An introduction to natural building

Jump into an immersive week of hands-on and classroom learning! 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 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 and the Bambu Guesthouse to offer the Natural Building Course, a one-week course founded in the 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 technique which can be put to use in any climate or region of the world. Learn how to use commonly sourced materials and simple 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!

Daily Schedule:

Breakfast @ Hotel: 7-8AM

Snack @ Site: 10-10:20 AM

Lunch @ Hotel: 1-3:00PM

Dinner @ Hotel: 6:00PM

Optional Evening Videos TBA

Doing the cob dance!

Doing the cob dance!

Course Syllabus:

Fourth Day

Rammed earth

Light straw clay

Make adobes


Intro to roof systems

Intro to appropriate technology

Time for design project work

Movie: Hand-built small homes and the building code

Fifth Day

Model house design on landscape demos

Rocket stove demos


Intro to Plasters

natural paints and finishes talk

Intro to Flooring (elevated, deck, stone and cement, earthen floors)

guided time to work on building design assignment

Movie: American clay plastering techniques 

Sixth Day

Base coat plasters

Final plasters test lab


Field trip and wood and bamboo framing lecture with Charlie Rendall

Seventh and last day

recap of course

homework presentations after breakfast

presentation on internship and apprenticeship opportunities

First Day: Afternoon Arrival


AE farm tour

Briefing (internship and apprenticeship opportunities)

Group introductions

Overview of the week to come

Explain the final design project

Second Day

Stone foundation tutorial and placement

Testing and selecting clay subsoil

Cob mixing tutorial (tarp, also pit mixing?)

Wall building tutorial

Trimming and straightening a wall


Siting and Design introduction (earthships, round houses, domes, rectilinear, curvilinear, passive solar heating and cooling, gradient design, ecosystem synergy, insulation and thermal mass, etc)

review what was learned in the practical and the presentation

Movie: Inhabit

Third Day

Wattle and daub (bajareke) wall systems. Wall strapping filling, and splitting bamboo. Practical on garden wall


intro to wall systems (cob, adobe, wattle and daub, wood, straw bale, rammed earth, earth bags, bamboo, stone) break into mineral and organic materials

Intro to foundations (french drains, rubble trenches, the importance of capillary breaks, japanese foundations)

Time for final design project



Oliver Goshey


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 Rendall

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 food and the Bambu Guest House spoiled me! Antonio and Juana [staff] are angels.
— Zsofi, Class of March, 2015

Our courses have always been known for their excellent, organic, locally grown food, and this year is no exception. Abundant Edge works closely with the Bambu Guest House, which has a "Farm to Table Restaurant" that serves up delicious and filling plates mainly composed of Atitlan Organics’ products.  The restaurant is run by three local, aspiring chefs named Antonio, Juana, and Petrona. They are amazing! Three meals a day are served buffet style, as well as coffee, tea, and snacks.

Beyond the food, the Bambu Guest House is a brand new natural building, boasting bathrooms and balconies in each room, new comfy beds, wifi, super hot water, and amazing views of the lake, mountains, and rivers. The Bambu Guest House is proof that natural building can be clean and luxurious. 


The cost of the week-long Natural Building Intensive is $575 per person. This includes 6 nights stay at the Bambu Guest House, three meals a day, snacks, coffee and tea. It also includes course facilitation, all field trips and travel, plus course material, note packets, and other e-resources.

There are several partial scholarships available. Please request more info by contacting us.

We have three different dates to choose from in the 2018-19 season.

stay tuned

2019 course dates to be announced soon

Have questions or looking for more information on the course? contact us directly through the form bellow. Our team is standing by to help you out

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