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2015 Natural Building Workshops

Endeavour’s 2015 workshop schedule is our most extensive ever! Check out topics ranging from natural plastering to fundamentals of building science, earthen floors to straw bale construction… The link to our calendar is here, and from there you can jump to the details for each workshop.

Earthbag Building Workshop

September 5, 2015earthbag building workshop

Instructors: Jen Feigin & Chris Magwood

Workshop Description:

Learn how to make a low-cost, low-impact, durable earthbag foundation for any type of building, from small shed to full-sized home!

Earthbag building is a low-tech solution to making foundations (or entire buildings) using basic materials and simple tools. Drawing on the age-old technique of rammed earth building, earthbag uses woven sack material to provide a ready-made, leave-in-place formwork for containing rammed earth mixtures.

Earthbag construction can often use site soils as the basis for the rammed earth mix, or local gravel, sand, clay (or other binders) can be used.

In this workshop you will learn how to source the materials for earthbag building, how to test soils for suitability, how to create a suitable rammed earth mix, and how to layout, fill and tamp earthbags to create a stable, level foundation structure. The workshop will also examine how earthbag can be mated with a variety of different conventionl and alternative wall systems. Engineering and code approvals will also be covered.

At the end of this workshop, you will be ready to construct your own earthbag foundation for your own project!

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Early bird – $150
Regular – $200
Fees include healthy lunch (vegan and vegetarian options available)

Maximum class size: 12

Natural, Non-toxic Eco-Paints Workshop

natural non-toxic paintMay 17, 2015

July 25, 2015

Instructor: Jen Feigin & Chris Magwood

Workshop Description:

Learn how to make and use a wide range of natural, non-toxic eco-paints that are beautiful, healthy, durable and affordable.

Our homes contain hundreds of square feet of painted surfaces, and most of them are covered with petrochemical products. Even the latest “no-VOC” paints contain chemical compounds that are bad for the environment in their production, disposal and during their lifespan on our walls. Fortunately, there is an exciting array of paints that are made from all-natural materials, and that are completely non-toxic and biodegradable.

In this workshop, you will learn about a wide range of commercially available paint options, including clay, lime, casein and natural oil paints, as well discover recipes for making your own versions of these paints.

The workshop will cover sourcing paints and ingredients, preparing surfaces (including surfaces that have already been painted) and mixing paints and pigments. You will have the opportunity to apply numerous paints to different surfaces and learn the techniques for working with natural paints.

After this workshop, you will be able to redecorate your existing home or plan the finishes for a new home using only natural, healthy paints.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Early Bird – $150
Regular – $200
Fees include healthy lunch (vegan and vegetarian options available)

Maximum class size: 12

Rocket Stove/Rocket Mass Heater workshop

June 12-14, 2015how to build a rocket mass heater

Instructor: Andrew Brunning

Workshop Description:

Learn how to make your own high efficiency wood heating device for your own home!

A Rocket Mass Heater (RMH) is a super-efficient wood-fired heating system composed of two parts: Part One is a rocket stove, consisting of a feed tube, burn tunnel and heat riser; Part Two is the mass chimney, through which hot exhaust gases from the rocket stove are ducted into a thermal heat storage made of masonry materials like cob, stone, urbanite or brick.  All of the heat that goes up the chimney with a conventional wood stove is saved and stored in a Rocket Mass Heater.  The heated up Mass can radiate heat for up to 48hrs or longer after the fire is out. A RMH can also incorporate a cooking surface and an oven, and can be finished to become a beautiful centrepiece in a home.

Unlike open tube rocket stoves, a RMH can have a sealed combustion chamber and allow users to stoke a firebox with a long burn time. This make a RMH much more appropriate for heating homes and other spaces where open combustion is not desirable.

In this workshop, you will learn about the design parameters for making a RMH, and will assist in the full construction of a functional heater, from creating an insulated base to laying out the chimney, from assembling the fire brick core to putting on a decorative finish.

The workshop will pay particular attention to appropriate design, sourcing of materials and the use of recycled and natural building materials in the creation of a RMH.

Instructor Andrew Brunning is the proprietor of

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Early Bird -$400
Regular – $450
Fees include healthy lunch (vegan and vegetarian options available)

Maximum class size: 12

Registration Open for Sustainable New Construction 2015: Tiny Home Build

Endeavour’s popular Sustainable New Construction program is accepting applications for the 2015: Tiny Home Build offering. The program is full time from June 29 – August 28.

