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Ecological Design and Build Extravaganza 2016

Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.

Ecological Design and Build Extravaganza 2016


Date(s) - Jun 5 - Jul 30

OUR Ecovillage

Full program dates: June 5–July 30, 2016 (This program has various options in terms of dates and length of programming. Please scroll to the bottom for time and tuition details.)

What It’s All About:
Give yourself a 2 to 8 week immersion into creativity, natural construction, and general building skills development and lots of community connections…all at an established natural building / permaculture demonstration site on Canada’s beautiful Vancouver Island.  OUR ECOVILLAGE is an internationally known ‘Demonstration Site and Education Centre” and has over 20 natural buildings, and infrastructure systems of energy/heat/food/economy/social/etc,  used as educational facilities and living spaces.  This is an immersed learning environment where you can live/eat/sleep/learn….the principles, practices and processes of sustainable living.  Learn how build environments are a part of everything around them in living building design – as OUR is a park, school, organic farm, and residential village.
This summer is an ‘extravaganza’ of various building skills development and projects!  We have the privilege of bringing together an amazing team of teachers, facilitators, and building experts to train new builders, homeowners, regulatory approval professionals, and building industry stakeholders.

We have a full build –  start to finish experience of a ‘new on the scene’ highly innovative building technology we are working with:

Module 1: The Big World of Natural Building

(June 5 – 17, 2016)


Enter the world of O.U.R. Ecovillage and discover Natural Building as part of sustainable living. We are building our connections with each other and the community through fun group activities and by exploring natural buildings in the region. Part of this module is created by gathering builders (of all types) with the intention of skills and knowledge exchange as well as networking and development of relationships. For new members of the Natural building community this is an excellent time to make contacts for further training or work opportunities. Discussions, presentations, and hands-on demonstrations bring you right into an understanding of “what is natural building anyway?”

An excursion to Natural Homes in the Region completes the introduction and gets our minds ready to begin building and designing.

The Design of Natural Homes and Buildings is core part of our program and will begin with an overview presentation and lead to the start of individual design work, which will be developed throughout the course and presented in our final week.
This course allows us to move from design work to actual hand on work with a ‘taste of natural building’ with various types of construction onsite and then to evaluate and ‘observe and interact’ with building site layout, foundation construction and become a part of OUR larger building team process.

Module 2 + 3 = Tiny Month – House of Small

Module 2:  Everything Tiny!

(June 19 – July 1, 2016)

Everything Tiny – looking at Tiny Design, layout, tiny efficiency, building a foundation, building inspector and engineering needs. Chemically Free Tiny Houses, School Bus Tiny, Tree Top Tiny, Marine Tiny….and Pallet House Tiny!

Jump into learning what else you might consider for your affordable and efficient housing option!


(July 4 – July 16)


Join this great project of TINY proportions to help everyone who wishes to build a TINY HOME understand what is involved in the design and construction of such a space!  This is a home spun example of how you can build a living space that is easily used for living, a studio/office, or guest space.  Have fun as an individual learner or bring your family at a great group rate, if you are a home owner builder, or if you wish to ‘green’ your tool belt as a conventional construction/trades person, this course is for you.  It will very much bring you forward in the overall building process with earthen construction and what is needed for all aspects of the building design/build.

Module 4: Finishing for Beauty and Longevity and Grand Finale


(July 18 – 30th, 2016)

Whatever the surface, Earthen Plasters and floors bring a special feel to a home. And while natural plasters are available ‘in a bag’ you may want to know what’s inside: this is what we’ll work with during Module 3. Learn about choices, techniques, colors and textures and how to get results on different backgrounds. Discover the tools of the trade, and enjoy the change a finishing plaster brings to the room.
Earthen floors are gaining popularity because they are strong, beautiful and can be heated. We will be building up the layers to a floor in one of the buildings.
And finally a Living Roof Workshop and Earthen Floors will top off this module: learn about the layers, the choices, and build it in the company of others to make work light.
Design Presentations will complete this part of the course with OUR regular participants and will be part of OUR regular Graduation Ceremony and Celebration.


