Ready to get your hands dirty and learn what it takes to actually build a sustainable home? Turns out you don't have to go back to school and get another degree to get hands-on experience in green building. There are tons of courses around the US led by experts that want to teach you all about straw bale building, cob homes, earth bag construction, earthships, renewable energy installation and much, much more. We've rounded up some institutes and organizations that are offering up a variety of natural-building workshops this fall and beyond!
If in general you’re looking for some good, natural building workshops to learn about a variety of techniques, designs and options, check out the workshops provided by EcoNest in Ashland, Oregon and the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA. EcoNest specializes in clay, timber and straw and has a variety of workshops in both their Ashland and Vancouver Island, BC locations. The Solar Living Institute has long been considered in expert in solar energy and natural building and continues to offer up sustainable living workshops in and around the Bay Area.
Straw Bale Building Workshops
If you’re looking specifically to learn more about building with straw bale, there are a number of organizations that teach the principles of this technique. First up is the California Strawbuilding Association which hosts an annual conference in the spring. They will also open a 3-day Strawbale Building Basics Workshop this October in Woodland, CA for $325. Andrew Morrison offers a series of straw bale how-tos and hands-on 7-day workshops around the country with upcoming classes in Meadeville, PA and Sacramento, CA this fall.
Cob House Workshops
Cob houses are built from straw, mud and other natural materials like timber and plaster. Learning hands-on with a knowledgeable instructor is key to getting the recipe right. An impressive list of cob and natural building workshops can be found at CobWorkshops.org. Otherwise, check out the offerings of the Barefoot Builder—they are hosting a 2-week workshop starting in September in Woodbury, Tennessee. The Cob Cottage and their associates also offer up a variety of workshops related to cob construction around the country.
Earthbag homes were pioneered by architect Nader Khalili and Cal-Earth Institute and you can enroll in a workshop to learn from the masters on how to build Superadobe houses. Two, one-week Superadobe workshops will happen this fall for $1600. Mother Earth Buildings will also offer a combo earthbag and straw bale workshop this month in Berne, New York.
Earthship House Workshops
Earthship houses are an amazing combination of reclaimed materials and earth to make super efficient and sustainable homes that have a deep connection with the environment. The techniques and strategies were developed by Michael Reynolds and his group Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico. There is no better place to learn about Earthships than here, and they regularly hold seminars and workshops at their Taos headquarters.
Rammed Earth Workshops
Rammed earth walls provide excellent thermal mass and utilize the earth right from the site, but it takes experience to make sure the walls are constructed properly. British Colombia-based SIREWALL offers up 2-day workshops on Salt Springs Island, BC. Meanwhile, Rammed Earth Solar Homes hosts 3-day workshops at their headquarters in Oracle, AZ.
Tiny House Workshops
Obsessed with having your very own tiny home? You can build your own with Jay Schafer, who helped start the tiny home movement. Through his new company Four Lights Houses, Schafer is offering 2-day tiny house workshops around the country this fall. Portland Alternative Dwellings also hosts tiny house workshops in Portland, OR.
Renewable Energy Workshops
For those wanting to learn how to incorporate renewable energy into their construction or their own home, there are a number of institutes who provide renewable energy education. Whether you’re looking to become a certified installer, a designer who needs more education, or a DIY-er wanting to reduce your grid dependence, there are a variety of courses out there to fit your needs. Find online and hands-on courses at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA; Solar Energy International in Paonia, CO; the Evergreen Institute in Gerald, MO; or Boston Architectural College.