2014 4 endorsementsYou can be part of creating a tiny home from design ideas to final finishes, learning how to choose and work with sustainable building materials and off-grid mechanical systems along the way. This is an ideal program for those looking to move into sustainable building as a career, or for those wanting to build their own sustainable home, tiny or large!

To apply, contact us and send a resume and a cover letter telling us why you’re an ideal candidate for this program. Applications must be received by February 15, 2015.

You can find all the details of the program on the program page.


Canada’s Greenest Home Lowers Embodied Energy by 50%

In an Endeavour post about a year ago, I examined the concept of embodied energy in buildings. You can see that post here. To quote the summary of that article:

“Choosing high EE materials is willfully neglectful, and in my experience the choice is often due to sheer laziness or an unwillingness to alter choices simply because that’s what has always been done. A builder doesn’t need to dabble on the fringes of the natural building world to drastically reduce EE. Many mainstream choices offer vastly lower EE than others. It’s just a matter of putting the effort into knowing what the EE impacts will be.”

While building our Canada’s Greenest Home project, we made conscious decisions to choose low embodied energy materials, but only recently have we taken the time to do a full embodied energy analysis on the shell of the house. While doing this, we also did the same analysis for a conventional home built to the same dimensions and specifications.

The results of this study (using the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) 2.0 and the book Making Better Buildings) showed that our home used 138,052 megajoules (MJ) of energy embodied in its construction materials, while a similar conventional build would have used 277,544 MJ. That means that our home used just less than 50% of the embodied energy of a conventional home!

Embodied energy of building materialsWhat does this mean? Let’s look at the difference in terms of energy use in the house. In a recent post, we discovered that after one year in the home, our annual energy consumption was 31.92 gigajoules (GJ). The embodied energy difference of 139,492 MJ (converted to gigajoules is 139.5 GJ) is enough to completely heat and power our home for 4.37 years. This means that even if the conventional home had the same level of energy performance, it would always carry a 4+ year deficit compared to our home.

In reality, the comparison is even more dramatic. The majority (68%) of the energy being used in Canada’s Greenest Home is renewably generated on site. The remainder is renewably generated via a Bullfrog Power contract. Whereas the energy embodied in the materials is almost certainly not renewably generated, and comes with carbon emissions and environmental impacts far higher than our home energy use.

The point I made in my embodied energy article is: Why not pay attention to this? The choices we made are easy ones to make, and there are equally easy choices within conventional options that also dramatically lower embodied energy. If it’s possible to cut overall energy use by the construction materials sector by 50%, why aren’t we making that choice? Seen as a choice made by one builder, it’s a small impact, but extended over the entire sector, it is a vast and radical change.


Best New Books of 2014

As a sustainable building school, Endeavour tries to keep a well-stocked library of books for our students and workshop participants. Looking back at 2014, here are three books that I feel greatly improved our library:

Making Better Buildings bookMaking Better Buildings: A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Building, by Chris Magwood

  • Okay, perhaps it’s a bit of nepotism to include my own book on this list. But all of our work at Endeavour is aimed at helping people make good sustainable building choices. In the past, we’ve had to round up information from a wide range of sources to make comparisons between different material and system choices. This book puts all the information in one place, in as unbiased a manner as possible. Anybody thinking of undertaking a sustainable building or renovation project should spend some time with this book.

Earthen Floors bookEarthen Floors: A Modern Approach to an Ancient Practice, by Sukita Reay Crimmel and James Thomson

  • Interest in earthen floors has always been high among sustainable builders, so it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for a good resource on the subject to become available. It couldn’t have come from a better source. The authors are leading practitioners and have been setting the standard for earthen floors in modern building for many years. The lack of solid, reliable information has held a lot of people back from trying an earthen floor… that no longer needs to be the case. Everything one needs to know about sourcing materials, mixing, applying and finishing can be found here.

hempcrete bookThe Hempcrete Book: Designing and Building with Hemp-Lime, by William Stanwix and Alex Sparrow

  • The buzz that surrounds hempcrete has been amplifying in the past decade, but it’s been difficult to find trustworthy, reliable information on the technique, free from “hemp-hype” that tends to make exaggerated claims. This book is an excellent and thorough introduction to the materials, mixes and application of hemp-lime in new construction and renovations. It’s as thorough a how-to guide as is possible to write, and the reader should be ready to tackle a project having digested the information contained here.

