Here's what is included at a glance
30+ hours of lectures and hands-on demonstrations
One 90 minute lecture and one 90 minute hands-on session a week (incl. Q&A)
more teaching content than our 5-day summer workshop
learn and implement directly on your own projects
10 live 60 minute group consultancy sessions
learn from other student's projects
private facebook group to share and get your questions answered
save money for travel and accommodation
PDF handouts of all presentations and teaching notes
join live and study/implement in your own time
keep the session recordings for your natural building video library
suitable for any level of previous natural building skills
Many people attend our hands-on workshops because they want to build their own place or retrofit an existing home with natural materials.
While a week's in-person immersion in our work is a great experience, we have always felt it also has its drawbacks... It might not be straight forward to get home and actually get started with your own local materials.
You might have thought about a natural building project for a while, you are researching things online, but you are not gaining as much traction as you would like.
This program is for you if you want clear guidance on a wide range of natural building options, and support putting it into practice straight on your own project.
You will enjoy an extended period of time where you have close support as well as boosted motivation and focus to make it happen.
Our experience will save you from having to learn things the hard way or getting overwhelmed by the many different approaches you find in books and online. We like simple and good quality!
We regularly consult with building professionals, regulators and have been invited to teach the Natural Building component of various PDCs.
We find there is a bit of outdated information floating around that doesn't support firmly moving natural building into the spotlight it deserves.
Clients often think it is too hard or takes too long, it is too "rustic", too expensive, dirty, not durable enough, doesn't perform well in earthquakes - and the list goes on...
Earth can be a state-of-the-art building material. We are fortunate to be world leaders in NZ when it comes to building regulations covering natural materials and have extensive experience in their good performance in extreme conditions such as wind-driven rain and earthquakes.
This program is designed to cater for participants of different skill levels, and definitely is also aimed at design and building professionals.
If you are a building or permaculture professional you will benefit from learning alongside novices, because you will gain an understanding of how to convey the material in an easy and practical way.
There is nothing quite like being able to say "I built my own home using local materials!" or "I renovated my flat at minimal cost - and it now is healthier and way more beautiful than before!"
Building is a skill that will stay with you for life and comes in very handy. While carpentry requires more training, natural building techniques such as making and laying adobe bricks, applying natural plasters over a range of substrates, or making your own earthen floor can be learned relatively easily, especially with a bit of initial hand-holding.
In this program we cover a wide range of techniques you can use both in small retrofit projects or to build an entire house.
We want to ignite your passion for natural building materials, and give you the confidence to get into your own creative projects straight away.
Our times call for solutions to big problems such as climate change, unhealthy buildings and skyrocketing home prices. We want to empower you to tap into a win-win solution with your building projects:
Good for the planet - good for the people!
Our program will be co-created with you. It is our aim to cover many techniques and topics in quite some detail.
Come prepared to learn lots, practice on your own projects, trouble-shoot if need be, and above all - have a ton of FUN!
Short introduction to Earth and Natural Building - Different building techniques using natural materials, advantages and limitations of the building material earth, earth building from a Building Biology/Ecology (BBE) perspective
Using local materials - Soil identification, simple material tests, sourcing materials locally, determining which earth building techniques are most suitable for your materials, trialling ratios for various mixes
Retrofitting with Natural Materials - Options for non-load bearing walls and wall surfaces, when using earth as thermal mass material, for sound proofing, to regulate indoor humidity and to beautify your living spaces
Demonstration of three non-load bearing techniques: Wattle-and-Daub (Quincha), Light Earth Infill (LEM) and Interior Adobe Brick Veneer, materials and workmanship, construction details, sequence of work and drying times, artistic play with form and texture.
Introduction to Natural Plasters - Using earth and lime to create stunning, durable and well detailed solid plaster coatings over a variety of substrates. Binders, aggregates, mix ratios, structure and tools.
Mixing and applying earthen and lime based plasters in several coats - Work steps, application techniques, tool and tricks of the trade, specialty techniques such as Sgraffito and Tadelakt.
Natural Paints and Sealants - History or natural paints, environmental and health impacts of paints and sealants, earthen pigments, time-tested proven recipes, traditional painting techniques such as Alis and Al Fresco.
