2013 Natural Building Project and Workshops

Join us this summer, and learn how you can build your own natural building, practice yoga, meditation, and feed your spirit. Workshop participants will get hands on experience with rock-bag foundations, making cob, building a cob bond beam, building bale cob walls, timber framing, installing an earthen roof, and working with earth plasters.  We will learn through discussion about rubble trench foundations, concrete tie beams, earthen floors, and give a quick overview on electrical, plumbing, solar water heating, and grey water harvesting.  You will also learn how to use some essential permaculture design principles to create your own food garden.  Our workshop participants will gain an in depth understanding of the natural building process, and experience the benefits of daily yoga and meditation.   

The  workshop participants will be working on the cottage pictured above in small segments, in a way that allows them to experience all aspects of the building process.  Since our workshops are condensed into 6 days, our schedule will be very full.

  • Sunday- Arrive after lunch, get tents set up, join us for a meditation class, and participate in the afternoon yoga and meditation.  After dinner, we will have our orientation.  
  • Monday – Foundations
  • Tuesday – Cob wall systems
  • Wednesday – Timber framing
  • Thursday – Roof systems
  • Friday – Permaculture and earth plaster
  • Saturday- After breakfast we will have our final question and answer.

Each day will begin with yoga and meditation, followed by an informative discussion of the day’s topic, and will end with an evening question and answer session.  We will end our week with a pizza party in downtown Ananda Village, at Masters Market.  

LWS Cobing


As part of the workshop, you will enjoy camping at the Expanding Light, the yoga and meditation retreat at Ananda Village, a drug and substance free environment.

By signing up for our workshop, you will be named on our website as part of the 2013 Natural Building Team and receive an electronic copy of The Natural Living Journal, covering in detail every step of the natural building process. Your support will help make this year’s building a reality.

LW Group Bale Cobing

2013 Building with Spirit Workshops

June 2nd-8th -A 6 day intensive natural building experience .

  • $565 This includes a campsite, 3 vegetarian meals per day, and all the added benefits mentioned above.

Aug. 11th-17th– A 6 day intensive natural building experience.

  • $565   This includes a campsite, 3 vegetarian meals per day, and all the added benefits mentioned above.

Sep 22nd- Sep 28th– A 6 day intensive natural building experience .

  • $565 This includes a campsite, 3 vegetarian meals per day, and all the added benefits mentioned above. 


Please phone 1-800-346-5350 to reserve your space.

More About The Project

The cottage will be built affordably, and to code. We believe that everyone has a right to affordable housing, and to be able to build in a sustainable way, limiting the destruction of our natural resources, and limiting the large amount of waste that is often produced in conventional building.

In most counties around the country you are allowed to build a timber-framed house with straw bale walls and use earthen plasters, as long as the building has been engineered. We have found an amazing engineer that works with natural materials and can help us engineer a structure that can be built simply and affordably using materials from the land.

The cottage will be built using round wood timbers to frame the entire structure, including the roof. Then we will infill the walls using cob and straw bales to create a natural, non-toxic, breathable, highly insulated wall system. There will be natural plasters, an earthen floor, and it will have sustainable heating and cooling methods to work with nature, rather than against it. This structure can be built with a basic understanding of natural building, and yes even you can do it.


2013 Building Season, Phase 1

The Goal for the 2013 building season is to timber frame the entire structure, roof it completely, and then only enclose the walls in the red section, as illustrated on the above floor plan.  Phase two will be to infill the rest of the walls in the blue section during the 2014 summer building season.

Flexible Design

Anyone interested in duplicating the original structure, could construct the red section only, which is about 500 sq ft. This structure could stand alone as a cozy cottage, or could be added on to later.  The main room could be used for the living room and kitchen, with a sleeping loft above the bathroom and closet.  Later, if more space is needed, one could add on the blue section from the original floor plan.

If you are interested in being a part of the 2013 building team please contact us.


This Year’s Natural Building

The idea of this year’s natural building project hatched many, many months ago.  Since then we have been working tirelessly as a group to finalize the design, so we can start building this season.

We first started with the idea of building a cluster of detached bedrooms with a shared bathhouse and a separate common building with a kitchen, dinning room, and lounge.

The idea was to build in phases, first starting out with the bathhouse. as shown below.

The Bathhouse included 3 showers, and 4 bathrooms, (Drawing created in Google sketchup)

We went to the county planning office to see if we could do this, and they said, “no.” The main building has to be attached to the bathrooms and the bedrooms, otherwise they would each be considered separate dwellings, which we couldn’t do on this particular parcel of land.

So we all went back to the drawing board and came up with a design for an organic shaped community building that could be built in phases, but then there were some concerns about the roundness.  The reason argued against a rounded building was that cabinets and furniture would be harder to fit, and would need to be custom made.  Also squaring off the corners increases the square footage and makes it more affordable to pour a concrete stem wall, which will be required when building to code.

One of the second generation designs, you can see the squaring starting to come forth.

These are all valid reasons, but from our experience a well designed organic shaped building feels bigger and is more functional. Especially if the custom cabinets, built in’s, and furniture are designed to optimize the available space.  It was also suggested that we use prefabricated conventional building materials, like trusses, plywood, and sheetrock, to speed up the construction and make it easier to budget the costs.

Third generation design, the squaring off is more prevalent

In the end, we had to pick our battles and decided to focus on using as much natural materials as possible and compromise on a more conventional shaped building.  After all, who would want to come and learn how to build a standard conventional building with some straw and cob here and there.  Not us!

After many discussions and drawings we were able to collaborate on a design for the community living space that works for everyone.

Hopefully in future building projects we can find opportunities to demonstrate the practicality, beauty, and benefits of building with more organic shapes.  For now, we are excited to be creating a beautiful building with roundwood timbers from the land, strawbales from the valley, and clay from the building site.

The next step was to find an engineer that works with natural materials.  I contacted SunRay Kelly, one of the most renowned natural builders on the west coast, and asked him who he uses?  Bonny his partner, gave us a name, Jennifer Anthony, with Fearless Engineers.  She specializes in working with natural builders, and has been great to work with.

She has been helping us with the structural aspects of the building, as required by our building department.   Here are some of the newest drawings, sketched by Alex Forrester, the master planner for the Ananda Village, and our number one supporter.

The above drawing is an illustration of a schematic plan view from the top.  Most of us can’t do a drawing like this, so if you want to build to code, I highly suggest that you work with an architect, or an engineer that can also do drawings.  The Natural Living School will show you how to illustrate your ideas so a professional can covert them into data that the county will accept.

For me, one of the many things that will make this building exciting to work on is the timber framing.  We will be using beautiful oak trees to create the curved crooks that will be holding up the ridge beam.  All of the timber framing will be exposed either to the inside or the outside, and will include red cedar, doug fir, and black oak trees.

We will also be using milled lumber for the purlins, sheathing, and tung and grove ceiling.  The above drawing shows the high roof framing for the great room. This room will be the main dinning area and also be used for yoga, music, and educational talks.

The above drawing shows the framing for the west side, which is similar to the east side.  They are the two lower roof sections on the plan drawing.  The kitchen will be on the east side, and the lounge will be on the west side.  The north will have the bathrooms, storage areas, and possibly bedrooms.

The sketchup drawing above is an example of the high roof section with the two lower roofs on the wings.  The high roof will actually be lower than in the image.

We are now in the process of redesigning the interior of the building to make accommodations for a communal kitchen, dining room, lounge, and bathrooms.  The building is called Hyranyaloka, which comes from the “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa Yogananda.

Stay tuned, we will update you as the approval process continues.

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