VersaTerra June 30 - July 10, 2021
Complete cob and natural building intensive
This workshop is full. Contact Conrad to add your name to the waiting list.
This includes all (vegetarian) meals, coffee and 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 and from Medford airport/bus terminal.
Maximum class size: 16 students
Click here for more general information on our workshops, hosting a workshop and evaluations from students.
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 will you 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 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.
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 at the House Alive homestead in Southern Oregon, 15 minutes away from the historic town of Jacksonville. Our site is dotted with a dozen or so cob cottages, garden walls, ovens, and also has a code approved strawbale/cob house. House Alive is located in the Siskiyou mountain range and has a mixed pine/oak/fir forest. The weather in July is usually sunny and warm and the evenings/nights are cool. occasionally it gets hot; rain is unlikely.
Delicious home-cooked meals are provided and will be vegetarian.
The House Alive homestead prides itself to many forms of appropriate technologies, many of which you will get to use and experiment with, including: solar cookers, earthen ovens, micro solar electricity, solar showers, rain water gathering, and much more.
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 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 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.
We welcome the participation of young ones. In past workshops they have always been a welcome addition to our group and have participated in the learning process at different levels, depending on their age and interest.
Children age 0-3 can come along for free,
ages 4-12 the fee is $450
ages 13-17 the fee is $700
Thank you for trusting us to teach you natural building.
Fill out the form and click "let's do this"
Click the "deposit" button at the bottom of this page to pay a deposit ($400 per person, non-refundable) in order to secure your spot.
(you will be able to pay with Paypal or a major credit/debit card. After you click "deposit" then click "pay with Paypal". You can then choose between "pay with PayPal" or "pay with debit/credit card")
Once we have received your payment, we will send you an email with more information on the workshop, such as what to bring, how to get there, etc. Also, In the early Spring of next year we will start mailing our book "House of Earth" to you, so you can read up on the stuff you are going to learn!
The balance of the workshop fee is due at the beginning of the workshop.
House Alive Covid-19 policy:
Everyone participates on their own risk. Covid-19 is highly contagious and can make you very sick, or even kill you.
Depending on the nature of the workshop and the state of affairs with covid at the time of the workshop, we may require that you:
1. wear a mask
2. practice social distancing
3. be tested before the workshop
4. self quarantine before the workshop
5. wear an n95 mask during plane travel.
We will inform you a month before the start of the workshop which of these precautions will be required during the workshop