Hosting a workshop is a great way to learn Natural Building hands-on while creating a wonderful community of like minded builders. They will help you build your project in a fun, supportive and unforgettable co-creative environment. By hosting a workshop you will also contribute to the expansion of environmental awareness and Natural Building.
What will happen in a workshop?
When you host a Natural Building Workshop with us, we will invite 5-15 students to stay 3-5 weeks and build a structure from foundation to roof on your land. Common are little cabins that can be used as studio, office, showroom, shed, outdoor kitchen, bathhouse, sauna or whatever you can imagine. We are also up to restoration of existing ruins. The size of the structure we can build depends on the number of students that register. We approximate ~1-1.5m² of floor space per student. You are contributing the materials, tools and keep us fed (students will pay for meals). We are doing all the work and invite you to join our lectures and hands-on classes. We made the experience that hosts that take part in the building process are more satisfied with the end-product.
Workshop students come from all over the world, female as well as male so every workshop is a unique mix of cultures. It has always been a pleasure so far to meet different cultures and see them interact and work towards a common goal in their unique ways. Our workshop are truly transformative experiences. Some are often willing to stay after the workshop and help with the finishing touches in exchange for meals.
How long will a workshop take?
Depending on your project we will take 3-5 weeks. We estimate about one week for a foundation, two weeks for walls, one week for roof and plastering and an additional week for extras that might be included in the project, like a green roof, a green house or Tadelakt in wet areas. Students usually arrive and leave a day before and after the workshop.
What needs to be prepared?
Students and Instructor usually camp near the building site so they don’t require extra transportation. So when you host a Natural Building Workshop you need to provide some kind of communal space as well as (compost-) toilets and showers. You don’t need to cook on site, but it is more efficient to eat there, so we don’t loose precious building time over lunch. In order to get everyone and tools cleaned up, we need a washing station, often a tub filled with water and a faucet to rinse the finer clay is enough. Tables and chairs for all the students as well as shade and rain cover must be provided for the dining area.
As we are working all day outside, we need shades to work under, either provided by trees or by tarps. A space of 4 m x 4 m must is required for at least half of the students, so we can alternate.
Depending on the kind of construction we might need road access for delivery of materials like rocks, wood, sand, clay and straw bales. If we are building with clay we also need a lot of water, expect an average of 1000 l per day including showers. Please also see our Resources section for suggested reading.
It is also a plus to have ideas for after the work/learning day activities like sitting around a fire, playing music, games, yummy treats, etc.
Which tools are needed?
As we are sending our instructors to workshop hosts all over the world, we cannot bring tools along the way. Therefore we need you to provide them. You don’t need the best equipment, but should buy the cheapest either as you might need it again for a follow up workshop. The kind of tools you need depends on the type of project and technologies involved. The amount varies with the number of students. You can expect a couple of tools though:
- Hammers & nails
- Tape measures
- Power drill & screws
- Chop saw / Circular saw
- Angle grinder with diamond disc
Which materials are needed?
Depending on the kind of Natural Building technology you will need some of the following. The amount depends on the number of students as well:
- Clay soil, coarse and fine sand (amount depends on clay ratio in it, sand must have sharp edges, from mountains / riverbeds, not from a beach)
- Water (best from a well or river)
- Hard rocks for foundations (15-40 cm wide, do a drop test)
- Wood (round) for frame and or roof (stored > 6-12 months)
- Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL 3.5) for foundation and exterior plaster
- Rough cut lumber/timber for construction of window and door frames as well as pieces with bark on for special wall insertions like niche shelves
- Horse manure for earthen plasters, optional horse hair for lime plaster
- Gravel, garden fleece and a drainage pipe for a foundation
- Plumbing pipes and Electrical conduits and outlets
What will students eat?
Our students are doing exhausting physical work all day in the sun. Feeding them well and abundantly is a key to a successful workshop. This includes 3 meals a day at weekdays and some healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. We offer vegetarian meals, but need to account for special diets if need be.
