Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

VersaTerra Plus 35-day Complete Cob Cabin

May 17, 2021 - June 18, 2021


Complete Cob & Natural Building Workshop with Earthen Oven

This workshop is offered through the “Be the Change Project

Go here for the full workshop description & House Alive/Be the Change Project Covid Policy

Maximum Class Size: 12 students

Instructors: Kyle Isacksen with Katy Chandler, Jonathan Vocke and Kathleen O’Brien

Cost: $2500​

This includes all meals (vegetarian with meat options on occasion), coffee & tea, a lovely place to pitch your tent, our book “House of Earth” (we’ll send you a copy before the workshop in the Spring), transportation to and from Reno airport/bus terminal. 


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, 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 cob cabin from the ground up and an earthen bread/pizza oven.  This includes interior and exterior walls, roof, foundation, windows, doors, electricity, plumbing, arches, plasters, niches, roof, and artwork.

This 35-day VersaTerra Plus workshop is designed to provide a much deeper dive into earth, natural building, and sustainable living through the construction of a complete cabin.  Over the five weeks you’ll have the opportunity to get into a building rhythm where your new learning and skills can be applied and fine-tuned with the help of our instructors.  Simply put, the more time you have with the mud, the more competent and confident a builder you’ll become. The time frame also gives us more space for discussions, exploration of design philosophy, and engagement with appropriate technologies including microsolar, composting toilets, water harvesting, and more.  This course will benefit from real world examples at Rosewater Ranch and the nearby Be the Change Project urban homestead – a Mother Earth News Magazine Homestead of the Year.

After this workshop, you will feel confident that you can

  • Build a cob cottage
  • Remodel or 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
  • Building with adobe, cordwood cob, and balecob
  • Electricity and plumbing, how to install wires and pipes in the walls
  • Roof attachment and roof design
  • Light-straw-clay: this is an infill technique perfect for code-approved buildings and natural renovations of existing homes. You will learn how to make the 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.

What is VersaTerra?

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.


Here’s what people said about last years’ VersaTerra Plus workshop:

  • I feel it was all awesome. I loved the whole experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • I liked working together as a group, learning hands-on how to cob and how to build in general.
  • I’m now confident I can figure it out.  This made everything with building feel accessible.
  • I really enjoyed the whole process, location and people.  The instructors are very good at explaining and diagramming things so I feel I can do them later when I get home.
  • I loved 99% of the classes and work!
  • I could mix cob for hours!
  • You did a great job taking ideas in and adjusting to people’s questions and needs.
  • I wouldn’t change anything about the workshop.
  • I’m leaving with a wealth of new knowledge and skills – the platform I needed and can build upon
  • The instructors were a great team and I liked how everyone added something different either through skill or personality
  • I enjoyed the teamwork and working with the materials and getting dirty!


May 17, 2021
June 18, 2021
Event Category:


Rosewater Ranch
30 minutes northwest of Reno
Reno, NV 89512 United States


House Alive
View Organizer Website