During the 8-week course, participants will learn how to:
•    locate and identify materials\
•    design and layout a natural building
•    install doors and windows
•    mix and build with bio-fibre blocks, cob, and other earth building techniques
•    build a living roof
•    build an earthen floor
•    mix and apply finishing plasters
•    learn repair techniques and maintenance for earthen buildings

There will also be theory classes, where we will cover:
•    foundations for natural homes
•    composting toilets and grey-water systems
•    codes and permits
•    plumbing and electrical
•    heating, cooling and earthen floors
•    roof designs
•    earthen plasters and natural finishes
•    working with lime
•    a general Q&A session


Who’s teaching?

Just BioFibre team is a mix of designers, builders and a diverse team who has brought BioFibre Building to the National Building Code and approvals.  This is a cutting edge time to work together with this team and other specialized teachers.

Elke Cole is one of Canada’s first cob builders. She brings rich experience of building and teaching on 4 continents. She is involved in projects in Cameroon, Tanzania, Germany and Tamil Nadu and has played a key role in the development of O.U.R.Ecovillage. The interaction of humans with home and place are central to Elke’s work. She brings a background of architecture, Permaculture, and Inclusive leadership training, and is happiest when working with joyful people creating with mud.  We will bring Elke in by Skype and long distance classes!

Pat Hennebery, owner of Cobworks, will be on site to work with the team. He brings creative ideas of bringing together cob and wood, and the spirit of natural building in combination with the business of construction. About his history with cob, he says: “I took my first cob workshop in 1997 with Cob Cottage Company. It was only a week long but I quickly realized ‘Hey, I was made for this.’ Since then, I have gone on to teach 45 workshops and build 25 cob homes, including two restaurants and a 2000 sq.ft. recording studio. I also facilitate  cob workshops in Mexico during the winter months and have been associated with OUR Ecovillage’s Natural Building program since 2012.”  Pat is a part time builder who will come in for special classes.

Ayla Challenger loves the hands-on creativity that natural finishes allow and got to pursue this love of natural finishes over the spring, summer and fall of 2011 as a skillbuilder and continuing intern at O.U.R. Ecovillage learning and working with Elke Cole and Cindy Walker. In 2012, she coordinated and co-taught the Natural Building Skillbuilder, taught the plaster workshop in Robert Laporte’s Econest Intensive, and co-lead Cob in Community with Pat Hennebery at O.U.R. Ecovillage. She continues to work with O.U.R. Ecovillage as a plasterer and natural finish teacher. In 2013 she started her own company, Au Naturale Finishes and has done a number of projects working with clay and lime plasters in particular, but her real passion is doing Tadelakt, a water-resistant Moroccan finish. This year she will be joining us with her lovely Daughter Lumi!

cindy walkerCindy Walker lives near Nelson, BC and started natural building in 2001 by building her own cob home with Elke Cole.  At that time, natural plasters were relatively new in BC, so she went to New Mexico and Arizona to learn from experts in the field, such as Athena.  In 2007, Cindy started a business near Nelson, specializing in natural plasters & woodchip clay building.  The focus has been to develop high quality natural plaster & paint methods, as well as training crews and homeowners.


AthenaOven-CaneloAthena Steen is a master plasterer who calls Canelo, Arizona home. In 1989 with her partner Bill, she co-founded the Canelo Project, a non-profit organization whose work centres on connecting people, culture, and nature. The focal point of Athena and Bill’s work is handcrafting simple, small-scale and comfortable shelters that are built primarily with local and natural materials. In that pursuit, they have evolved a unique straw bale and clay wall system that is finished with beautiful clay and lime plasters, sculptural wall carvings, earthen floors and clay ovens. Throughout her career, Athena has also taught and worked extensively in Mexico, taught workshops and lectured throughout Europe and the United States.

