workshop in Chile
Natural Building workshop in Chile

Natural Building Certificate Workshops

Our Natural Building Certificates will be awarded for attending one of our 2-5 week Natural Building Certificate Workshops. You will get opportunity to study and build with natural building materials and green technologies hands-on. Understanding the climate and environment of the building site is essential to designing a building that is appropriate for it. In times of a climate crisis it is particularly important to us to teach you about embodied carbon. Namely how to keep it as low as possible in your building. After this workshop you will know how to build unique, eco friendly, resilient, long lasting structures with local and abundantly available materials. From foundation to roof, including planning, sculpting, plastering, electricity and plumbing inside the walls, you will learn how to build a house, by doing it.

workshop students building a cob cottage in portugal
workshop students building a cob cottage in portugal

The Natural Building Certificate Workshops are an Introduction to Natural Building techniques and green building technologies. This includes hands-on practice with natural rock foundations, insulative as well as thermally massive wall systems, earthen floors and plasters as well as natural paints and finishes. Depending on the host’s project, workshops can include extras, such as green roofs, reciprocal roofs, green houses and others. In a Master Natural Building Certificate Workshop you will get 175 hours of practical experience plus 25 hours of lectures. That is an intensive 200 hours course, that will change how you think about living spaces.

DateWorkshop
Apr 26 – Mar 30 2020Natural Building Workshop (PermaHome)
we will build a PermaHome classroom
for Christoph & Mario’s permaculture project in southern Italy
Aug 3 – Aug 30 2020Natural Building Workshop (Outdoor Kitchen)
we will build an Outdoor Kitchen, Cob Oven and Rocket Mass Heater
for Floris in northern Portugal
Sep 7 – Oct 11 2020Natural Building Workshop (PermaHome)
we will build a PermaHome guesthouse
for Christoph & Mario’s permaculture project in southern Italy
Apr 26 – Mar 30 2021Natural Building Workshop (Ruin Restoration)
we will restore a ruin (part 1)
for Christoph & Mario’s permaculture project in southern Italy
Aug 30 – Oct 03 2021Natural Building Workshop (Ruin Restoration)
we will restore a ruin (part 2)
for Christoph & Mario’s permaculture project in southern Italy

Who is a Natural Building Certificate for?

Our Natural Building Certificate is for everyone who wants to know what alternatives to conventional building technologies are out there. Whether you are environmentally conscious and want to reduce your carbon footprint, or surround yourself with healthy natural walls. Whether you want to build cheap by doing everything yourself, or because you want a hand-sculpted house reflecting your creativity. Natural Buildings can give you all of that. Our students come from all over the world. Whether man or woman, young or old, Natural Building is for everyone. With the knowledge from this course you can get started building your own home or become a professional Natural Builder.

Please consider that this course will be physically demanding, as we are building a whole house bare-handed and -footed. If you are not able to do hard work please let us know before the workshop, so we can arrange other task for you.

a natural building from a natural building workshop
a cob cottage

Natural Builder Certification

You will receive a Natural Builder Certificate, all the teaching materials by email, as well as the permaskills – Natural Builder’s Handbook, which is a summary of the workshop building steps, upon graduation.

Course Schedule

Our Natural Building Certificate Workshops usually begin on Sunday afternoons at 4 pm with an Opening Circle and Introduction to Site & Project, the Welcome Dinner and Introduction to the Workshop. They end on Saturdays, around 2 pm after the Graduation ceremony, Closing Circle & Lunch.

You can arrive a day or two before to settle in, but food and our chef’s services will only be provided from Sunday evening.

