Natural Building Semester

Aprovecho’s Natural Building Semester includes the Sustainable Shelter Series, a seven week intensive covering home construction from the ground up, followed by a practicum where students put their new training into practice building confidence through experience with different natural building techniques.  Basic drafting and design classes are offered during a semester as well as sustainable livelihood training for the student considering a career as a designer/builder.  Students attending a semester are eligible for student financing.

Sustainable Shelter Series Curriculum

The Foundation: Stone, Concrete and Beyond

Every home needs a good set of boots.  Most conventional foundations use large amounts of portland cement, a high-embedded energy material contributing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Though covering the basics of concrete foundations, this class surveys many of the low-cement options available for the natural builder including rubble trench, stone, insulated concrete forms, gravel bags and more.

Working with Wood pt1: Timber Framing

Timber framing is a timeless tradition among the owner/builder.  In this class you will learn the craft of joining large timbers without the use of metal hardware.  Students will learn not only the craft of cutting timber frame joinery, but the important details necessary to properly layout joinery using both edge and center rule.

Working with Wood pt2: Light-Framing for the Natural Home

Building on the skills and experience of the previous week, this week covers the important framing techniques involved in light-framing.  Specifically, students will learn how to frame walls, windows and doors for straw clay, strawbale, hemp/lime, and slip and chip wall systems.

Inside Insulation: From Strawbale to Straw Clay

Insulation equals warmth.  In temperate climates like Oregon’s its necessary for your home to have a jacket in the winter (and to make sure its zipped!)  In this comparative workshop we will be covering the basics of Strawbale Construction, Light Clay Straw and Chip-Slip infill, as well as the types of framing and form work required for each system. We will also cover the more conventional green alternatives currently available to the home builder such as Cellulose and Wool.  In addition to techniques, be ready to discuss the meaning of ‘R-values’, infiltration, solar potential and thermal mass, and how we can make better use of these principles in our homes.

Round Pole Framing and Roof Systems

By using trees in their original form we not only celebrate the beauty of this natural form, but we reduce the amount of embedded energy in our shelter typically used to create square timbers.  During this week students will learn how to cut, peel and prepare round poles for construction as well as the techniques used to layout, scribe, and notch round poles for use in the home.

There are many roofing options for the builder.  During this week the class will cover the assembly and installation of metal roof and living roof systems – including the appropriate placement of flashing for roofs, windows and doors.

Natural Plasters and Finishes: The Craft of Lime and Clay

There was a time before drywall and latex paint when the owner/builder transformed vernacular materials, whether limestone or clay, into beautiful interior and exterior walls.  Come relearn the timeless craft of lime and clay plasters and paints.

As Clear As Mud: Earthen Floor Systems

Earthen floors are rapidly being recognized as a desirable, natural alternative to conventional floor systems.  Not only do they capture heat (or cool) increasing the energy efficiency of your home but they are pleasing to both the eye and the soles of your feet.  Come explore the potential of earthen floor systems with earthen floor master Sukita Crimmel.

More Info on the Natural Building Practicum