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Versaterra Weekend Intro to Earthen Building

July 15, 2023 ∞ 8:00 am - July 16, 2023 ∞ 9:00 pm


Be the Change Project
Reno, NV

July 15-16, 2023 (Saturday & Sunday)

Number of Students: up to 12

Cost: $320 ($280 for locals)

Class Description

Our two-day introductory workshop will get you started on natural building. We give you a taste of all the steps involved with making a cabin or garden wall. Your learning will be enhanced by all of the natural and alternative features at our urban homestead including four earthy cabins, a cob oven, cob walls and appropriate technologies in use from greenhouses to solar wall heaters solar showers. If you’re curious about natural and earthen building and want to test the waters before taking a longer course, this is the opportunity for you.

We’ll start early on Saturday with the basics of a rubble trench and earth bag stem wall and move on to cobbing and adobe brick making. From there we’ll do some infill techniques like cordwood cob, light straw clay (slip straw), and bale cob. We’ll demonstrate how to put in windows and doors and take time for basic plastering, carving, and art.

On Sunday night we’ll have a pizza party that will showcase our cob oven.

Each participant will receive Conrad’s book, “House of Earth” in the mail prior to the course.

About the Site

The Be the Change Project is a Reno-based nonprofit, centered on our half-acre urban homestead where we have offered classes, tours, and workshops since 2011. That year we were able to buy what was a run down and neglected house on a half-acre through fundraising and crowdfunding. Since then we have enjoyed living an alternative and off-the-grid lifestyle while transforming the property into a verdant oasis. It has become a center for neighborhood uplift as well as a model for simpler living in the urban/suburban context. We were a Mother Earth News Magazine Homestead of the Year in 2013.

Reno is in the high desert on the western edge of the Great Basin. The weather in May and June is usually warm, clear, and sunny during the days with much cooler nights. It can get hot, and rain is unlikely.

Along with earthen cabins, landscape walls, ovens, and plasters on site, we’ve developed and use many systems for living more sustainably in town which you’ll get to know and use during the workshop:

  • Solar cooking and wall heaters

  • Small scale solar PV

  • Wood stove  and solar thermosiphon water heating

  • Composting – vermicomposting and conventional aerobic piles

  • Alternative septic system – the Watson Wick

  • Basic principles and practices of Permaculture

  • Organic small plot intensive gardening including season extenders like hoop houses,  root cellaring and solar dehydrating

  • ScAvenging! – upcycling and salvaging materials from the urban waste stream

  • Living with little electricity and fossil fuels

  • Wood-fired hot tub


We have a variety of lodging options including cob cabins, rooms, and tent sites, and parking for camper vans.

Participants are welcome to arrive on Friday evening to get settled for the next morning.


Participants are responsible for their own meals except for the the pizza party on Sunday evening for which we’ll provide all of the food. Please bring your own mess kits.

We will make coffee to share in the mornings.

Registration, Payment, & Refunds

This workshop requires a $100 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 $100 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 each 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 two full days with lots of building and learning. We always strive to make the workshop itself a comfortable, memorable and fun experience.

7:30 breakfast

8:30 site tour on day 1, building session one

1:00 lunch

2:30-6:00 building session two: other techniques, lecture, appropriate technologies…

7:00 Dinner


Lead instructor 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.

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.


July 15, 2023 ∞ 8:00 am
July 16, 2023 ∞ 9:00 pm
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Be the Change Project
2055 McCloud Avenue
Reno, NV 89512 United States
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