Online Learning with the Earth Building Academy

The Earth Building Academy is offering a new three month round of online courses starting February 20th. This includes: 30+ hours of pre-recorded lectures and hands-on demonstrations, which you can implement directly on your own projects; weekly 60-90 minute live group calls for Q&A’s and consultancy; 2 live hands-on workshops via zoom where you can learn from other student’s projects; a private facebook group until end of 2023 to get your questions answered; PDF handouts of presentations and teaching notes; lifetime access to the course (including all future updates and expansions).

It is suitable for any level of previous natural building skills. You can join for live support/consultancy, while study and implement in your own time. Here is what the program entails:

Module 1: Introduction to Natural Building

Lecture: A 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 three non-load bearing techniques: Wattle-and-Daub (Quincha), Light Earth Infill (LEM) and Interior Adobe Brick Veneer, materials and workmanship, 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, specialty techniques such as Sgraffito and Tadelakt.

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 Sealants

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 sealants – clay paint, milk paint, lime wash, clear casein sealer, floor hardening oil and bee’s wax polish, linseed oil paint, etc. Demonstration of application techniques and artistic techniques such as Al Fresco painting.

Module 6: Earthen Floors

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 and 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 – Efficient set-up of building site, material logistics, laying patterns for different wall thicknesses, designing to module, allowing for settlement, drying and weather protection during construction.

Hands-on session: Demonstration of building site set-up – required tools, profiles, running stringlines. How to make Adobe mortar, lay Adobe Bricks incl. installation of vertical and horizontal reinforcing, cut and drill bricks. 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.

Module 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

You can sign up for this online course or find out more about it at the Earth Building Academy

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