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Earth Building

Academy

Learn a wide range of natural building skills while fast-tracking your own projects

12-Week Online Program

Weekly Lectures & Hands-on Demos

Group Consultancies & Guest Speakers

Here's what is included at a glance

  • 30+ hours of pre-recorded lectures and hands-on demonstrations (12 modules) 

  • One 60 min lecture and one 60 min hands-on session per module, plus bonus material 

  • way more teaching content than our 5-day hands-on workshop (value $550) 

  • learn and implement directly on your own projects

  • weekly 60-90 minute LIVE group consultancy sessions (12 in total, value $900)

  • learn from other student's projects 

  • private facebook group until end of 2022 to get your questions answered (value $400) 

  • save money for travel and accommodation  

  • PDF handouts of all presentations and teaching notes (value $150)

  • join for live support/consultancy, study and implement in your own time  

  • lifetime access to course recordings (growing natural building video library) 

  • suitable for any level of previous natural building skills 



  •  Total teaching value of this 3-month program is $2000+


    Our price for 2021 is ONLY $570

  • The online Earth Building Academy is for you if...




    You want to finally get your own natural building project off the ground (and save time & money)

    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 - with success. 

    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!

    You are a building or permaculture professional and want to expand your natural building knowledge 

    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.

    You want to experience the satisfaction of crating your own healthy, beautiful living space on any budget

    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!

    The Detailed Program


    Our program has been created with our students in mind. It is our aim to cover many techniques and topics in quite some detail, and we have added more content since our inaugural class.

    Our main desire is to make this as relevant, practical and supportive of your own natural building journey as possible.

    Come prepared to learn lots, practice on your own projects, trouble-shoot if need be, and have FUN!

    Module 1: Introduction to Natural Building

    Lecture

    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

    Hands-on session

    Using local materials: Soil identification, simple material tests, sourcing materials locally, determining which earth building techniques are most suitable for your materials, trialing ratios for various mixes

    Module 2: Retrofitting with Natural Materials

    Lecture

    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.

    Hands-on session

    Demonstration of two non-load bearing techniques with different set-ups and material variations: Wattle-and-Daub (Quincha) and Light Earth Infill (LEM). Developing mixes, construction details, sequence of work and drying times, artistic play with form and texture.

    Module 3: Earth and Lime Based Natural Plasters

    Lecture

    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.

    Hands-on session

    Mixing and applying earthen and lime based plasters in several coats: Work steps, application techniques, tool and tricks of the trade.

    Module 4: Specialty Techniques - Tadelakt & Sgraffito

    Lecture

    Specialty techniques from various different cultures, theory of Tadelakt, sourcing materials for Tadelakt-like waterproof finishes, work steps for showers and planning murals with the Sgraffito technique.



    Hands-on session

    

    Demonstration of the work steps involved in creating Tadelakt surfaces and of a small Sgraffito project, discussion of tools and hacks. 

    Module 5: Natural Paints and Earthen Pigments

    Lecture

    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.

    Hands-on session

    Making natural paints and breathable sealants - clay paint, milk paint, lime wash, clear casein sealer. Demonstration of application techniques and artistic techniques such as Al Fresco painting.

    Bonus

    Preparing pigments from mineral sources to use in hand-made water colours and oil paints.

    Module 6: Earthen Floors and Natural Sealants

    Lecture

    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.

    Hands-on session

    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.

    Module 7: Design of load-bearing Earth Buildings

    Lecture

    Introduction to the design of load-bearing earth buildings in accordance with the NZ Earth Building Standards. Discussion of site requirements, structural design for earthquake and wind, design principles for durability and energy efficiency, including detailing and requirements for building consents. 

    Hands-on session

    Demonstration of bracing calculations step-by-step and the calculation of insulation values for walls of different densities and thicknesses. This is applicable to all earth walls, not just Adobe.

    Module 8: Adobe Brick Manufacture & Material Testing

    Lecture

    The Adobe Brick technique: A detailed look at this simple and versatile technique that can be used for both load-bearing and veneer walls. Options for manufacturing Adobe bricks, material testing, Adobe Construction and Light Adobe for improved thermal performance in colder climates

    Practice

    Demonstration of Adobe Brick making with both traditional and light mixes, mixing, yard set-up, drying, stacking and material testing (strength and durability) to comply with regulations.

    Module 9: Adobe Brick Construction & Site Logistics

    Lecture

    Adobe Construction: Adobe laying plan, vertical and horizontal reinforcing, details around windows, footings and top of walls, electrical conduits, efficient set-up of building site, laying patterns for different wall thicknesses, designing to module, allowing for settlement.

    Hands-on session

    Demonstration of Adobe Construction: efficient set-up, required tools, profiles, running string lines. How to make Adobe mortar, lay Adobe Bricks incl. installation of vertical and horizontal reinforcing, cut and drill bricks. Weather protection during construction, site safety.

    Module 10 : More on Adobe...

