Why We’re Different


Why We’re Different – Fixed Priced Contracts

Quotes & Fixed Priced Contracts – Being upfront with you about costs is just who we are. Quotes and fixed priced contracts means you know what you’re getting up front, how much it will cost and how long it will take. We think that’s how professional building should be, even if it’s a natural “green” home. Not all subbies can do quotes or fixed priced contracts because they don’t know their costs. So choose tradies who can provide you fixed priced contracts so you’re protected.

We’ll provide you with an estimate to build your home, then we’ll do a full quote when you’re definitely sure you want to go ahead with that plan. If you’re happy with the price, then we’ll sign a Master Builder’s contract with the Scope of Works outlining exactly what work we’ll do and what you’ll do. Call us old fashioned, but we like to get things clear up front.

The Style of Homes We Build- We build stylish homes that look incredible because our clients want contemporary homes that are sustainable and beautiful. We believe that you can have it all.

Experience – Sam Vivers has been building since 1996. We’ve built over 27 complete natural homes (not just the strawbale walls). When you build a complete home you see the whole cost of building a home and we get to improve each time we build. We evolve and improve our design and building techniques so that we can get clients the most affordable, quality-built natural home there is.

Fixed prices – As the builder, we’re responsible for everything outlined in the contract. So if something costs more, we have to suck it up. Many people who contract strawbale subbies or renderers without a clear quote and contract can get stuck if it takes them longer, you end up paying for it. It’s this reason that banks want fixed priced contracts, it protects you and the bank from cowboy subbies.

Most strawbale tradies get paid more when they take longer. We don’t!

We prefer fixed priced contracts which sets out the cost and time in which we have to build your home.

The Viva Building System

We have a design and building system that helps meet these criteria:

  • sustainable (natural = organic = sustainable)
  • solar passive
  • affordable that meets our estimates and your budget
  • fits to the lay of your land including the views, where north is, the prevailing wind, special zoning, slopes
  • one of the most energy efficient, low carbon footprint house in Australia
  • is beautiful and peaceful to live in
  • reflects your taste and style
  • is built to a set price and timeframe
  • meets Australian building codes (federal, state and local)
  • use systems and procedures to guarantee our homes are quality-built, environmental and built safely
  • is compliant for insurance, licensing, banks, home warranty, safety and other legal requirements

We’re the Only Strawbale Builders Who Can Provide all of these Services:

Designs – We can design your strawbale home with you. We take into consideration solar passive layout, what you want and how you live, the natural materials you like (straw bales, cob, wattle and daub, rammed earth, poured earth, timber, earth floors, traditional timber trusses…), the style of home you want, your land and utilities, your budget, the views as well as street access. We also design into the plans the ‘Viva System’ which makes it affordable and efficient to build.

If you’re engaging a designer or architect, ask them how they can ensure the plans will meet your budget and get it in writing. Also ask for proof that they have done sustainable, solar passive & natural homes because there are very few who can tick all of these boxes.

Design and Build – We’ll design your home with the view to build it.  Along the way, we’ll give you estimates on roughly what it will cost. Then we’ll quote it based on what you’ve chosen along the way and if you’re happy with the price, we’ll build it.

Build to Lock Up – Not everyone can afford to have a builder build the whole home, we get that. We can build your house to lock up (if we have the time). It makes it a lot clearer for everyone if we have a goal and budget so we can get in and do what we do best.

Advice on your plans – If you want us to check over your plans during the design phase, we can sometimes, in some circumstances, offer a service where we do this. It will depend on our workload as currently we have a lot of homes to build. As we won’t usually build a home unless we’ve looked over the plans beforehand and made any refinements from a builder’s perspective. This is partially because we’re control freaks, but mainly so we can work out whether we can build it for what you, achieve what you want, for the budget you have. Also, we don’t generally build anything under 6 stars (6 stars is the minimum rating the all other states except NSW. We believe it should be the minimum, it’s not hard to achieve afterall).

Education: Courses, Workshops, Talks and Demonstrations

Some people want to Owner Build and we get that. We’ve Owner Built three of our own personal strawbale homes. We do believe in getting consistent standards in the industry for all people looking at building with strawbales and earth. Not because we’re control freaks in this instance… because we’ve seen too many people do things wrong where they’ve failed. This includes architects, builders as well as Owner Builders.

We’re Cert IV qualified in Training and Assessing. We know how to teach and enjoy what we do, we get an average of 95% very satisfied in our courses.

Designing & Building a Home – What you Must Know

Sometimes your or your designer/architect can under-estimate the cost to build and/or the time it will take to build. Or you don’t get the right mix of insulation with thermal mass and solar passive design, so it doesn’t perform as well as it could. As most people are building a natural home for the first time, you’ll be learning things which cost you time and money. This is why it’s harder for Owner Builders to build a house cheaper than we can build a home. Other issues we’ve seen Owner Builders face is that they design their home incorrectly. One of the ramifications could be that the render fails (crumbles off). We have seen this time and time again.

So that’s why we run courses on strawbale earth building from a builder’s perspective.

We run our strawbale workshops so people can get hands on experience. This is where you will be working hard to build a client’s home. We run a few of these throughout the year throughout NSW and ACT. It’s a good way to see whether it’s for you, whether you can do the work and how a building site can run.

Make sure you’re on our mailing list to hear about the events first hand.

Tradies who only do a strawbale workshop on your home. Generally they don’t give you written quotes, but good tradies will. If that’s all they specialise in, they should be able to provide you with a quote.

For Viva to do a workshop, we’d have to be building the home. Our workshops are only successful because of the way we help design it and the way we build it. So to really be productive, it’s best if we build your home from scratch.

Materials we use or won’t use

We build with anything that’s natural. We prefer insulation on the external walls eg. straw bales, insulated wattle and daub and we’ll use thermal mass in and around the home. By doing this, the homes we design are typically around 8 to 9 stars (energy ratings in ABSA). So we’ll build with cob, rammed earth, poured earth, earth floors, green roofs, stone, strawbales and mudbrick. We’ll also use timber, traditional timber trusses, recycled or plantation (especially in our Viva wall framing system). Depending on what you want, we can build using a conventional concrete slab or see if suppliers in your area supply fly ash, or we can use a waffle pod system which reduces the use of concrete. We can also use piers, strip footings etc like conventional building methods. This will depend on your site, climate and your own personal preferences.

We choose not to use termite treated timber (it’s bad for the health of our workers), spray poisons around the house while building (termites), use fibreglass (it’s nasty stuff) or other toxic substances. When we have to use glues, we’ll minimise their use and try to use water based materials where possible. Conventional paints are toxic so we’ll exclude or minimise those if possible and use low VOC paints and alternatives.