Step 1: Work out what you can afford
is a critical step. Find out what is in your maximum budget. Get your finance
and do all the paperwork for the first home owners grant.
this include: kitchen appliances, site costs (water tanks, septic, gas, power,
phone), landscaping, built in wardrobe finishes, driveway, painting, paint, outdoor
fresco area and furniture, window coverings, floors. Mostly these are not covered so be aware of
allowing for them at some stage. Now you know what other costs you can expect
to pay. Do your budget. There are a lot of costs which most suppliers won't tell you about as they don't organise them. DO YOUR FIGURES!
Step 2: What do you want your natural straw bale home to be
and do for you?
Be: What kind of sustainable, straw bale home do you want?
Design: Is the most important part of building the best sustainable home you
can. To be truly a natural home, it needs to be solar passively designed (take
into account thermal mass and insulation walls & floors etc). It also needs
to be specially designed for the wall material. For instance, building a straw
home means you need to have your windows and doors in the right place for bale
sizes. The walls also have to be engineered so if you’re using standard plans
(with pre-engineered done already) it will cost a lot less than having to
design a home from the beginning.
Materials: Do you just want some natural products which are better than
others on the market? There are many homes which claim to be eco-homes, eco kit
homes, eco this and eco that, but use plantation materials rather than actually
Do your research. It’s like food, the more processed a product is, the less
natural it will be.
do: What do you want your straw bale home to do for you?
out what you will need in your home in terms of bedrooms, living areas and
storage as well as garage and entertaining areas.
True sustainable homes are modest in size and not just a huge mansion for
two, made from the earth for example. Yet a home needs to be comfortable as
well as practical. Open plan living is a
great way to live, we’ll just help you be able to manage the temperature o n
those cold winter nights in such a big open space. Stairs are another sticking
point with keeping heat in. Can you do a renovation rather than build a new
home? Will this save money or just be a headache?
Step 3: Choose your strawbale and earth home design
There are so many builders out there doing different
things. Find one which you believe has experience, the products and the skills
to build your environmental home. Have they been in the natural building
industry for longer than 10 years so they’ve been able to get a product which
consistently works? Are they mavericks or do they use techniques which are
proven to work? Are they a Master Builder which means they’re a qualified
Builder and a member of the Master Builders Association of NSW? They’re covered
by insurances, adhere to the Building Code of Australia and ensure your home is
under warranty. There are only a handful of licensed builders in the
environmental home industry in Australia, even less who build sustainable
Most importantly, inspect homes that they have built to ensure the finisih and style is what you like (and they are robust), and find out how they guarantee their work.
If you prefer to owner build and buy a kit, what is
included in the kit? Some prices quote materials and not necessarily labour.
For small homes, labour can add on at least $100-200,000. There are a lot of
other costs you’ll have to add on if you decide to owner build. Then there’s
finding the time, energy and skills in project managing, building, logistics
and ensuring you keep to budget.
check to see what is included in your home package. Is it just a box without
fittings, hot water system, bathroom, kitchen? Are double glazed windows, the
with the builder to find out how they work. Who they are and how their products
your council to find out their requirements eg. how close you can build to
Step 4: Ensure the strawbale design will work on
sure that the designs you’re looking at will fit onto your land.
for north facing blocks with good sun as environmental homes are all designed
around the sun. Avoid slopey blocks to keep costs down. Does the land come with
services (power, water, sewer, phone, gas), connecting to these services can
add thousands of dollars onto the cost to build.
aren’t a lot of project homes which can be built on sloping blocks. Viva Homes
can build on sloping blocks but bear in mind it does bump up the price of
building. Chat with your Council to find out if you are in any special zoning (bushfire, flora and fauna, heritage, mining) to see if you have to make allowances to meet governmental regulations.
Step 5: Choose your builder
a look at how long they have been building environmental homes. Have a look at
a finished home, how long has it been there? Is it professionally finished? Do
their designs use the sun, cool in summer and warm in winter? Are they functional?
your home design and get a quote! Act! Procrastinating won’t get your home
Important Warning!Many people come up with a wishlist for their home and then have a designer or architect design their straw bale and earth home. DON'T DO THIS WITHOUT INCLUDING A NATURAL/EARTH HOME BUILDER!! If you want to save time and lots of money... involve a builder at the design stage who can ensure the designer keeps to your budget. It's well and good to design your grand dreams but there's no use unless it's reasonable to build for your total budget! For more info and examples, refer to our page on 'to design or buy'. A possible cheaper alternative is to ask the builder if they have any designs. This can save you over $30,000 in getting an architect to draw up from scratch a home for you. Builders who design and construct will save you thousands in drawings as well as costs in building. They've done it before so it's cheaper.