The Earth Building Academy in New Zealand

Verena Maeder is an earth building artisan with 32 years experience constructing earth buildings. She first fell in love with natural building as a teenager, but because of the lack of formal training opportunities in this field she decided to pursue an education in architecture as well as building biology and ecology.

In 2002 she took on the adobe manufacturer Solid Earth and has since built this up to be one of the leading natural construction providers in New Zealand. In 2006 she designed and built her own 2-storey hybrid earth and timber home. Now she has completed over 200 building projects. Working with her hands instead of carrying out desk-based design work is a lifestyle choice for her. From 2007-2014 she was the chairwoman of the Earth Building Association of New Zealand.

For the past 20 years she has been teaching students in NZ and abroad, and is now taking her teaching work online to reach a wider audience. She takes a holistic approach to building and teaching, acknowledging that the health of our bodies and the body of the Earth are intimately connected.

Scott Davidson learned about earth building 17 years ago when he met Verena. He has worked both as a landscaper and a carpenter for many years. Scott loves the flexibility of earth building and how it can be organic as well as very modern in its style. He is excited by the creative potential of natural building materials and loves working with earth, stone, timber, lime and straw. Earth building comes naturally to him because it is a bit like cooking, which he loves to do.

Verena and Scott work as a team and their individual strengths compliment each other beautifully.

The Earth Building Academy  3-month online natural building program and mentorship starts on February 10th and you can read more about it and sign up at

EBA has been created with our students in mind. Our main desire is to make the content as relevant, practical and supportive of their natural building journey as possible. Students learn on their own projects with our expert guidance.

Teaching content is added based on student’s requirements. When they sign up, they receive a questionnaire that allows them to share with us what they would like to achieve. This ranges from basic learning, to designing their house, to creating art, to running workshops, to setting up a natural building business. No project is too small or too big. They are with us for the long haul if they want.

The pre-recorded content is divided up into two main parts: Retrofitting and Hybrid construction,  non-loadbearing walls, plasters, floors, paints, decorative techniques, etc – and the other part is on design and construction of load-bearing earthen walls. We are looking to add strawbale and hempcrete soon too, if there is demand.

We have a growing list of guest tutors, some of whom are internationally renowned. F.ex Prof. Gernot Minke spoke on vaults and domes, Jomo Zeil from spoke on rammed earth, Dip. Arch Graeme North spoke on Lessons learned from 40 years of building with earth. Other guest speakers covered thermal modeling, earth murals and vernacular architecture. We are looking at adding a series of speakers from countries with a long history of earthen architecture and break up the US and Eurocentric viewpoints a bit (Iran, India, Jordan, Morocco, Peru)

We regularly run live skill shops via zoom, where we practice practical skills that students request. Tadelakt has been quite popular.

In the 3 months the program runs live, we have weekly Q&A and coaching calls. After that, we will support students in our private facebook group, via email and on 1:1 calls.

Everyone who signs up is invited to future live rounds of the program. This has proven to be very valuable for everyone. New students learn from people who are a bit further along, and the existing students appreciate having time to get things going. There is no time pressure.

We find building solutions that are suitable for every location and a range of local natural building resources. This includes thorough testing of materials and designing to good building practices. We base our teaching on the NZ earth building standards and adjust as required, either to other local building regulations or different situations.

Currently well over 35 hours of pre-recorded content, and content will be added with every live round. This is currently organized in 12 modules.

Live course container with drip fed content according to learning journey that the student chooses (to avoid overwhelm and build teaching)

12 live calls for Q&A and coaching

Live skill-shops via zoom

Regular guest speakers

Bonus training on using SketchUp

Course resources such as pre-populated spreadsheets for calculations, recipe collections, hand-outs, a growing collection of FAQs, student case studies, etc.

Lifetime access

Personalized mentorship

Private Community

We are currently in our fourth round of EBA and are loving the connections we are making. We are committed to this community in the long-term

Accessibility, inclusivity and decolonizing work is important to us. For this reason we offer scholarships to – mainly BIPOC – students from weaker economies and actively strive to learn from our students about their culture and building heritage, so that we can undo our unconscious biases and promote cross-pollination of ideas.

We also have a strong focus on R&D and encourage our students to work in this too.

We strive to support students to find empowerment in the face of challenges such as climate change, misogyny in the building industry, housing shortages, emergency shelter, rebuilding efforts after war or natural disasters, etc

We strive to be an LGTBQI+ safe space.

We teach to high health & safety standards

We are committed to restorative justice and peace.

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