In December 2019 bushfire smoke was so thick across towns and cities in eastern Australia that air quality exceeded “hazardous” levels on numerous occasions. This caused smoke to permeate buildings, affecting indoor air quality and occupant health, and setting off fire detection systems forcing building evacuations.

Although the summer of 2019/20 was unprecedented in the severity of the bushfire season, it is unlikely to be a one-off and scientists warn that with rising temperatures this is likely to become somewhat of a new normal. With that in mind, it is prudent to take steps to assess how our buildings can be adapted to cope better with poor air quality levels in future, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for occupants when outdoor conditions deteriorate.

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