Other instructors and guest presenters will be joining the program, be ready for some special surprise guests!

Who Should Take This Course

Spending 8 weeks at O.U.R. Ecovillage is an immersion into the future for people who are looking to create a more sustainable way of living and working. You may be a professional searching for hands-on balance, or a student of architecture/engineering looking for practical exposure. Or you are looking to build your own home and come to get your design and building skills.

Getting a range of the building basics with a large splash of creativity is the focus to consider when choosing this course.

We will be interviewing each participant and setting goals and discussing expectations to understand your focus. There’s room to bring in your personal topic and tailor your experience.

We look for mixed gender, mixed age groups, and we can work around some barriers. As a builder you do need to be reasonably fit and ready to take on physical work for six hours per day. The Course work will take at least eight hours daily plus involvement in chores of living in community.
Participants live in their personal tents unless other arrangements are made. There are facilities for shower/laundry, and a hang-out space in the Commons.

Site Considerations:

OUR Community: We are a community of about 15–20 adults and children sharing meals, space, and facilities and actively participating in each other’s daily lives. This population fluctuates greatly over the year, swelling up to 30–50 residents over summer and more for short periods of time during major events.
There are other short courses, tours, guest teachers/lecturers, music camps, and even an occasional wedding which might be happening while you are here.
Explore our website to find out more about this beautiful and dynamic community and catch a glimpse of what is so hard to put into words!

About OUR Farm, Demonstration Site, and Education Centre

With years of Permaculture Design shaping the lands and processes of OUR Ecovillage since 1999, most of life revolves around the inter-connectivity of systems and people. OUR has almost nine acres in food production and food security systems linking livestock, poultry, dairy, greenhouses, raised beds, orchards, and row crops. We aspire to serve the most nutritious, mostly organic, yummy meals while serving diverse needs of food preferences and allergies (see OUR Food Manifesto). The program is designed so that all participants are integrated into community life (outside of your 40-hour a week course) through the ‘Care Schedule,’ meeting facilitation, and assisting with the learning of others.

Dates* and Tuition:
Full program options:
• Natural Building Extravaganza Complete (Modules 1–4: June 5–July 30 (8 weeks)): $4900(savings of $1100)
• Permaculture Design/ Earth Activist training + Natural building Extravaganza Complete: (April 29–May 14 (8 weeks of internship programming plus 2 weeks of PDC): $6500 (savings of $1200 compared to individual modules)
Or pick 2-week Modules:
• Module 1: The Big World of Natural Building and Design (June 5–17, 2016): $1600
• Module 2: Just Biofibre – Hempcrete Building (June 19– July 1, 2016): $1600
• Module 3: Tiny Home Cob House (July 4–16, 2016):$1600
• Module 4: Finishing for Beauty and Longevity and Grand Finale (July 18–30, 2016):$1600
*We request that participants come in for dinner onwards (5pm) on the day prior to your course start date, and leave the day after your last day of courses. Please stay on July 30th evening for a wrap-party and gathering with a very special guest!

How to Apply

1. Please email:

info [at] ourecovillage.org with a brief introduction of yourself, what has you hoping to take the course in terms of your professional aspirations, and a short work history… and any other information relevant to your desire to take the course.
2. Select the ‘2016 Natural Building Internship Application’ ticket below and pay the $100 registration fee.
3. We will respond to your email with a request for a brief conversation in relation to your goals with this course.
4. Following the initial application process you will be invited to let us know which module(s) you would like to register for, and at that point will be guided through a registration and payment process by OUR staff.
We also welcome you to contact us with a proposal for skill trade towards this course if you feel that you might bring a high level of professional or skilled trades background to OUR ECOVILLAGE development team.
If you have ANY questions or challenges with the registration process, please email info [at] ourecovillage.org or phone the office at 1.250.743.3067.
We also welcome you to contact us with a proposal for skill trade towards this course if you feel that you might bring a high level of professional or skilled trades background to OUR ECOVILLAGE development team.

Register Now

Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.