2015 Natural Building Workshops

hempcrete building workshop at Endeavour

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

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 paint

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

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 rocketmassheater.ca.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

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

Maximum class size: 12

Design Your Own Sustainable Home – Advanced

Alan Lawrence endorsementMarch 21 & 22, 2015

Workshop Instructor:
Chris Magwood

Workshop Description

Endeavour’s introductory “Plan Your Own Sustainable Home” workshop has helped over 100 participants begin their journey toward a more sustainable new construction or renovation project over the past couple of years.

This workshop helps takes your planning to the next level.

Design classIn this in-depth home design workshop, you will bring your own sketches or plans along with all of your project goal statements. As a design team, we will consider a wide range of options that will work for your project, discussing the pros and cons of a variety of possible solutions to each element of your project. This “design charrette” will include a wide range of considerations such as:

  • Material choices that are suitable for your project
  • Mechanical systems choices that are suitable for your project
  • How to create a preliminary budget
  • How to get a set of plans drawn and approved
  • The building permit process and alternative compliance pathways
  • How to work with contractors and subcontractors
  • and much more!

Working in a small group setting, you will be able to share common concerns with other owner-builders and benefit from a discussion that covers a wide range of options and solutions.

At the end of the workshop, you will feel confident in your ability to productively move your project forward from design considerations to a full set of construction plans and a working budget.

If you would like to take your dream of a sustainable home to the next level, this workshop is for you.

Entry Requirements
Must have taken “Plan Your Own Sustainable Home” workshop, or contact Endeavour for permission

$350-Early Bird
$400- Regular
$630- Couple rate

Includes healthy lunch (vegan and vegetarian options available)

Maximum class size: 8

Registration Open for Sustainable New Construction 2015: Tiny Home Build

straw bale workshop

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%

straw bale workshop

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!

House 2012 – BCIN

BCIN House 2012 – Exam Prep Course2012 Building Code Compendium

Feb. 20/21/22 plus Feb. 28 & March 1st (Delivered over two weekends)

Jeff Chalmers

In Ontario, all building design practitioners must obtain a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN) to ensure familiarity with the Ontario Building Code and to be eligible to obtain the insurance necessary to practice professionally. For designers of residential buildings under 6,000m3 two exams must be passed: General Legal/Process and Part 9/House. 

Endeavour will be presenting preparatory courses for both the General Legal/Process and Part 9/House exams.  We will be offering the new, updated OBOA (Ontario Building Official’s Association) curriculum training, which are the only courses built around the new 2012 Ontario Building Code.

Each course is offered over two consecutive weekends, and five days in total.

Participants will need their own copy of the two-volume Ontario Building Code-2012 or fully up to date 2006. 

You can buy the code book HERE   -2012 Building Code Compendium
(2 Volume Binder Set)  ISBN-978-1-4606-2444-9 

OBOA work books are included in registration costs!

House-2012 covers the following topics

    • Basics of Structural Requirements
    • Design of Areas and Spaces
    • Doors
    • Windows and Skylights
    • Stairs, Ramps, Handrails and Guards
    • Means of Egress
    • Fire Protection
    • Sound Control
    • Excavation
    • Dampproofing, Waterproofing and Soil Gas Control
    • Drainage
    • Footings and Foundations
    • Floors-on-Ground
    • Columns
    • Crawl Spaces
    • Attic and Roof Spaces
    • Above Grade Masonry
    • Chimneys
    • Fireplaces
    • Wood Frame Construction
    • Sheet Steel Stud Wall Framing
    • Heat Transfer, Air Leakage, Condensation Control and Part 12
    • Roofing
    • Cladding
    • Stucco
    • Interior Wall and Ceiling Finishes
    • Flooring
    • Plumbing
    • Electrical Facilities
    • Garages and Carports
    • Cottages
    • Log Construction

At the end of the course, you will be prepared to challenge the examinations for each course, which are held regularly at sites across Ontario. See the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing web site at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page8617.aspx for exam locations and dates.

Entry Requirements
Must own a copy of the 2012 Ontario Building Code or 2006 code with all amendments. See links above to obtain a copy of the Building code.


Early Bird 595$ – Register by February 10th  - Includes workbook (value of 125$) 
Regular 650$ – Includes workbook (value of 125$) 

Maximum class size: 12


Hempcrete Workshop

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