Natural Living Design & Build,” is the full service design, construction, and consultation division of the Natural Living School (NLS).   We not only help our clients conceptualize beautiful designs for their homes and structures, we also guide them every step of the way.  We help manifest their dream of building a sustainable, one of a kind natural cottage that are works of art.

The NLS acts as a consultant to the home owner which pulls the permits as owner built.  The NLS helps in the design, blue prints, and budget for the project.  The NLS lines out the subcontractors and volunteer, to create a professional and educational environment for the project.  The home owner will need to have new construction building insurance, workers compensation, and pay payroll taxes for any employee working under the home owner without a contractors license.  The NLS can help manage these tasks, and work directly under the homeowner as a project manager.  The NLS will make sure all participants and builders are insured, licensed, and bonded.   

The NLS works with licensed contractors that have an extensive amount of experience in natural building, conventional construction, and remodeling.    The NLS has developed a unique way to build natural architecture, capable of passing county and state building codes.  Our many years of experience working with engineers and building officials have given us the assurance needed to help home owners realize their aspirations of living in a beautiful natural structure in main stream America.


The Natural Living Design & Build team, will provide you with a full set of blue prints custom to your specifications.  We will have the plans engineered and ready for you to present to your county’s building department.  We will work with you to create a budget, and act as your building manager for every step of the way in the construction of the natural structure.

Our buildings are constructed to be self-sufficient, utilizing passive solar heating and solar power, harvesting rain water, and can be designed with a permaculture garden around the home for self-sustainability.  If the homeowner has the land space and the desire, we can also create a Woofers camp, with an outdoor kitchen, shower house, and composting toilets, to help the homeowner with spring, summer, and fall gardening.  Our designs can be expanded into creating a homestead, and even an eco-village.


There is no project to big or to small, because the Natural Living School is always looking for ways to share these beautiful techniques with their students and community.  Every project will have a crew of students that work alongside our experienced builders.  These students join the school for a minimum of one month and up to four years.  The interns in their 1st year serve as volunteers on the crew.  They work alongside the staff helping keep things organized and making sure everything is running smoothly.  The 2nd year students are journeymen in training, they are paid by on going projects.  They work with the tradesmen as assistants, and they manage the interns.  The staff hand picks these participants, and their pay is approved by our clients to assure they are getting a qualified candidate working on their project.  The 3rd year students, the foremen in training, and the 4th year’s, the generals in training, have more experience and therefore they are part of the staff.  These participants will be hand picked by the the Director and will be approved by the clients.  Their hourly rate will be set by the Director and the clients based on their experience and capabilities.  There will be limited space for these positions.  They will work under a licensed contractor. 


In general, the cost of our structures range from $80 sq. ft. for none permitted building under 140 sq. ft to $180 per sq. ft. for permitted custom homes.  The estimate of $180 per square foot does not include finishes like: Light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, cabinets,  counter tops, flooring, tile, windows, roofing, roofing insulation, or finish plastering.  It also does not include engineering, blue prints, septic, PG&E or solar, earthworks, or fire sprinkler engineering and installation.  It is to hard to estimate on a per square foot price and include these items. Clients can choose inexpensive products or high end products, different plans require different engineering and energy calc’s, fire sprinkler will depend on design of the house, and different sites require more or less earthworks. Estimating for septic, PG&E or solar, is almost impossible on a per square foot price. The $180 price per square foot covers the following items:  Ruble trench foundation, concrete stem wall, framing the house, framing and sheathing the roof, rough electrical, rough plumbing, straw bale and cob infill, leveling coat, interior wall infill, and scratch coat plaster for the exterior and interior. 

The square foot price can go up or down depending on the finishes chosen (windows, cabinets, flooring, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc.) in most cases not exceeding $200 per square foot for mid range finishes, and up to $300 per square feet for high end finishes.   This price is almost exactly the same as conventional buildings, except our natural structures are one of a kind, built with love and care. They are non toxic, breathable, and healthier for the people living in the buildings and the environment.  




