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VersaTerra, a complete cob and natural building intensive
August 5, 2020 ∞ 5:00 pm - August 15, 2020 ∞ 2:00 pm$1400
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 you will 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.
9:00 building with cob
3:00 other techniques, lectures and oven building
8:00 free time/slide shows/campfire
About the site
This workshop will take place in an urban setting in south-east Portland. The site provides plenty of space for camping, has a lazy creek mandering by, and a large organic garden. Weather in Portland this time of the year is usually warm and dry. (Participants from Portland area may choose to sleep at home)
Students will be provided with all (vegetarian) meals, a camping spot, hot showers, (composting) toilets and internet. You will get first hand experiences of solar cookers, solar showers, off-grid solar electric charging and other forms of appropriate technologies.
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:
plentiful, inexpensive or free, durable, easy to maintain and modify, and endlessly reusable
non-toxic, breathable, soft, beautiful, and displays superior performance in a wide variety of climates
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.