With over 16 years of building strawbale and earth homes, we’ve had a lot of questions. Check out THE most common ones below
How much do they cost?
Our homes range from $3500 – $4000 per square metre depending on your design.
High fire areas, difficult blocks or access or other special zones will cost more. BAL FZ starts at $5000 per sqm.
* These are estimates only for us to build you a natural home (a quote is required for a set price). Site costs are not included.
Please see inclusions for what is included below.
What's included and not included?
Standard steel roofing, gutters and downpipes
Concrete slab finish
Timber frame and strawbale/straw panel walls
External lime render (colour as per materials)
UPVC double glazed windows
UPVC external doors
Internal clay render (colour as per materials)
Standard internal walls
Standard timber internal doors
Ceiling insulation (our standard 55mm R1.3 aircell roof blanket and R3.5 insulation batts)
Allowance for a standard size custom made timber kitchen
Basic kitchen sink and taps
Allowance for standard toilet, vanity, bath & shower screen
Allowance for standard bath, vanity & shower taps
Allowance for tiles and tiling
Allowance for standard bayonet light fittings, light switches, power points and ceiling fans
Solar hot water back up to electricity
What isn’t Included?
Site costs aren’t included
Connection to services – power, water, gas, septic systems
All weather accessible driveway
Development Application fee
Construction Certificate Fees
Other council fees (including S94 Contribution, Long Service Levy, septic and wood heater applications)
Other reports required by council or other authorities
Optional Extras or Finishes – these will increase the cost of the estimate:
Additional verandahs, decks or pergolas
White goods (fridge, air con, TV, washing machine)
Solar PV Systems
Building Zones can add costs onto a build
Blocks on slopes
High Bushfire zones
Inner city areas
Features which include the following items will add costs onto our estimates:
Above our standard wall heights (anything over 2.4m high is considered non-standard and therefore costs more)
Pavilion style (with lots of external walls)
Lots of window glazing
Curved or unusual features
Especially if you have numerous custom features such as those above, this will increase our estimate rates. It is difficult to know up front by just how much.
The finishes you choose for your home can really make your home. We understand why people choose expensive finishes such as baths, sinks, light fittings, floor finishes, tiles, bathroom fittings and fixtures. Anything above our standard fixtures and sittings or over the allowance will significantly increase the cost of your home so if you have a set budget like most people do, then watch these items as they will increase the final cost to you above and beyond our estimates.
What's included to lock up stage?
Included in Lock Up:
- Slab down/Foundations completed
- Roof & gutters on
- Roof insulation (Roof Blanket but not ceiling insulation)
- External walls installed
- External render completed
- External windows and doors in
- Plumbing drainage under the slab only
- Internal wall frames (frames only)
Not included in Lock Up?
- Electrical rough in or installation of electrical items
- Plumbing rough in or installation of plumbing items
- Installation & connection of downpipes
- Tiling & waterproofing
- Fitout – architraves, skirting, cornices
- Internal doors and door jambs
- Internal wall cladding
- Window sills or headers
- Floor coverings or special finishes to slabs
- Connection to services such as electrical to mains, solar panels, water to town water or water tanks, sewer to town sewer or septic systems, painting, external stairs, ramps, paths, driveways, landscaping
What's so good about strawbale and earth homes
They’re better for your health, because they’re natural
They’re better for the world as local materials are used (no sweat shop labour, poisons or virgin forests)
They look incredible, they’re different. They’re peaceful and feel like nothing else
They have high energy ratings and surpass most conventional designs and materials
Our designs are solar passively designed so the sun warms your home in winter and it’s cool in summer
Our homes have a high level of qualilty, they’re better built than most project homes!
They’re built to last
Do they last?
Can you build a two storey straw panel home?
Yes, we have built two storey straw panel homes. It helps if we are a part of designing the home, to help keep it simple, which in turn, keeps costs and time down.
What happens if you build a straw panel home and then want to add on later?
