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One Day Intro to Natural Building

June 15, 2024 ∞ 8:30 am - 8:00 pm


Overview of the Day

We’ll start early with a tour of our permaculture homestead nestled in the heart of Reno. We have several cabins, a couple ovens, garden walls, and appropriate technologies a plenty to show off.

We’ll spend the rest of morning getting familiar with clay soil, sand, and straw and how we process and mix them to make cob and adobe as we build a section of wall. We’ll demonstrate the use of earth bags and how we incorporate straw bales and cordwood into a wall.

In the afternoon we’ll focus on different types of plasters from base coats through finish coats using finer materials and pigments. We’ll also take time to do some sculpting and carving.

At the end of the day we’ll fire up our cob oven, turn on some music, and make and cook our own pizzas.

About the Site

The Be the Change Project is a Reno-based nonprofit, centered on our half-acre urban homestead where we have offered classes, tours, and workshops since 2011. That year we were able to buy what was a run down and neglected house on a half-acre through fundraising and crowdfunding. Since then we have enjoyed living an alternative and off-the-grid lifestyle while transforming the property into a verdant oasis. It has become a center for neighborhood uplift as well as a model for simpler living in the urban/suburban context. We were a Mother Earth News Magazine Homestead of the Year in 2013.

Reno is in the high desert on the western edge of the Great Basin. The weather in June is usually warm, clear, and sunny during the days with cooler nights. It can get hot, and rain is unlikely.

Along with earthen cabins, landscape walls, ovens, and different plaster types on site, we’ve developed and use many systems for living more sustainably in town about which we’ll share during the day.

  • Solar cooking and wall heaters

  • Small scale solar PV

  • Wood stove and solar thermosiphon water heating

  • Composting – vermicomposting and conventional aerobic piles

  • Alternative septic system – the Watson Wick

  • Basic principles and practices of Permaculture

  • Organic small plot intensive gardening including season extenders like hoop houses, root cellaring and solar dehydrating

  • ScAvenging! – upcycling and salvaging materials from the urban waste stream

  • Living with little electricity or fossil fuels

  • Wood-fired hot tub


There is no lodging available for this one day event.

The Schedule

8:30 Introductions and tour

9:30 Investigating Materials

10:00 Making cob and adobe

10:30 Building with cob and adobe

11:30 Earth bags, straw bales, and cordwood cob

1:00 Lunch

2:00 Plasters – base coats through finish

4:00 Sculpting, carving, and niches

6:00 Pizza Dinner (included)


Kyle Isacksen has been building with earth since 2010 and teaching natural building since 2011 with House Alive and the Be the Change Project. Kyle has a background in construction, teaching, and simple living. He’s worked as a framer, carpenter, and commercial roofer and recently finished building a “green” conventional house in his neighborhood in Reno. He was a science teacher for 7 years, is a frequent speaker on sustainable living, and is a contributing writer for Mother Earth News magazine and blog. Kyle enjoys basketball, hiking, reading, and martial arts.

Katy Chandler is the co-founder of the Be the Change Project and has lived in and worked with natural building materials for many years. She is a prolific gardener, certified permaculture designer, urban garlic farmer, and former math teacher and school designer.  She loves to dance, laugh, and pore over seed catalogs while cozied up to the wood stove on long winter nights. Kyle and Katy also have two teenage sons.

Payment & Refunds

This workshop requires a $100 payment to reserve your spot. Once a payment is made, Kyle will reach out to you, welcome you to the course, and get you in the email loop with all the details.

Go here to make a Venmo deposit or send a check for $100 made out to Cobitat and mailed to 2055 McCloud Avenue, Reno, NV 89512.

Payment is refundable until 6 weeks before the start of the class. If you cancel with less than six weeks before the start of the class and your spot can be filled, we will issue a full refund. If it can’t be filled, we’ll refund $50.


June 15, 2024
8:30 am - 8:00 pm


Be the Change Project
2055 McCloud Avenue
Reno, NV 89512 United States
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