    Guest Lecture

    Prof. Gernot Minke "Vaults and Domes of Earth"

    Hands-on session

    Demonstration of installation of gringo blocks, window sills, conduits and flush boxes for power, top plate, wall tensioning.


    Week 11: Adobe Brick Veneer & Wall Finishes 

    Lecture

    Building Physics: Thermal and hygroscopic performance of Adobe bricks (and other earthen materials), thermal modelling, embodied carbon


    Hands-on session

    

    Demonstration of the safe installation of Adobe veneer bricks for interior thermal mass, as well as adjoining work and the hand-rub method for a simple and beautiful wall finish.

    Module 12: Cob Construction & Choosing Techniques

    Lecture

    Discussion about considerations when choosing earth building techniques suited to specific conditions, resources and logistical needs. 


    Hands-on session

    

    Demonstration of our take on cob construction, unlocking possibilities for free-form building and the restoration of historic earth buildings

    MEET THE TEAM

    VERENA MAEDER

    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.

    SCOTT DAVIDSON

    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.

    What previous students say...

    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

    This course really added to my earth building knowledge and set me on track to experiment more and start my own project.

    REEM HILAL, LEBANON.

    This was my first learning experience on zoom and I very much enjoyed being with a group of people worldwide. I love your teaching style. You are a genuine and very experienced teacher. The sessions were well structured and presented, and I look forward to sharing progress on our buildings this year.

    YVONNE, NEW ZEALAND.

    Earth Building Academy was excellent! Verena and her team are steeped in knowledge and experience on the subject. My fellow attendees were architects, building professionals and self-builders. The content and delivery adeptly catered to all of us. Whatever your reason for considering this type of course, the Earthbuilding School offers exceptionally good quality at a very reasonable price.

     JACQUES, SPAIN

    I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all your efforts putting together such a fantastic learning experience, during a different time. Your online workshop has focused 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. 

    F A Q

    + How does a practical thing like this work online?

    We are convinced that there is huge scope for people to fast track their natural building skills, by learning hands-on with our guidance, on their own earth building projects. Our first round of Earth Building Academy earlier in 2021 was a great success and proof that it is possible to teach very tactile skills like getting "the feel" for materials and different earth building techniques online. It is an enriching experience having people come together, be able to draw from a wealth of experiences and learn to work with many different local materials - all over the world!  

    + What are the course and call dates exactly?

    This program will run LIVE from 6 September to 12 December 2021. We will remain active in the Facebook group for all of 2022, to give students lots of support for their own projects.


    New content will be released on Monday each week for you to watch in your own time.

    Live calls will be happening once a week - on Thursdays in New Zealand. We will alternate between a morning and an evening call time - to accommodate students in different time zones.

     

    We will adjust the call times so that they are suitable for as many participants as possible. There are two one week breaks to allow for integration: One after Module 4 and one after Module 8.


    The group call dates are:


    Module 1: 9 September 2021

    Module 2: 16 September 2021

    Module 3: 23 September 2021

    Module 4: 30 September 2021

    Module 5: 14 October 2021

    Module 6: 21 October 2021

    Module 7: 28 October 2021

    Module 8: 4 November 2021

    Module 9: 18 November 2021

    Module 10: 25 November 2021

    Module 11: 2 December 2021

    Module 12: 9 December 2021


    + Why learn from this school?

    With over 200+ completed projects since 2002 and many years of teaching experience in NZ and abroad, we are one of the most experienced natural building companies and the longest standing Adobe Brick manufacturer in New Zealand. We have been running many popular hands-on workshops for nearly two decades, and web-based tuition feels like a natural progression. 

    

    Our focus is on creating beautiful, healthy living spaces that have minimal environmental footprint. We take pride in our state-of-the-art workmanship, extensive research and innovation in the field, as well as our contribution towards the NZ Earth Building Standards. We believe that natural building is the way of the future. Our company is dedicated to regenerative environmental practices, ethical employment, heart-centered leadership and community. 

    + Do you offer scholarships?

    Yes, we offer a limited number of full scholarships (the number will depend on how many paying people sign up).

    We would like to reserve scholarships for BIPOC, young people and students from countries with weaker economies/currencies and at the frontline of climate change.

    We will give preference to students who would like to deepen their knowledge in natural building to bring it to their wider community or who are involved in social and environmental projects. We require applicants to be active participants in the Academy.


    If this is something you would like to apply for, please email us and tell us a bit about yourself and why you want to take part in Earth Building Academy.    [email protected]

    + Do you offer refunds?

    This program encompasses most of our knowledge about earth building. The only thing we can't fast track for you is actual hands-on experience - that will come with practice. We put a lot of effort into this and are making it available at a reasonable price, because we genuinely want to empower people to move ahead on their earth building journey. The world needs an earth building revival!


    We do not offer refunds, as we trust that if you are interested in earth building, you will get a ton of value from this program.

    + How long will I have access to the content?

    All class recordings and materials are stored on our course platform, for you to access anytime. You will have lifetime access to all the content. There is no time like now, so we hope you are ready to get started!

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