Overall Schedule

Sun. 4 pmOpening Circle, Welcome Dinner, Introduction
week 1Lectures:
Ground Assessment
Materials and soil analysis
Passive solar, placement and orientation
Foundation & drainage
Earthen floors and insulation
Practice:
Natural rock stem wall & foundation Drainage
Plumbing (drains for sink, shower, toilet)
Floor insulation and earthen subfloor
week 2Lectures:
Timber Framing with round wood
Wood connections
Window & Door Frames
Power & hand tool instruction
Practice:
Wooden frame and roof
Window & Door Frames
Live Edge Shelves
week 3Lectures:
Natural wall systems
Cob / floor / plaster mixture and calculation
Wall insertions
Electrical conduits & plumbing
Natural Building Design
Building to code
Practice:
Cob / Adobe / Rammed Earth walls
Niches, arches, shelves, bottle bricks, and other wall insertions
Electrical conduits and outlets
week 4Lectures:
Strawbale and Light-Straw-Clay walls
Roof types and covers
Natural plasters
Practice:
Roof connection to wall
Sculpting with Cob
First and second layer of plaster
Second floor layer
week 5Lectures:
Natural finishes and paints (clay, lime, oil, wax, tadelakt, pigments)
Cost analysis and planning
Project specific extras like green roof, heater, green house, custom doors or windows, etc.
Practice:
Roof cover
Natural finishes and paints
Project specific extras
Small scale models of future projects, time permitting
Sat 10 amClosing Circle

In addition to the lectures, slideshows and videos will be shown to support and enhance your understanding of materials, building, design, geography, budgeting, project management, business options and legal issues. 

a group of graduated natural builders on a reciprocal roof
a group of graduated natural builders on a reciprocal roof

Weekly Schedule

  • Mon – Fri: all-day hands-on class
  • Mon, Wed, Fri: 60 min lecture after Lunch & Rest time
  • Sat: morning hands-on (optional), afternoon off
  • Sun: all-day off

Saturday mornings are optional buffers, should we fall behind in schedule. Saturday afternoons and Sundays are off to explore the region further and stay somewhere over night.

weekend hiking trip at a natural building workshop in Colorado
weekend hiking trip at a workshop in Colorado

Daily Schedule

  • 6:30-7:30 :Meditation/Yoga (voluntary)
  • 7:30-8:30: Breakfast
  • 8:45-1:00: Class
  • 1:00-2:30: Lunch
  • 2:30-5:30: Class
  • 5:30-7:00: Rest/Yoga
  • 7:00-8:00: Dinner
  • 8:00-9:00: Slides / Videos/Discussion (once a week)
a morning circle at a natural building workshop, kids and dogs welcome :)
a morning circle, kids and dogs welcome 🙂

There is often someone who leads yoga or some other movement practice in the morning and/or the afternoon. We like to have one evening a week to show slides, videos or have workshop related debates. The rest of the time you can spend on your own, join a jam session around the fire or contribute something to share with the group.

voluntary morning yoga session at a natural building workshop in Portugal
voluntary morning yoga session

Workshop Requirements

There are no skill requirements for the Natural Building Certificate Workshop! That said, it certainly won’t hurt if you know some things and put it to good use or share it with others. Nobody is perfect and we are always curious to learn other ways of doing things.

Please bring an open mind and be prepared to do some demanding physical work from Day 1. This includes:

  • Watch or Phone to be on time (bring a charger)
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves (thick, for lime mortar)
  • Work Gloves (rubber palm, breathable back)
  • Eye and Ear Protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Dust mask
  • Clothes to get dirty appropriate for the country and climate we are in
  • Work boots
  • Flip-flops for cobbing days
  • Good Moisturizer
  • Water Bottle
  • Notebook and pens / pencils
  • Camera
  • Sample of Your Soil (Optional)

optional, if you like bring your own tools:

  • Measuring tape (ideally with inch and cm)
  • Level (60cm / 2ft)
  • Utility knife
  • Carpenter Hammer (the one that can remove nails)
  • 10-15cm / 4”-6” diameter round plastic yogurt lids (for plastering)
straw bale walls in a natural building, not yet plastered
straw bale walls not yet plastered

What else to bring

In short, bring whatever you NEED to be comfortable and happy when camping for over a month. 🙂 There are many local stores in case you forget something or prefer to buy it in Italy! Our recommendations for stuff to bring are:

  • Bathing Suit for swimming in the sea, we have almost no waves here and the water is pretty warm, windsurfing might be an option though
  • Clothing for hiking
  • Warm jacket for evening time
  • Chocolate! Or whatever essential snacks you’re craving
  • Pillow and favorite cuddle blanket
a bunch of gear on  the way home after a natural building workshop in Colorado
a bunch of gear on the way home after a workshop in Colorado

Be prepared

Please read “The Natural Building Companion, Ace McArleton, Jacob Deva Racusin” before the workshop. Watch some videos on YouTube about natural building and browse our gallery to get an idea of what to expect from the workshop. Please bring your book(s) and any other books or poems to share as well as slideshows, videos, movies and downloaded building site music playlists!!! 

Share what you are good at

If you are a qualified teacher or leader in something beneficial to our month-long time together, and would like to offer it up, please don’t hesitate to speak to the Instructors before or during the Workshop! We are open to non-building activities in the evenings and at night…if the energy is there of course.

after work drum session at a natural building workshop in Chile, lead by student Clemente
after work drum session lead by student Clemente

Take care of yourself

Make sure to take care of your personal needs, drink a lot of water, rest when needed and exert yourself at a steady pace. Let us know if you cannot do hard physical work before the workshop begins, so we can adjust accordingly. It is totally OK to come for the lecture/theory part, and then help the building part in less physically demanding ways, for example cutting straw, sifting for plaster, hammering nails into frames or shelves, sculpting, plastering, cutting bottles. There is a lot to do besides making and building!

Sausanne preparing bottle bricks at a natural building workshop
Sausanne preparing colored bottle bricks

Important information

Meals

You will be fed 3 delicious meals a day during the weekdays, prepared by experienced cooks.  Suski workshop hosts always serve amazing food to students in gratitude for their hard work! We will be providing mainly ovo-lacto-vegetarian food. Therefore we can be sustainable and meet most culinary tastes. Depending on student’s needs we could have fish, meat or vegan options however. We will try to meet people’s requirements, so make sure to communicate them as soon as possible. On weekends, food will be available on site for you to prepare.

Robert enjoying one of the amazing meals at our natural building workshops
Robert enjoying one of the amazing meals at our workshops

Accommodations

In most of our Workshop venues you will be camping. Compost toilets, hot and cold showers, a dining area, yoga/dance space and a cozy hangout communal area with fire circle will be offered for maximum comfort and enjoyment. We want you to have a wonderful and transformative time together.

Sometimes there are rooms available for extra comfort, but they are not included in the fee for the Natural Building Certificate Workshop.

trimmed cob wall in a natural building
trimmed cob wall

Suggested Reading

  • The Natural Building Companion, Ace McArleton, Jacob Deva Racusin
  • Sustainable Home Design, Chris Magwood
  • The New Carbon Architecture: Reversing Climate Change with Construction, Bruce King
  • Essential Building Science, Jacob Deva Racusin 
  • Making Better Buildings, Chris Magwood
  • The Handsculpted House, Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, Linda Smiley
  • Serious Straw Bale, Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron
  • More Straw Bale Building, Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, Tina Therrien
  • Design of Straw Bale Buildings: The State of the Art, Edited by Bruce King
  • Using Natural Finishes: Lime and Clay Based Plasters, Renders and Paints – A Step-by-step Guide, Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce
  • The Natural Plaster Book, Cedar Rose Guelberth and Dan Chiras
  • The Natural Paint Book, Lynn Edwards and Julia Lawless
  • Earthen Floors, Sukita Reay Crimmel and James Thomson
  • Building with Lime: A Practical Introduction, Stafford Holmes, Michael Wingate

WE LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU!!!!

Aliona and Robert in Chile 2019 creating a new style of cob dancing!
Aliona and Robert in Chile 2019 creating a new style of cob dancing!