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VersaTerra, a complete cob and natural building intensive

July 1, 2020 ∞ 5:00 pm - July 11, 2020 ∞ 2:00 pm


This is the most comprehensive workshop you can find. Decades of teaching on four different continents has helped us design this rich learning experience,  giving students the tools they need to become confident earthen builders.

Earth is the mother of all building materials. For millennia, and all over the world, people have used earth to build beautiful, simple, efficient and inexpensive homes. It’s plentiful, ecological and non-toxic. Plus, it can’t burn, won’t rot and is much simpler to build with than conventional construction.

We will teach you how to use clay-soil to build just about everything. From strong structural walls (cob and Adobe) to beautiful floors, plasters and light-straw-clay walls. Because the materials are fireproof, they are ideally suited to sculpt ovens, fireplaces and cook stoves.

The essence of your learning experience will revolve around developing a deep understanding of how to process and combine a few simple materials: clay-soil, sand and straw. How you apply that in your building adventures is then up to you, but you will find the possibilities endless and exciting. 

During this workshop we will build a beautiful garden wall and an earthen bread/pizza oven. Within the wall, we will incorporate all the features of a wall that would be part of a earthen house: Windows, doors, electricity, plumbing, arches, niches, and artwork.

(We don’t think it’s a good idea to start a whole building in a shorter workshop (as attractive as that may sound); it will have people do too much of one thing (mixing cob and wall building) and will not able to learn the other important aspects of natural building in a meaningful way, such as roof variations, natural plasters, earthen floors and design.)


What will you learn

After this workshop, you will feel confident that you can

  • build yourself a cob cottage

  • remodel, renovate an existing home, using natural materials

  • build and use an earthen oven

  • use cob to create garden walls, outdoor fireplaces and hot tubs

  • design small cottages

  • teach a one-day natural building event yourself!

Specifically, you will get hands-on experience and skill development in the following areas:

  • Foundation systems, rubble trench, stem walls, earthbag construction (as a stem wall)

  • Identifying the right materials, screening, processing, testing, costs, amount calculations

  • Mixing cob efficiently, making adobe bricks

  • Building with cob: strong sculptural walls, arches, windows and doors, niches, artwork and mosaics

  • electricity and plumbing, how to install wires and pipes in the walls

  • roof attachment and roof design

  • Light-straw-clay: this is an infill techniques perfect for code approved buildings and natural renovations of existing homes. You will learn how to make the right materials and how to install them

  • Natural plasters, tools, making your own plasters and paints, colors, applications, how to apply it on earthen walls, drywall, wood, concrete

  • Tamped floors, finish earthen floors in natural buildings, earthen floors in existing homes on plywood, oriented strand board and concrete

  • Earthen ovens: from start to finish and how to use them (pizza party!)

  • Different design strategies, natural design essentials, passive solar, using cob to make models

  • Building codes, how they work, how to work around them

During every workshop we make time for specific issues related to individual situations. This usually include a careful look at different climates and regions, living with families or in communities, dealing with the building code, physical and financial challenges, appropriate technologies and more.

Our book “House of Earth” will be used as a textbook for the workshop.


The daily schedule

We are aware that students make a big investment in a workshop such as this. We honor your time and do the best we can to share our knowledge and experience. Expect long days with lots of building and learning. In the evenings we will show slides and films, featuring our previous projects and that of other people and cultures. Believe it or not, we also still like to make time for a campfire and some music. We always strive to make the workshop itself a comfortable, memorable and fun experience.

8:00 breakfast

9:00 building with cob

1:00 lunch

3:00 other techniques, lectures and oven building

7:00 Dinner

8:00 free time/slide shows/campfire


About the site

The workshop will take place at the House Alive homestead in Southern Oregon, 15 minutes away from the historic town of Jacksonville (check out the Britt music festival to see if there is something you want to see while you are nearby!) Our site is dotted with a dozen or so cob cottages, garden walls, ovens, and also has a code approved hybrid house (straw bale, cob, conventional).

As a student you will get first hand experiences of composting toilets, solar cookers, solar showers, off-grid photo-voltaic charging and other forms of appropriate technologies.

House Alive is located in the Siskiyou mountain range and has a mixed pine/oak/fir forest. Our homestead is peaceful and safe. The weather in May is usually sunny and warm (sometimes hot) and the evenings/nights are cool. Rain is a possibility but not persistent. July is warm, sometimes hot and rain is very rare.

You will be provided with a flat, private and shady camping spot. We also have hot showers, composting toilets, and internet.


Versaterra* certification

After full participation, every student will receive a VersaTerra certificate. We believe that after taking this workshop, participants are qualified to teach at least a one-day event in their neighborhood.  By providing a certificate, we want to empower our student to become facilitators of community revitalization through building with earth!

*VersaTerra is a holistic design, building and living philosophy, celebrating clay-soil as its primary building material. Clay-soil is:

  1. plentiful, inexpensive or free, durable, easy to maintain and modify, and endlessly reusable

  2. non-toxic, breathable, soft, beautiful, and displays superior performance in a wide variety of climates

  3. sculptural by nature, inviting to work with needing only simple tools and methods, and easily combines with other natural and human made materials.

By focusing on these specific qualities of clay-soil, we can make the design, building and living process a conduit for community revitalization and personal transformation, while creating housing with dignity for the people of this world.

Click here to read more about Versaterra


To register for this workshop, visit our website!


July 1, 2020 ∞ 5:00 pm
July 11, 2020 ∞ 2:00 pm
Event Category:


House Alive
7540 GRIFFIN LANE, Address 2, Address 3
JACKSONVILLE, OR 97530 United States


House Alive
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