Complete Cottage Build with Cobitat Natural Building
March 2, 2024 ∞ 8:00 am - April 6, 2024 ∞ 5:00 pm$3000
Complete Cabin Build in Hawaii
Number of Students: up to 14
This workshop was planned before the devastating fires on Maui. While our host’s farm has not been impacted by the fires themselves, the community has been. We are moving forward with this educational workshop because we feel strongly that earthen construction is one of the strategies to employ for an uncertain future with the potential for more frequest and destructive wildfires.
The Building Project
During this five week workshop we will build a beautiful 200 square foot cabin and an earthen bread/pizza oven. Starting with a rubble trench foundation and earth bag stem wall we will build a complete cabin with windows, doors, shelves, basic electric and plumbing, arches, niches, artwork, finish plasters and roof. It will be a combination of cob, straw bale, adobe, bale-cob, wood-cob, and more!
Participants will leave with the knowledge and hands-on experience to build their own small cabin and oven and even teach a basic cob course.
About the Site
From their website:
The Farm at Maui Majesty is a 24+ acre farm in the heart of Maui, on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano, in lower Kula on the island of Maui in Hawaii, USA. Our location is incredibly beautiful with bi-coastal ocean views as well as views to the top of Haleakela. While we are in the middle of farm country here, we are only 12 minutes to the major town of Kahului which hosts the main harbor/port, airport, and the main industry of the island. We are just up the road from several other of Maui’s famous farms including Surfing Goat Dairy and Ocean Vodka.
Maui Majesty promotes education around living WITH the land, more than living off the land. As a professor at several universities and as a licensed therapist, Dr. Holstein, owner/founder of Maui Majesty, is supremely passionate about this work and works hard to live in harmony with nature. We have facilitated work-groups in medicine making, growing food and medicine, and regenerative sustainability. Our courses address topics such as earth batteries, atmospheric water generation, composting toilets, biogas, cob building, passive solar, and other regenerative systems that allow humans to enjoy modern conveniences in a way that is “off-grid”. Most importantly we are working on systems that do not use up natural resources faster than the earth can regenerate them, systems that do not cause harm to other living creatures or the environment and hopefully even enhance them.
This is one of the most comprehensive natural building workshops you can find. Together, VersaTerra instructors have decades of experience on four different continents. This has helped us design rich learning experiences 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.
What you will learn
After this workshop, you will feel confident that you can
Design and build yourself a cottage using earth (cob) and other natural materials
Remodel or renovate an existing home, using natural materials
Build and use an earthen oven
Use natural materials to create garden walls and hot tubs
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 and using straw bales (“balecob”) and cordwood cob
Building with cob: strong sculptural walls, arches, windows and doors, niches, and sculptural artwork
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
Natural plasters, tools, making your own plasters and paints, colors, applications, how to apply it on earthen and bale walls, drywall, wood, concrete
Tamped floors, finished 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 (we’ll finish with a pizza party!)
Different design strategies, natural design essentials, passive solar, using cob to make models
Building codes, how they work, how to work with and 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.
Kyle’s book, “Build it with Earth: the Cob Pizza Oven” and Conrad’s, “House of Earth” are both included with the workshop and will be mailed before we begin. They will serve as guidebooks for the workshop.
There are tent spaces (bring your own tent), parking areas for RVs and camper vans, and a couple rustic cabins for anyone seeking such comforts (at extra cost). Composting toilets, outdoor covered sinks and showers are also provided.
When in Hawaii one might as well take some time to enjoy the natural beauty. Our workshop schedule has half days on Saturdays with Sundays off.
Nearby is Haleakala volcano, the Road to Hana, whale watching, beaches for snorkeling & surfing, waterfalls, hikes, farms, resorts, and so much more. There are tons of websites that go into more detail with lots of info on tourist attractions. We’ll likely plan some optional group outings once we’re together.
Pickup and Dropoff
Airport pickup and drop off is available from the Kahului Airport the Friday evening and Saturday morning before the workshop starts (12:00 start time on Saturday the 2nd) and on Saturday afternoon after the workshop ends.
Registration, Payment, & Refunds
This workshop requires a $700 deposit to hold your space. When a deposit 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 $700 made out to Cobitat and mailed to 2055 McCloud Avenue, Reno, NV 89512. Full payments are also gladly accepted.
Deposit is refundable (minus $50 for books and mailing cost if they’ve already been shipped to you) 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 refund minus book costs. If it can’t be filled, your deposit will not be refunded.
Full payment is requested by two weeks before the start of the class.
The Daily Schedule
We are aware that students make a big investment in a workshop like 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. On some 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.
8:30 building session one
3:00-6:00 building session two: other techniques, lectures, and oven building
8:00 lectures/slideshows/campfire/free time
Delicious home-cooked meals are provided and will be vegetarian.
START and FINISH: We begin on Saturday, March 2nd with lunch at 12:00 and end with lunch on Saturday, April 6th, after lunch.
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.
Kathleen O’Brien started natural building with two VersaTerra workshops several years ago and has gone on to teach with us in India, Mexico, Oregon and Reno. She has extensive carpentry experience, is a certified permaculture designer and talented grower, and has over 20 years of public school teaching experience. She is an avid reader and writer and is currently building her own off-grid home at Long Ranch in Surprise Valley, Nevada.
Jonathan Vocke started natural building with a VersaTerra course years ago and has since built and taught with us in India, Mexico, and Nevada and on his own in his hometown of Baltimore. When not slinging mud he’s a professional musician and music teacher and an avid traveler and adventurer. Every workshop he’s a part of benefits from his musical talents, his energy, and his skill as a teacher.
Katy Chandler is the co-founder of the Be the Change Project and has lived in and played 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.
After full participation, every student will receive a VersaTerra certificate. We believe that after taking this workshop, participants are qualified to teach a weekend or cob oven event in their community. By providing a certificate, we want to empower our students 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 combinable 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.