the location of an item or to determine whether there are safety risks–for example, check there are hot and cold water taps specifically for the washing machine.
Conduit A tube or trough to protect electrical wiring.
Convective cooling Venting of high level hot air to draw in cooler air from lower levels.
Crowding When the population of the house regularly exceeds the capacity of functioning health hardware facilities of the house.
Cyclical maintenance Regular assessment and fixing of houses.
Detailed drawing Large-scale drawing showing exactly how components of a house are to be made. For example, a drawing may show a bathroom is three metres by four metres and the location of the bath, shower, window and door; a detailed drawing would show how the waterproofing of the floor meets the walls, the exact fall of tiles to the floor waste, and the location and heights of towel rails, hooks and soap holder.
ELCB Earth leakage circuit breaker
Effluent Waste water
Flange A covering piece usually associated with protecting water from entering the junction between a tap and a wall.
Frog flap A covering flap to a dry waste water drainage pipe to prevent the entry into the house of ‘frogs’ or other insects or vermin.
GPO General Power Outlet, more commonly known as a power point.
Grey water Waste water from the shower, laundry, basins and kitchen.
Health hardware Originally used by Dr Fred Hollows to describe the physical equipment necessary for healthy, hygienic living. The equipment must have design and installation characteristics that allow it to function and to maintain or improve health status. In a water supply system, health hardware includes both the bore and the basin plug, as well as the shower rose, taps and drain.
HWS Hot water system
Impetigo A bacterial skin infection characterized by microscopic, pus filled blisters.
Incandescent A light bulb that contains a filament which glows white (incandesces) when powered by an electrical current.
International Protection (IP) rating Scale indicating the capacity of electrical fittings to withstand environmental factors (water, salt, dust); the higher the rating, the better protected the fittings are from environmental harm and the greater the level of safety for residents.
Lagged Insulated
Load test An electrical load applied to the electrical system of the house, to ensure all wiring and electrical fittings have been installed correctly and have not been damaged during the building process.
Lux Unit measuring light intensity
Nib wall A small wall at right angles to a main wall
NOHSC National Occupational Health and Safety Commission
No-volt relay An electrical device that prevents the automatic re-starting of electrical appliances after power failure to reduce combined loads on generating systems, often used with air conditioners
Package treatment system A self contained system of tanks and pumps, usually for an individual house (but can apply to a small community), for treating both grey and black waste water.
Proprietary system As used in this guide, usually refers to a pre-existing solution for a building component that can be purchased directly from a supplier and not needing to be designed and constructed by each project. For example a proprietary shelving system may contain the shelves, support brackets and wall fixing system that can be purchased as an item.
mm millimetres
Potable Means safe to drink (usually associated with water).
RCD Residual current device
Resting trench  An additional waste water disposal trench able to accept excess waste water at peak load times, which is designed to be empty at low load times.
Rocker switch A type of electrical switch.
Sacrificial anode A replaceable component of a material specifically selected for the prevailing water quality that corrodes before other parts of a hot water system, such as the element or cylinder.
Smoke alarm A device that detects the presence of smoke and activates an alarm, also known as ‘smoke detector’.
Specification Written description of work usually accompanying a detailed drawing, particularly information that may not be easily shown on the drawing, for example type of kitchen bench material, fittings and method of waterproofing the kitchen sink.
Structure, structural component Structure of a building includes the parts needed for the structure to be stable, or to stand up. For example, floor beams and joists are structural components that support the floor, and if some were removed the floor would collapse, sag or move noticeably.
Swale A low earth mound, usually shaped to a common contour line, to help control water erosion.
Test Activity that can be performed by housing managers or residents, for example test power points using a power point tester available from electrical and major hardware stores.
Thermal mass Mass within a building such as brick, concrete, stone or earth that stores both heat and cold.
Thermal performance How efficiently a building can provide a comfortable living environment for residents, particularly when external conditions are extreme.
Trade test Requires a licensed tradesperson to conduct more complex or dangerous assessments, for example trade test:
  1. the building is earthed as required by AS/NZS 3000:2000, Amendment 1–2001, Amendment 2–2002 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules).
The licensed tradesperson must certify in writing that the test has been conducted and that the item passed the test.
Trench doming Plastic hoop segments that have been designed to create underground effluent disposal soakage trenches
Tundish A way to collect usually small quantities or waste water produced from hot water systems.
UPK Uwankara Palyanyku Kanyintjaku, the report title for a public and environmental health review produced in 1987 for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands. Work in this report established the nine healthy living practices and the connections between the living environment and health.

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Content Updated: 26 September 2013