Ecological design and natural building workshop

This course is designed to be the most complete immersion into natural building techniques, design theory and and ecological integration that we could stuff into two short weeks! Join veteran natural builders Oliver Goshey and Charlie Rendall on beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala in the small Mayan villages of Tzununa and San Marcos La Laguna as we explore everything from rammed earth to bamboo framing and every major building material in between. We’ll explore traditional and modern natural structures and get hands-on experience in a variety of techniques that you’ll be able to use to build and design your own natural structures and maybe even your dream home!

This course will provide an opportunity to get your hands on an array of tools, practice new techniques, and exercise your teamwork strengths while creating beautiful projects at the Abundant Edge demonstration homestead “Granja Tz’ikin” in the community of Tzununa, Guatemala.

Houses and buildings are the "nuclei" of any site, through which the majority of energy and resources flow to be either wasted or maximized for best use. And yet, most permaculture courses barely touch on physical structures! At Abundant Edge we think that your house and other structures deserve a lot more attention as integral and essential parts of your overall site design. We are thrilled to be collaborating once again with the amazing team at Abundant Edge, Atitlan Organics, Charlie Rendall and the Bambu Guesthouse to offer the Ecological Design and Natural Building course, a two-week workshop founded in permaculture principles and covering all things natural building. From stone to cob to natural plasters, you'll learn a wide range of natural building styles and techniques which can be put to use in any climate or region of the world. Learn how to use commonly sourced materials and ecological design techniques, all while creating beautiful, high quality structures! We like to think of the built environment as "Permaculture for Zone 0."

Each day will bring a new hands-on technique and a lecture on topics including cob, adobe, bamboo, natural plasters, roofs, foundations, and much more. All lessons are focused on teaching you to build for yourself. There will also be natural building videos to watch in the evening if you choose, as well as resource packet included to facilitate deeper learning on your own.

A dynamic adventure is calling. We can't wait to meet you!

cob dance abundant edge.jpg

Clay time is play time!

dance your way through building

What you’ll learn

We cover the building techniques of many different climates and traditions around the world so you can take your skills anywhere and build with the resources available wherever you are. Whether your site requires hearty insulation, dense thermal mass, breezy passive cooling, or just a shaded area to lounge, there’s a natural solution for you.

bajareke wall building abundant edge.jpg

Course syllabus

Day 1:

Orientation, Introduction and an overview of the coming weeks (resource packet)

Introduction to final design project

Day 2:

Dry-stack stone foundation practical

Testing sub-soil for building suitability

Test bricks for cob/adobe

Design and siting lecture

Inhabit movie at night

Day 3:

Intro to foundations lecture

Framing with wood (practice on bajareke and LSC sets)

Framing with bamboo practical

lectures on framing for wood and bamboo

Day 4:

Wall systems practical (rammed earth, light straw clay, bajareke)

Intro to wall systems lecture

Basics of material engineering (testing and calculations)

NB movie at night

Day 5:

Integrating features into earthen walls (elec, plumbing, windows, doors, furniture)

Main building practical (portion of garden wall at abundant edge)

Appropriate technology lecture

Guided work on final design project

Day 6:

Stoves, ovens, and heaters (rocket stove practical)

Off grid power generation

Water harvesting and storage (landscape integration with buildings)

 Students building a rocket/lorena stove

Students building a rocket/lorena stove

Day 7:

Morning field-trip (Charlie’s projects in SM)

Lunch in San Marcos

Time to work on final design ProjectDay 8:

Day off field trip (optional)

Day 9:

Garden wall building

gray water and black water filtration

Guided work on final design project

Day 10:

Garden wall building

Animal buildings and other outbuildings

Guided work on final design project

Day 11:

Natural plasters and paints (plaster lab, aliz and paints lab) on garden wall

Plasters lecture

Day 12:

More plasters (finish coats and compression techniques)

Finish and compression technique videos

Project planning and myth-busting natural building lecture

Day 13:

Final compression and burnishing of plasters

Final design project presentations

Day 14:

Final test (multiple choice and essay Q’s)

Certificate presentation




An accomplished natural builder who has worked in eleven countries on six continents, Oliver has built, designed, and consulted for clients all over the world using a large variety of natural materials and both traditional and modern building methods. After six years of working in the industrial building trades and as a maritime engineer, he apprenticed with the Cob Cottage Company, specializing in cob and earthen plasters and finishes. His company, Abundant Edge, is a culmination of years of passionate research, travel, and experimentation with earthen building materials and regenerative design techniques. Oliver hopes to promote regenerative lifestyles that repair and advance ecosystems through symbiotic design and compassionate construction. 



Charlie has been building houses and landscaping gardens in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala for more than 13 years. He tried just about every natural building method he could before settling on bamboo and mud as his favorites. He gave his first Bamboo Building Course in 2008 and loves helping others learn how to build their own houses. Originally from London, England, Charlie holds a Masters Degree in Social Anthropology, and has studied Buddhism, Yoga, business and social development in India. For several years he taught transferable skills development to postgraduates at University College London before meeting his partner and becoming technical director at her arts education project, La Cambalacha


The majority of the course will take place at Granja Tz’ikin, the regenerative homestead model managed by the Abundant Edge team, though certain practicals and lectures will take place in San Marcos La Laguna at Charlie Rendall’s workshop. Regular shuttle services from Antigua and Quetzaltenango run to San Marcos where you can easily catch a tuk tuk (local three wheeled taxi) to Tzununa and the Bambu Guesthouse. If you are arriving from Panajachel or San Pedro you can take the lancha (taxi boat) directly to Tzununa where you can either walk up the hill or catch a tuk tuk up to the Bambu.



For the duration of the course you’ll be staying the magical Bambu Guesthouse which Charlie and his teams built with bamboo and a local natural wall system called bajareke (a technique which we’ll be teaching during the course). All meals will be included at their farm to table restaurant.

course timeline

The Ecological Design and Natural Building course begins at the Bambu Guesthouse at 4pm on the 20th of January 2019 and wraps up with the final design presentation on the morning of the 2nd February. The all inclusive stay at the guesthouse begins with dinner on the first night and ends with breakfast on the 2nd of Feb. Details of the daily activity and lecture plan can be found in the course syllabus above.