Forging the Next Generation of Natural Designers and Builders

A lot of people agree that the current system is broken and in need of new solutions, whether it’s the educational system, government or how to obtain affordable, decent housing. Inspired by sites such as UnCollege, and alternative systems such as distance learning, mentoring, apprenticeships, WWOOF, internships and volunteering, I’m exploring how to create the next generation of natural designers and builders without incurring massive debt.

The current educational system turns out millions of students who can’t find jobs, even after spending years in the classroom and taking on enormous debt they may never be able to pay off. With insufficient job prospects, many students continue through the system to obtain graduate degrees and even more debt, and still can’t find meaningful work.

There are many ways to achieve success, whatever your definition of that word may be, as documented in books such as The Education of Millionaires that profiles dozens of successful business people who have no university education. I’m not saying a university education is bad, just pointing out the need for thinking outside the box.

From the UnCollege website: “UnCollege isn’t just an idea or a website. It’s a movement. It’s a lifestyle. We believe that college isn’t the only path to success. We empower students to hack their education through resources, writing, workshops, and community.”

Alternatives to conventional education such as the Thiel Foundation Fellows program are emerging to challenge current thinking. Are programs like this only for the exceptional or are they forerunners of a new educational paradigm?

In addition to the sad state of affairs in education, the current housing system is definitely broken – big time – even though affordable housing is a basic human right. For one, government regulatory bodies have been hijacked by big industry. This includes the use of various forms of building codes that were written by the steel, concrete, timber and insurance industries to maximize their profits. They don’t care a whit about affordable housing, homelessness or protecting the environment. No, these are the same industries that are largely to blame for the waste and destruction of the planet’s resources, and exploitation of workers.

It’s way paste time to unplug from the current unsustainable system and ways of thinking that got us into the mess we’re in. You can see the rising tide of anger in protests such as Occupy Wall Street. People are fed up and ready to face down the source of the problems. Let’s hope movements like this don’t get co-opted by those who caused the problems in the first place. That could easily happen due to the complexity of the problems.

So anyway, I don’t have a one size fits all solution (there probably isn’t one). Instead, I encourage students to forge their own educational/career path based on their needs, skills and interests. This is a new era. More from the UnCollege site: “Hacking your education means deciding how, where, and what you want to learn. Hacking your education means bending institutions to your reality. Hacking your education means making the most of the best years of your life. Hacking your education does not require dropping out of college. We believe that whether or not you attend college, success in the 21st century requires passion, hustle, and contrarianism.”

Perhaps this way of thinking could lead to a loosely knit group of natural builders who mentor and train students. It also could lead to new online courses and programs. Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts at strawhouses [at]

7 thoughts on “Forging the Next Generation of Natural Designers and Builders”

  1. I am genuinely pleased to glance at this web site posts which
    contains plenty of helpful information, thanks for providing these statistics.

  2. I like the idea definitely. I don’t know where you’ve come in your conclusions of doing this. Though you’d know more than me about what particularly is needed I assume that you would need land, material, and funding of some sort. I’d have to assume that you or another individual who’d teach would want to earn a certain amount to maintain their livelihood. And again I think you’d be more aware of what you need to properly teach so as far as in classroom, sitting down, and reading a book time I’m unaware of what you’d need and am unsure of how costly that would be. Assuming how ever that you would do a portion of any teaching in the field you could easily set up a cost sharing mechanism.

    Essentially in a college or vocational school as I understand it You pay this big portion to the school that pays the teachers salary, a small portion goes to administrative costs, and then a large portion goes to profit. This of course doesn’t include the entire cost of the education. The students then have to cover their costs (books and materials).

    Though more detail would need to be worked out a cost sharing system could be used. You control some of the costs yourself. You have the knowledge and you set the price for that knowledge to be shared. First you’d need to know exactly how much it’s going to cost you to share that knowledge and then you’d have to make a decision on how much you want to profit and if at all. These would be the initial costs to your students. Hands on teaching would require land and material. me I’m a private actor in this affair. I own a piece of land and do want a house built on it to live in but I haven’t the money to build a house due to the many issues that you are aware of. I give you use of the land to build a house for me. I or the students or both pay for your costs in getting to an lodging in the area were the house is to be built if this were significantly away from your area of residence. My absolute cost I share are all administrative costs of the project. (building permits and ect). The students would be responsible for your costs specifically or the price you’ve put on your knowledge, and their own lodging and upkeep. The land owner should have no adverse problem to allowing camping on their property, Room permitted and weather allowing of course.

    Material cost would be a shared responsibility between the land owner and the students (depending on the case and assuming you’d take on charitable cases) and hoping that most of the material would be obtainable there and most material could be come across in a fairly cheap manner (ReStores, thrift stores, easily recyclable material, and ect).

    But anyway such a system as this (though it may need to be worked on and refined) would cut alot of costs.

    • I’m just talking out loud in general terms to stimulate discussion. It’s highly unlikely I will be involved in lots of training since I live in the middle of nowhere. Plus, I’m totally happy doing what I’m doing — writing and designing houses. Other places are developing a good track record and are much more accessible and popular. Look for workshops and ‘barn raisings’ near you to minimize travel. Actually, you can learn everything you need by scouring the Internet and building one or more small structures. Earthbag building (and most natural building methods) are primarily hands-on skills. If you’ve done the basic research (Step-by-Step Earthbag Building and YouTube videos, everything will fall into place when you get out there are start stacking bags.

    • Absolutely. Public schools are more focused on developing obedient workers for the job force rather than teaching critical thinking. I’m convinced this is by design, not accidental.

  3. As a child, I would have rather just read books to gain knowledge than go through that individuality removal machine.

    Take history for example. We are supposed to learn from it. Yet my history books didn’t even mention that previous generations built their own houses. The closest it got was with a brief mention of Amish barn raising. It didn’t mention that the sacred Founding Fathers grew hemp. How are children supposed to learn from an incomplete and rewritten history? Why did we have to spend so much time on what amounts to fantasy and then get graded on it?

    In Math, we force kids to use paper notations and calculators to figure out answers instead of letting them develop the ability to do it all in their heads. The reasons teachers gave me when I was a little terror were:

    “Well if you make a mistake, it allows us to show you where you went wrong.”
    “It allows us to give you partial credit if you just have a minor mistake.”
    “It helps prove that you aren’t cheating.”

    This is what they said to me as I got the highest score in the class and finished first. I can only imagine what they are spouting now. They probably just call in the school police officer and drag the kid off.

    Then there was English class, the class where they taught you to plagiarize spelling definitions and then act surprised when you do it later on with essays. English isn’t a dead language like Latin nor does it have a government panel deciding changes like French. English is a constantly evolving language. A person doesn’t make an error in English with spelling or grammar; instead they are attempting to change the language itself. How educational institutes can assign a grade letter to it boggles my mind.

    Science class was one of the better classes out of the whole ordeal. Finally some useful knowledge to apply to the world. It is a shame most of us won’t be able to use that knowledge in the service economy our rulers want to create.


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