Yes, it’s still relevant to buy books

Even though the internet has brought access to a great deal of free information about sustainable building (including here on Endeavour’s site), there is still no comparison to the depth of reliable information available in a good book. Books cover their subjects thoroughly, the authors tend to be well-regarded experts and publishers have spent time ensuring the information is accurate and reliable. The combination of a good book and a hands-on workshop can ready anybody to undertake their own project in a way that months of online surfing simply cannot.

If you are considering buying these (or any other) books this year, we’d recommend you go directly to the publishers and buy there. Online sources like Amazon provide low prices, but at a great cost to authors and publishers. Support your sustainable building authors and buy direct!

Hempcrete Workshop

February 15, 2015hempcrete building workshop at Endeavour

November 29, 2015

Note: This workshop is being offered twice in 2015. Be sure to register for the correct date.

Workshop Instructor: Chris Magwood

Workshop Description

Come and discover how a simple mix of natural materials can create a remarkable thermal insulation!

Hempcrete (or hemp-lime) construction uses chopped hemp hurd (the woody core of the hemp plant) mixed with hydraulic lime to create an insulation material with excellent thermal, moisture-handling and structural properties.

In this workshop, participants will learn about the components of hempcrete, see a slideshow of various Canadian and international hempcrete building projects, and gain an understanding of how, why and where hempcrete is an appropriate material choice. In the classroom, we will look at the costs, sourcing and building science of using hempcrete on new building projects and renovations.

hempcrete building workshop at Endeavour

Test cylinders of mixes using hydraulic lime, hydrated lime, and hydrated lime plus metakaolin

In the hands-on component of the workshop, participants will learn how to assess the necessary materials and create a mix that is appropriate for a desired end use. We will use mixing machinery to create batches of hempcrete, and learn how to place them in a wall, floor and/or roof. Different types of framing and shuttering (or forming) systems will be shown, and every participant will leave with a hempcrete block they cast themselves.

After this workshop, you will be able to undertake a hempcrete project of your own!

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Early Bird- $150 – Register by February 10th -Includes healthy lunch

Regular -200$- Includes healthy lunch

Maximum class size: 12 Hempcrete walls Hempcrete walls


Renewable Energy Workshop

February 8, 2015Installing solar panels renewable energy workshop

November 28, 2015

Note: This workshop is being offered twice in 2015. Be sure to register for the correct date.

Workshop Instructor: Sean Flanagan

Workshop Description

It is a widely held dream of many people to live a life powered by renewable energy. But it can be difficult to know how best to proceed with making this dream a reality.

This workshop is the perfect introduction to the world of renewable energy, designed to help you figure out the best path to finding yourself living a renewable energy lifestyle. Instructor Sean Flanagan has been designing and installing renewable energy systems for over a decade, and unlike many renewable energy teachers he lives off-grid himself, giving him an intimate knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.

The workshop covers all aspects of renewable energy:

  • Off grid and grid tied systems – Which is right for you?
  • Photovoltaics (PV, or “solar electricity”) – How it works and what components go into a system?
  • Wind energy – How it works and what components go into a system?
  • Micro hydro – How it works and what components go into s system?
  • Micro-FIT and Net Metering – How do utility companies deal with renewable systems?
  • Doing an energy audit – How much power do you need and what size system is required?
  • Living with renewable energy - Lifestyle, maintenance and monitoring
  • and much more!

Installing solar panels renewable energy workshopAs part of the workshop, participants will be involved in the hands-on assembly of a small off-grid system to help become familiar with all the components and how they work.

If you’ve ever imagined yourself generating your own power from renewable sources, then this workshop is the perfect first step toward this goal.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Early Bird $150 – Register before Jan 30th (includes healthy lunch)

Regular $200 – Includes healthy lunch

Maximum class size: 12

Installing solar panels renewable energy workshop

Building bottle wall features

Many natural buildings feature bottles incorporated into walls. Bottle walls add colourful light and whimsy to a wall and open up all kinds of great design possibilities.

Here’s a little “how-to” guide to building your own bottle wall. It’s quite an easy process, and is applicable to interior walls and renovations as new buildings. Your own creativity is the only limit when it comes to using bottles in your building!