Do you also design conventional structural materials?

Yes, we design all structural aspects of the projects we work on (including all steel, reinforced concrete, timber and engineered wood products). However, we generally only take on projects that involve some aspect of natural building technology.

Are you able to help with an existing project that has already been awarded to an engineer?

Yes, we can. We are happy to work with other engineers and assist them in understanding the behaviour of natural construction materials as well as sharing our verification methods. We are also happy to look at providing the structural design of only the natural construction elements of a wider project.

We are (or are afraid of) having issues getting our designs approved by the consent authority, do you have anything to do with this (how can you help)?

We are able to provide Performance Solutions (formerly known as Alternative Solutions) to the National Construction Code Performance Requirements that we guarantee to meet the requirements of your consent authority. We can do this for all Performance Requirements of the NCC (ie. Performance Requirements that directly relate to structural performance and Performance Requirements that do not).

BSE Consulting Engineers have staff that have Master degree level qualifications in Building Surveying, so they know the building regulation system. Combine this with our niche structural design capability, we are in an excellent position to advance the legitimate use of natural building technologies in today’s regulatory environment.

Do you design hemp block and hempcrete buildings?

Yes, we have experience with hemp buildings.

Do you do architectural/building design?

No, we used to offer building design services however we have withdrawn this service so that we can focus on our passion. We work with many very excellent building designer and architects and we are happy to provide recommendations based on your project requirements, objective and constraints.

What are structural drawings? What is shown on them and how are they used?

Structural drawings are used to show all the structural components of a building and communicate the required structural layout, connection details and structural specifications. Builders use structural drawings to determine the size, layout and connections of structural elements. Structural drawings typically include; footing plan, wall post and lintel plan, bracing plan, roof/floor beam plan and structural cross section views with detail drawings.Our structural drawings are produced to;

  • AS/NZS 1100.101:1992 Technical Drawing; Part 101: General principles,
  • AS/NZS 1100.501:2002 Technical Drawing; Part 501: Structural engineering drawing, and
  • BSE Consulting’s Drafting Polices.

Structural drawings do not include architectural details or dimensions, such as; gutters, plumbing fixtures, lighting, set out plans etc.. Importantly, structural drawings are not intended to be read in isolation; they shall be read in conjunction with the architectural drawings and the referenced specs.

It is required that all instruction on the title page of the drawings is followed prior to commencing construction, this includes printing pages to the correct size (eg, A1 or A3 as prescribed) and making sure the builder has an understanding of and access to required texts and references. Scaling of structural drawings should not be performed and dimensions for construction should only be read from the relevant architectural drawings.


What other services do you offer?

We mainly offer only structural design of straw, earth and natural construction materials. We do offer some allied services including:

  • Site classifications:
    • site soil (AS2870),
    • site wind loading (AS4055 and AS1170.2), and
    • site snow loading (AS1170.3).
  • Land Capability Assessments (AS1547) for on-site disposal of waste water and domestic waste water treatment design.
  • Performance Solutions (formerly known as Alternative Solutions) to the National Construction Code Performance Requirements that we guarantee to meet the requirements of your consent authority. We provide Performance Solutions for both natural construction technologies and conventional materials.
  • Business to Business construction system regulation consultancy; we assist other businesses and industry organisations navigate the compliance and regulatory framework for natural construction materials, technologies and systems. In the past, we have assisted the advancement of both proprietary and generic natural building systems. This is the ultimate “give a man a fish – teach a man to fish” activity for us; we love this growing area of our business.

Rates and Costs

How much does it cost for the structural design of a strawbale/earth house?

In short, we provide lump sum service fee proposals tailored to each individual project.

In very general terms, the cost of basic structural design of a ‘conventional dwelling’ is reasonably accurately approximated 1.0-1.4% of the overall construction cost. The structural design of a ‘less-than-conventional’ house is reasonably accurately approximated 1.3-1.9% of the overall construction cost. See “What are the complexities that lead to increased structural design fees above the ‘conventional dwelling’ estimates?” for more information.

Service fee estimation example:

Dwelling type Conventional Dwelling Less-than-conventional Dwelling
Example of construction Brick veneer, double story Combined strawbale, rammed earth house with; Earth walls>3m high, eaves >600mm etc.
Level of design complexity Low - Moderate Moderate - High
Example construction cost $450k $450k
Rate used for estimation of structural design 1.0% - 1.4% 1.3% -1.9%
Structural design fee estimate $4,500 - $6,300 $5,850 - $8,550

Note: these figures are estimates only.

What are the complexities that lead to increased structural design fees above the ‘conventional dwelling’ estimates?

We conduct very thorough analysis for each service fee proposals for every potential project. We assess the complexity of the project and plan in detail the execution of the consultation and design. We allocate our estimated time frames for each of the individual tasks and simply multiply this by our billing rate.

There are many complexities that can lead to an increased expenditure in structural design fees. Some of the complexities common to natural building projects include;

  • Architectural design that is not with the geometric limitations of the simplified design codes leading to mandated use of the more complex design standards.
  • The requirement for many project specific connection details. This is often driven by the relative familiarity of the builder with the nominated design codes and construction manuals;
    • A highly experience builder often requires less detailed drawings because they may be familiar with the nuances of particular materials/applications and they may have direct access to the reference literature (thus, requiring nothing further than clause number).
    • In contrast, many of our owner builder clients like to be provided high levels of detail to graphically illustrate/articulate all significant configurations.
  • Combinations of multiple conventional and natural building techniques can lead to a situation where the structure is comprised of 3, 4 or even more structural system that each need to be designed and verified.

What can we do to reduce the cost for the structural design of a strawbale/earth house?

We do not generally recommend that significantly altering the architectural layout of your proposed dwelling in an effort to reduce the cost of the structural design as an effective way to reduce the cost of your overall project.

Material selection can be an important cost factor; the selection of materials that have predictable performance and accepted design methods can help keep design costs in-check.

One very effective way to help ensure an efficient design for an efficient construction is to engage your engineer early in the design process.


Where do you service?

We currently service the entire eastern states of Australia south of the 25th parallel (essentially, south of Bundaberg QLD). We will consider projects in other regions upon exception.

Where are you located?

Our permanent office is located in Geelong Vic and we have staff located in;

  • Vic: Melbourne and Geelong. 
  • Qld: Brisbane
  • NSW: Sapphire Coast & Snowy Mountains region.

How do you deal with site visits?

We are always keen to get to site to conduct the site soil, wind and snow (where required) classifications. We also like to take this opportunity to meet with the client face-to-face and have highly productive discussions surrounding the project objective and constraints.

We will always try to share travel costs across concurrent projects in local regions and we often reduce our profit margin to zero for travel and expenses just to be competitive. Unfortunately the tyranny of distance is such that sometimes we are unable to offer competitive rates to visit some project locations. In this case, we are happy to organise a local subcontractor to do the site classification on our behalf or, alternatively, we are also very happy to work with a classification report that the client obtains themselves. 


(03) 5221 5776
0499 076 424



Share this page with social media