You can extend a straw panel home just as you would a conventional home. We recommend you get some advice from us beforehand if you change the structural elements or damage the render extensively. One of the main considerations when extending a house is termite protection, so design your addition to the Building Code of Australia.
How long does it take to build one of our homes?
We build our homes in the same amount of time it takes to build other custom made homes, that is, in about 4-6 months for a Viva-designed home. It takes around 6-8 months for a custom designed home for us to build. However, we find that it takes most clients 12-18 months to get to the point where they are ready to build; because they need to have the drawings completed, submit everything to council and have the plans approved etc. We need just a few months notice to build so that we can get ourselves organised. If you live away from where we’re based, we source local trades people and use a few of our own staff for the specialist work that we do.
What are the benefits of building with straw panels?
Straw is one of the highest insulators in the world due to their thickness as well as the air that they hold. So heat cannot transfer through a straw panel wall easily. They are natural and sustainable. They breathe.
Will the straw panels rot?
The straw panels are rendered inside and out in a way that keeps the weather from touching or damaging the straw, so they will not rot. If the straw is exposed, you need to cover them up and re-render them so they don’t get damaged by the rain.
What are the length, height, width and thickness of the finished walls?
Our homes have been designed around the standard straw bale size of approximately 370mm wide, 450mm high and 850mm long (add 35mm to each side of the wall for the render if we do it, more if you’re owner building). For ease of building the house designed around bale sizes. The thickness of our finished render is around 30mm to 50mm thick. You can increase the height of the walls as long as it is by the height or depth of a straw bale, depending on whether the bales are laid on edge or on face, and as long as you understand it will definitely add to the cost of your home, as scaffolding is required.
Do your straw panel homes comply to bushfire regulations?
Yes they do. We have built our strawbale and earth homes in BAL Flamezone (BALFZ) and all other zones below: BAL 40, BAL29 BAL12 and BAL Low. As with conventional homes, there are costs associated with bushfire-proofing your home. Depending on which zone you’re in, the BAL rating stipulates what we have to do and therefore any added costs.
What about during the installation of straw bales, if it is rainy weather? What if they get wet?
The way we build (post and beam and then in-fill with straw bales), deals with the problem of rainy weather and getting the bales in place. We get the bales delivered once we have a roof on the house! We ensure that the bales are kept dry and have a moisture content of less than 9% when they are baled and less than 13% when they are fitted in place, ready to be rendered. If they did get wet, it’s our problem as we are the builders, so it’s in our best interest to keep them nice and dry.
How to we put electrics, plumbing and gas into the straw bale walls?
Just as for any conventional home, we run the electric wires in conduit inside the walls. These days the plumbing is usually put into the ceiling and brought down via internal walls in conduit. For bathroom plumbing we either make the bathroom walls out of earth or build them as for a conventional bathroom wall (just in case there is a leak down the track that needs repairing). Plumbing can be run in straw bale walls however we prefer to use internal stud walls for ease of installation.
What footings are used?
How do we do our wall & roof frames?
Our site is in a VERY high wind area, with lots of rain at times. What does this mean for straw bale houses?
What about hot and humid conditions? How does a straw bale home perform in areas with high rainfall in hot climates?
How much extra does it cost to build one a straw bale home on a sloping block of land?
The cost of building on a slope is twofold: 1) the costs of footings and 2) the practical costs of building on a slope, ie scaffolding is required and it’s more difficult to work etc. There are different ways you can design a house on a slope, such as using piers to support the house, strip footings, which can be block work or we use poured earth so that the width of the walls is around 300mm wide, or we make modifications to the design so it is split level. You can also have suspended slabs but that is costly. As a very rough ballpark you could look at around an extra $10,000-20,000, depending on the slope of course, for foundations and the cost to build on a slope. Our Bees Knees design can be detailed as a split level house, so depending on the slope it could work. We have designed homes on a sloping block without too many costs. But if you’re looking for land it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg isn’t it….so get land which is as flat as you can, then contact us or another builder to see what is possible.