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Natural Building – Strawbale Building, Reciprocal Roof & Render Workshop

June 8 @ 9:00 am - June 10 @ 5:00 pm


About the workshop

For thousands of years, ever since humans decided to build a shelter in which to live, earth shelters and natural building techniques have been used to construct homes throughout the world. Natural building structures are becoming popular again as a sustainable building choice

Earth has been used and renders have been made from the site to make strong, long lasting, energy efficient, inexpensive and beautiful protective coverings over selected building material such as sticks and straw. Unlike concrete, brick or wood, no energy is needed to produce the earthen fill other than gathering on-site soil. So, it uses very little energy compared to other durable construction methods.

These simple natural building techniques are versatile, sustainable, healthy and fun providing endless options for artistic expression to combine in your home and garden, as well as other projects around your house such as fences, tool sheds or animal housing.


Workshop Outcomes

This 3-day long weekend workshop will teach you the skills of straw bale building as well as a range of other building techniques and methods.  It will also include rendering techniques. The project involves making a small outdoor roundhouse. Through theory and hands-on practical experience, you will gain a great deal of knowledge and learn a range of skills by working on a specific real project. This hands-on practical workshop will be highly creative and educative with a highly qualified and experienced natural building trainer. It‘s a fun filled packed weekend get-away in the country.

It will equip you with the skills and knowledge to be able to start making your own natural building features and structures in your home garden, school or community garden. The workshop also includes theory, evening discussions, presentations and films after dinner Saturday and Sunday. This allows for further information and theory on natural building to be gained.

You will be taken through the process from sourcing the materials from the land to construction and completion so you will be able to replicate the process yourself. You will also learn:

  • What natural and ecological building is, its terminology, concepts and principles
  • Solar Passive Design
  • Choosing appropriate natural building technique suitable to place and situation
  • Rendering techniques and options for different situations.
  • Identifying suitable materials from your site
  • Soil testing, how to make render and different rendering techniques.
  • Strawbale building principles and techniques
  • Different render options and recipes
  • Cob mixes
  • How to repair, restore and maintain natural renders
  • How to add windows doors or other features to straw bale walls
  • And much, much more

There will also be opportunities to see and discuss other inspiring natural buildings and on-site structures at PSI such as a straw-bale building, bamboo, wattle and daub and an earthbag dome building.

Natural Building Workshop

The Project

During this weekend workshop you will be constructing around strawbale and timber pole structure with a reciprocating roof. Seeing this project come to fruition and learning all the steps and building techniques will equip you with confidence, skills and knowledge to build you own.

The strawbale and timber tree pole structure and reciprocating roof

The strawbale and timber tree pole structure and reciprocating roof

About the Trainer 

Sam Vivers
Director, Viva Living Homes – www.vivahomes.com.au

Come and join Sam for 3 days of natural building fun. Sam’s experience comes from 22 years of building strawbale homes using traditional methods and developing new techniques to make sustainable building easier and more achievable for everyone.  You will learn what to do and more importantly what NOT to do.

Natural building can be challenging, and Sam will help you understand what materials to use and how to put it all together to create your own projects. You’ll gain a lot of knowledge and confidence with this workshop and as an added bonus meet lots of like-minded people.

Sam is passionate about natural building and loves to share his knowledge. He is a licensed builder & carpenter, has a bachelor’s in economics (Agriculture) and loads of other qualifications and knowledge in both conventional and natural building techniques.

He is a very experienced teacher and has been running Strawbale Building Courses at AREC Mudgee for the past 10 years, Natural Building Courses at Milkwood and the Narara Eco Village.  He is so happy to now be sharing his knowledge at the Permaculture Sydney Institute.

Sam’s achievements include:

  • Environmental straw bale building company
  • Bachelor of Economics (Agriculture)
  • Diploma in Building
  • Licensed Builder and Supervisor
  • Master Builder with Master Builder’s Association
  • Cert IV – Training & Assessing
  • Certified Carpenter
  • Building Thermal & Assessment Course (Australian energy rating course)
  • NSW Representative & President of Australasian Straw Bale Building
    Association (Ausbale)
  • Member of Earth Building Assoc of Australia (EBAA)
  • Runs straw bale demonstrations at the Mudgee Small Farm Field Day
  • Straw bale building course (TAFE accredited) to builders, owner builders,
    engineers, architects and councils
  • Teaches Strawbale Building Courses at AREC, Natural Building Courses at
    Milkwood and Narara Eco Village


  • 22 years+ building homes. 17 years straw bale & earth homes, started in the
    year 2000, building one of Australia’s first straw bale homes
  • Built 3 of his own straw bale and earth homes.
  • Built 50+ straw bale and earth complete homes for clients.
  • MBA Excellence in Housing Award Winner in 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020


Onsite accommodation:

Workshop participants receive PSI rates for on-site accommodation. Rates include breakfast and dinner. See camping; twin share or private double accommodation options here.



Sam generously and humorously offered from his wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. This workshop allowed for educated play, with room to learn from any mistakes. Penny fed us very well and the Bandusia dinner table provided a space for open conversation, building lasting connections. A highly recommended experience”. – Indigo

“Sam’s workshop expanded my own knowledge of building as a designer and architectural educator. I thoroughly enjoyed the comprehensive and lighthearted tone of his workshop and how receptive he was to questions, whether about personal ideas and projects, or on the general nature of earth building, his own work experience, and his view on the industry. Australia is lucky to have him, and I am glad we took part in this! Coming from Germany, I could relate many of his expertise to my own education and believe that this workshop fostered a relationship between my background and the applicability of natural building design in an Australian climate. His lectures were rich in information and I will keep going back to my notes. Highly informative and engaging workshops as well! We had lots of fun. My main takeaway was that there are always multiple options to consider when building with natural materials and there is not just one way of getting it right. Thanks Sam! Penny our host provided a lovely space and generous catering of home-made cakes, fresh fruit from her permaculture farm and a serene atmosphere amongst food forests and surrounded by animals that is one of a kind! – Luis

“The Earthen Floor and Render – Natural Building Workshop with Sam Vivers – Viva Homes was such a great workshop that had a good balance between theory and practice. In the group, we each had different goals, disciplines and were all at different stages but he was able to cater to all our needs and answer our questions. The time that went into educating us was very valuable, the passion for what he does really comes through in his teaching.

Penny and Geoffrey were exceptional hosts and their home and property is so special, a little slice of paradise. There was lots to learn from both of them having such rich knowledge. Their hospitality was unmatched, and the food was so fresh and delicious!!

Thank you for an amazing weekend!!” – Laura


June 8 @ 9:00 am
June 10 @ 5:00 pm
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Bandusia Country Retreat
1056 Upper Macdonald Rd
Upper MacDonald (St Albans), NSW Australia
+ Google Map
(02) 4568 2036


Sam Vivers
See onsite accommodation options. Accommodation fee includes Room, dinner and breakfast.
Includes morning and afternoon teas and lunches