The application and process for new clients:

If you are interested in building a natural structure on your land, or retro-fitting your current home with natural materials, please take a moment and read the following questions in step 1 and review the corresponding steps to familiarize yourself with the building process.  After you have read it completely, the application process is really simple.  Just answer the following questions and email it back to us at  Once we review your answers, then we will call you and set up an appointment to meet.


STEP 1: 

1. Where will the structure be located?

2.  Why would you like to build a natural structure?

3.  Is the structure you are interested in for you and your family or for someone else, such as a caretaker, a renter, or a family member?

4. If the structure is not for someone to live in, what is its intended use?

5. Do you have an idea as to the size of the building?

6. Would you like to build the structure to code?  In other words, would you want to permit the structure?  All habitable structures must be permitted.  Only non habitable structures under 140 sq. ft. would not need to be permitted.  

7. Do you have the finances in place to be able to pay for the structure? 

8.  Do you have a time line in terms of when you would like this building to start/finish?

9.  What is a good phone number to reach you, and a good time to call? 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.  Please copy and paste these questions into your email with your complete answers.  Then email it back to us, along with a phone number and a good time to call you.  Once we talk, and get clear on the project, then we can meet where you would like to build.  Once all parties are clear and ready to move forward, the Natural Living School will require a $3000 deposit, along with a signed deposit agreement clearly spelling out the preliminary steps before the building process starts. 

Deposit Agreement

The $3000 deposit will cover 3 one hour design consultations, 16 hours to draw the initial plans that will be submitted to the engineer, and 6 hours for corrections that the engineer normally requires.  It will also cover the following scope of work.

1.  Provide 2 complete set of plans wet stamped by the engineer, for the county building department, (engineer fees, and county fees, to be paid by homeowner).   

2.  Make any corrections that the county may require of the drawings. 

3.  Create a workflow schedule with a complete set of itemized expenses.  This schedule will be broken down into building phases.

4.  Obtain bids for any sub-contracting work needed to complete the natural building. This information will be reviewed by the homeowner and the director, to secure the best price, and schedule the sub-contractors. 

5.  The Natural Living School will provide a detailed expense report every week.  All receipts for materials and paid labor will be included in this report.  

If the scope of work takes longer than estimated, and the $3000 deposit has been exhausted, then the Natural Living School will bill the homeowner hourly at $50 per hour for any and all work relevant to the project.  The Natural Living School will not do work until the homeowner authorizes the expenses that may follow the scope of work beyond the initial deposit.   This process can take 3 to 5 weeks, depending on the the size of the structure and the scope of the work. 


Once the plans have been submitted to the engineer, they will give us an estimate to engineer the building.  We have engineers that we work with who understand our unique methods of building.  The engineer requires two payments, usually 1/2 down, and the other 1/2 after its been completed.  The engineer usually has recommendations and changes to the drawings.  After these corrections are done, and resubmitted to the engineer, they will stamp the plans, and send us their calculations.  At which point the plans will be ready to be submitted to the building department, or kept safely until that time comes.  This process can take 3 to 6 weeks depending on how busy the engineer is. 

STEP 3: 

After the plans are completed and stamped by the engineer, the county will review the plans and usually require several corrections.  These corrections will be billed at $50 per hour, and completed as fast as possible.    We will also sign another contract that will cover in detail the scope of the construction and clearly state what aspects of the building project will be handled by the owner, and by the Natural Living Design and Build team.     This process can take 6 to 10 weeks, depending on how busy the building department is. 


Once the building permit is opened, we will be ready to follow the estimated budget.  This budget will be used to follow the work flow of each building phase.  Before each phase of the construction process begins, the Natural Living Design & Build Team will require a 50% deposit, to secure materials and pay the sub-contractors.  When this deposit in exhausted, the remaining balance will be due.  As stated in the deposit agreement, the home owner will receive a detailed expense report every week.  If the estimate is low, the balance will be added to the proceeding bill, or if there is a credit, it will be deducted from the next phase.  This deposit will be required before work can begin. 

We really appreciate the opportunity to work with you.  We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Pablo Loayza

Director of the Natural Living School


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