Interested in hosting an educational program on your site? We organize 3 month long internships, week long workshops, 5 day, 3 day and even 1 day workshops. The duration is dependent upon the client specific needs. Multi-day programs typically providing camping accommodations and sometimes provide food. Each program is designed custom to the client, site & climate specific needs. No two programs are exactly alike. Find more information below, including why we believe our mission is of importance!
Why build with earth and other natural materials?
Health – Modern buildings are toxic to both builders and inhabitants, creating chemical sensitivities and other environmental illnesses. It is no surprise at this point that cancers and respiratory problems are linked directly to manufactured building products. This products affect the workers creating them, builders on the job site and the inhabitants of the finished structures. Clay is known in fact to be curative, a healing material that has long been valued for its ability to absorb toxins. Earthen structures breathe gently and slowly, absorb airborne toxins and soak up and regulate humidity or dryness.
Psychological Well-Being – Highlighting the natural world in our buildings can stimulate our senses with the variety of patterns, shapes, textures, smells and sounds that our ancestors experiences with their building traditions. Studies have noted that right angles, flat surfaces, constant uniformity can actually trigger stress and nervous psychological responses.
Empowerment – Financial empowerment can come by using local materials, by building smaller and smarter and by providing alternative means to labor. It is possible to build an affordable natural structure but if you are paying for the labor then the cost is equivalent to conventional building. Natural building also empowers individuals to learn these techniques to be able to build your own structures; to take back that power and right to construct your home. Supporting the industrial building industries plays a huge role in our environmental crisis; finding our power to source locally and sustainably will help in starting to make wiser decisions about how we engage with the world around us.
Comfort – Thermal dynamics and indoor environmental quality is improved through natural building. Mechanical heating and cooling systems are expensive and can be toxic to our health. Earthen walls also provide great acoustics.
Tradition & Heritage – Most of us have ancestors that lived in a natural structure. There are still forty thousand cob buildings in Devon, England, Australia with its heritage of cob and adobe and China with ninety million earthen buildings. It is our heritage and through natural building we can reconnect with our ancestors through our homes.
Durability – Most conventional building materials have a shelf life. The modern house needs significant repairs within 30 years. Well designed earthen and natural structures could last significantly longer. Not to mention the added bonus that when they are old and decrepit most if not all of their materials could be designed to decompose back into the earth.
Environmental Impact – Building with more natural materials reduces the push for resource extraction and for industrial processing. It decreases pollution, deforestation, and energy use. The construction industry is a major cause of mining and industrial processing, with all their attendant pollution, ecological havoc, and social disruption. Although it is impossible to build a house with no environmental impact, it is our responsibility to minimize and localize the impact they have.
Our team strives to create custom designs to meet the needs of the client, site, climate and available resources. These designs strive to minimize our environmental impact and educate folks about these important practices.
What to know about hosting a Natural Building Program:
Our programs are designed to educate and empower people to learn the skills necessary to start their Natural Building journey. As a host, you will be supporting this education by offering a hands-on learning experience on the structure that you desire. The hands on learning will provide labor on the structure being built in exchange for camping space & facilities for the interns and intern facilitator. This labor should be viewed as partially offsetting the cost of labor on the project being built. It is not a full labor exchange as the project will take longer to complete than the actual intern program. It is a great way to support education and offset costs, making the structure more affordable. It is important to understand that interns are primarily there to learn new skills and gain experience, they are not to be viewed as “free labor.” Seeing people as free labor creates an impact on the energy of the worksite and could mentality create a work environment where participants start feeling exploited and lose motivation to continue building. Natural building is mentally and physically laborious and we want to create a supportive learning environment while providing the host with a beautiful creation built with many hands and happy spirits.
As part of the learning experience the facilitator and instructor will thoughtfully guide participants through the various stages of building. The participants will most likely be beginners which means they will not be experts. We will ensure that everything is structurally sound but depending on the project we may recommend hiring our design build crew for parts of the building construction to ensure quality craftsmanship. Recommended stages are; foundations, framing, roofing and finishes. Natural building wall systems, plasters, sculptural details, interior elements, etc. are easy to learn and require little to no previous skills. If the project is small, we may be able to get the bulk of the work completed with interns and if not we will be there to support you in knowing your options for how to complete the project to your liking. The Program Director will work with you to create a custom plan tailored for your specific needs and desires.
Difference between Conventional and Naturally Built Structures
The major difference between conventional and natural building is that we are building with materials that are typically in their natural or raw form. That comes with a variability factor. For example: soil dug from one location on the land will vary from another location. This will require testing to generate recipes for a cob mix or earthen plaster. Conventional building uses standardized products that have already completed testing to deliver the product to us. However, to keep those products standardized it comes with a price to our health and environment. Natural building is also dependant on the weather. An example would be how drying conditions have an effect on the timeframe of the project. It is important to know and understand that these variables are always changing. Builders and facilitators are always troubleshooting and working to come up with the best recipes for your climate specific, site specific and client specific design. Natural building mitigates our environmental impact by sourcing our materials as locally as possible in contrast to the conventional industries which build with materials brought a far distance to your structure.
General Information on the Cost of a Natural Built Structure
In general, the cost of our structures range from $80 sq. ft. to $120 sq. ft. for non permitted buildings under 120 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, or finish plastering. These phases are hard to estimate on a per square foot price because clients may choose inexpensive products or high end products. This price per square foot only takes into consideration the enclosed building shell with labor for: leveling coat plasters, rough electrical, rough plumbing, window installation, roof framing and sheathing.
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 $240 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, provide a healthier indoor environment, use natural materials, save on energy costs and of course, beautiful.
These estimated prices do not include earthworks, septic’s, well’s, PG&E hook up, or any solar power installation.
Ways to Make Your Natural Structure More Affordable:
We have worked hard to create a program that offers ample labor hours in exchange for hosting such a program but taking on such an endeavor still requires adequate financial backing. So here are some other ways to help offset costs.
- Consider doing most if not all of the materials resourcing yourself. This takes times and paying someone to do it can add up.
- Take time to plan and design the structure that you are wanting so consultations can be kept to a minimum and design decisions can be made faster.
- Build small. Depending on the structure, keeping the design small and simple will save a lot of time and money. Utilizing an intern program to get a structure built can be quite successful for a small non permitted structure.
- What materials may you have available on your site? Utilizing abundant and local resources can save money, just don’t forget the time it takes to harvest and process them.
- Workshops can also be facilitated to bring in extra hands for the bulky stages of work. However, the energy it takes to host can be demanding and unless you plan to teach the workshop yourself, you will have to hire the instructor who is experienced with these types of workshops. But also, the educational magic that happens at workshops are often priceless.
- Consider doing some of the work yourself. You may feel comfortable taking on some phases on your own, you have us to learn from while we are there. Please feel free to come learn with the interns at any point, this is a great opportunity for you as the host to join in on the magic.
If you are interested in developing a custom educational program for your project needs, please contact us! We look forward to working with you and appreciate your interest in supporting education and empowerment!