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VersaTerra Complete Cob & Natural Building Intensive$1400
June 30 - July 10 Contact
VersaTerra Workshop with Earthen Oven
Go here for full workshop description including our Covid Policy
Maximum Class Size: 16 students
Instructors: Conrad Rogue & Kyle Isacksen
Location: The House Alive homestead, Jacksonville, Oregon
This includes all (vegetarian) meals, coffee & tea, a nice place to pitch your tent, our book “House of Earth” (we’ll send you a copy before the workshop in the Spring), transportation to & from Medford airport/bus terminal.
This is the most comprehensive natural building 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 results in too much of one thing – namely mixing cob and wall building – while not being able to learn the other important aspects of natural building in a meaningful way, such as roof variations, natural plasters, earthen floors and design.
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 includes 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.
What is VersaTerra?
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.
- Conrad, Kyle and Sarah were all so great at not just explaining what to do and how to do it, but why we were doing it in each particular process. Their patience and willingness to explain further when needed was without end!
- My expectations were met and exceeded! I feel empowered and supported in my dream of building and living in an earthen home.
- Loved the food! I always had plenty of healthy and tasty choices and found it easy to maintain my energy and strength.
- The instruction was geared to the right level and never felt patronizing or swooshed too far over my head. Wonderful humor and camaraderie. I loved the community that formed because of the structure provided and the willingness of the participants to engage.
- I always had my questions answered and always felt supported and/or redirected as needed without ever feeling someone was hovering over me.. There was freedom to practice and even make some mistakes to learn from.
- I am sincerely and very gratefully surprised by the high amount of confidence I have in myself as a builder after these 10 days of learning, playing, sweating, laughing, singing and integrating.
- I loved how there was a mix of classroom demonstrations and practical applications for experiential learning. I loved that there was a breadth of information from foundation to roof. I feel confident that I can take this knowledge and build a simple home. I loved the emphasis on community and connectivity to nature. I feel my heart and mind have happily integrated for a better future for myself.
- I enjoyed playing in the mud and feeling like a little kid again. I especially loved being able to connect with others and reconnect with myself through learning about the many variations of cobbing materials, and the rhythm and flow of teamwork.
- Literally every meal was 10/10. I didn’t miss meat at all these 10 days and I always had so much to eat!
- Well crafted and well scheduled. The information was addressed in a thoughtful and simple manner during the practice. The breaks were excellent to recharge physically and mentally. Excellent workshop!