Students will pay for food for the whole week, but you will only have to prepare the meals during the weeks.
Do I need a building permission?
This depends from country to country and state to state, sometimes even community to community. We often made the experience that small buildings like the ones we create in our workshops don’t require permission. This is mostly because they have a floor space below a certain number or no permanent fireplace installed. Please check with your building department to make sure.
Can you help me with setting everything up?
Of course! We support you every step of the way!
Workshop preparation & management
We will provide you with all the documents you need as well as phone/email support until our instructor will arrive one week before the workshop. The Workshop Preparation & Management Fee is fixed and depends on the workshop length (100€ / workshop week, e.g. 500€ for a 5-week workshop).
Once the kind of project is agreed upon, you will be provided with a checklist with due dates by which to complete tasks. This checklist needs to be shown to the instructor or suski with photos.
Until one week prior to the workshop at the latest, you are responsible to have:
- done soil tests of available soils (for each available soil, two hand full of soil in a similar sized jar of water, as well as a bucket full for brick tests)
- purchased and delivered all materials and tools to your site
- set up all the facilities for receiving students (campsites, showers, sinks, toilets, lecture space, slideshow space for evenings, kitchen, dining area)
- possibly have information about or organize non-camping accommodations for students (paid separately)
- cooks (if needed) to prepare three meals/day plus 2 snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon Monday – Friday and have food available for the students on weekends to prepare themselves.
On site support
Our instructor will arrive 5-7 days before the workshop begins to assist in finalizing the gathering of materials. After analyzing your soil tests and making test bricks our instructor will decide on final cob and plaster mix proportions to be used, and assists with final preparation of the workshop site.
The instructor is not responsible for the preparations that you are required to complete before the arrival of the instructor.
Are there additional costs?
We charge 1000€ refundable deposit to cover any labor and materials costs required to prepare things you have not prepared prior to arrival of our instructor one week before the workshop. The deposit will be used to hire people to complete uncompleted tasks, if needed.
You cover the cost of instructor’s transportation to and from the site up to 500€, as well as room and board from the moment of arrival to time of departure. This includes weekend meals.
From a size of 7 students we have one assistant and from the size of 14 students we have to assistants joining our instructors to ensure the quality of your building and that all students get an equal amount of supervision and 1-on-1 time with our instructors. You also cover the instructor’s assistant’s transport costs up to 250€ per person and room and board from arrival to departure date. This includes weekend meals.
Is there a contract ?
Yes. Once a project is agreed upon, a contract is signed and the fixed Workshop Preparation & Management Fee has to be paid. After that we will provide you with all of the preparatory information. This includes directions on preparation of the building site, including foundation if needed. Furthermore you will receive support via email, phone and video chat to prepare for the Workshop. In addition our instructor will arrive 5-7 days before the Workshop starts in order to finalize preparations, determine the exact cob mix and quantities of building materials to purchase or gather and deliver to the site.
I’m interested, what now?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested, we would love to talk with you. We are currently creating new workshops for next year and are always excited to hear from potential hosts so don’t hesitate!
interview questions for workshop hosts
Please consider answering following interview questions in your contact email, so you and we can be on the same page from the start:
- Full Name
- Email address
- Where will the structure be located?
- Why would you like to build a natural structure?
- Is the structure you are interested in for you and your family or for someone else, such as a caretaker, a renter, or a family member?
- If the structure is not for someone to live in, what is its intended use?
- Do you have an idea as to the size of the building?
- Would you like to build the structure to code? In other words, do you want to permit the structure? All habitable structures must be permitted. Only non habitable structures under 140 sq. ft. would not need to be permitted.
- Do you have the finances in place to be able to pay for the structure?(expect ~200-300€ / m² for materials)
- Do you have a timeline in terms of when you would like this building to start/finish?
- What is a good phone number to reach you, and a good time to call
Check our Natural Building Overview on what is in our repertoire, to get an idea what is possible.
That’s a bit much … can I start smaller?
Sure! We have several trained students who can teach Cob oven workshops and shorter Natural Building workshops!