Making natural paints and sealants - clay paint, milk paint, lime wash, clear casein sealer, floor hardening oil and bee's wax polish, linseed oil paint, etc. Demonstration of application techniques and artistic techniques such as Al Fresco painting.
Earthen Floors - Detailing and construction of poured earth and Adobe tile floors, testing mixes, making floor tiles and mortar. How to finish your earthen floor, tips on maintenance.
Demonstration of Adobe tile making, laying Adobe tiles, making different mixes for poured earth floors, work steps, finishing earthen floors with hardening oil and bee's wax polish.
Introduction to various load-bearing Earthen Wall Systems - Adobe brick, rammed earth and cob. Advantages and limitations of each technique to make an informed choice about which technique is suitable depending on local materials, skills, building logistics and budget.
Demonstration of cob, rammed earth and adobe brick technique.
Design of Earth Buildings - Site requirements, structural design for wind and earthquake, constructive weather protection, durability and energy efficiency of earthen buildings, introduction to material testing.
Bracing demand calculation, brick count and calculating insulation values of various mixes.
The Adobe brick technique - A detailed look at a very versatile and simple building technique that can be used for both load-bearing and veneer walls. Options for manufacturing Adobe bricks, material testing, Light Adobe for improved thermal performance.
Demonstration of Adobe brick making using both traditional and light mixes, mixing and yard set-up, drying, stacking, material testing (strength and durability) to comply with regulations.
Adobe Construction - Efficient set-up of building site, material logistics, laying patterns for different wall thicknesses, designing to module, allowing for settlement, drying and weather protection during construction.
Demonstration of building site set-up - required tools, profiles, running stringlines. How to make Adobe mortar, lay Adobe Bricks incl. installation of vertical and horizontal reinforcing, cut and drill bricks. Site Safety.
Construction Details - Installation of windows and doors (including flashings and window sills), running power, installing power points, top plates and wall-to-roof connections, plumbing in earthen buildings, adjoining work and options for wall-finishing.
Demonstration of installation of gringo blocks, window sills, conduits and flush boxes for power, top plate, wall tensioning, as well as adjoining work and the hand-rub method for a simple and beautiful finish (including application of breathable sealer)
I am an earth building artisan with 28 years of experience and have been a driving force in natural building in NZ since 2002.
To date I have carried out over 200 building projects, ranging from pizza ovens to entire homes. In 2006 I designed and we built our own passive solar eco house.
I am trained in Architecture as well as Building Biology and Ecology (BBE) in Switzerland, where I have done extensive research on earth building and have written a paper on the health aspects of earth as a building material.
From 2007-2014 I was the chairwoman of the Earth Building Association NZ. I was part of the committee in charge of the revision of the NZ Earth Building Standards.
In 2017 I was awarded "Tradeswoman of the Year" by the National Association of Women in Construction.
I learned about earth building 15 years ago when I met Verena. Before going into natural building, I have worked both as a landscaper and a carpenter for many years, here in NZ and overseas.
I am a creative person with attention to quality and detail. I love the flexibility of earth building and how it can be organic as well as very modern in its style. I feel excited by the creative potential of natural building materials and love working with earth, stone, timber, lime and straw.
The focus of my work is on making high-quality, healthy building, using locally sourced materials that have a low carbon footprint, accessible to a as many people as possible.
Earth building comes naturally to me because it is a bit like cooking, and I am an awesome cook who never follows a recipe and likes experimenting.
We opted for building an adobe house after weighing up various earth-building options. Verena was invaluable in our building process – very responsive to our many questions and really knowledgeable. Verena’s experience in building and design meant that the support she gave us online was fantastic for our confidence. She brings a ‘down-to-earth’, well-informed, and good-humoured approach firmly grounded in principles of sustainability and we would highly recommend her to anyone considering building in adobe..
LEIGH HARRINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all your efforts putting together such a fantastic learning experience, during a different time. I have always wanted to build a cob pizza oven and never made it happen. Your online workshop has focussed us and we had a lot of fun. It also stoked my passion and love for natural building again. Although we were not ready to build in real time, we finished the oven a few days later. Thank you once again, it was really great! I am so glad we found out about this course.
TOM SCHNEIDER, AUSTRALIA.