The Natural Building School (NBS) believes that the best way to learn is to “do,” especially when it comes to building. Through hands-on projects, workshops, classes, presentations and field trips, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of how to design and build using clay, sand, straw and wood. Students will also learn about the use of appropriate modern materials, both new and salvaged. The NBS aims to: 1) educate through hands on experience via the skills and trades needed to build, 2) give an extensive exposure to the diverse ways materials can be used, and 3) support creative design that will enable building with beauty and integrity.

The learning environment for the NBS is community-oriented and involves some group activities, including ‘morning circles’ and on-site team work. Thus, we foster a safe and empowering experience for all students. Our idea of success is that every student will go on to create the project of their dreams. If you would like to be considered for one of the student positions, please fill out the survey below.



Hands-On Projects
• Wall systems: Cob, slipstraw, adobe, and stud frame with wattle & daub infills
• Natural finishes: Exterior and interior earth plasters & paints
• Foundation systems: Urbanite, stone & block; piers & posts
• Regular building: Carpentry & construction skills
• Wood-fired: Oven &/or Rumford fireplace
• Systems Floor, wall & roof framing
• Installations: Windows & doors
• Tool use: Use & care
• Living roofs

Theory & Classes
• Load bearing & non load bearing wall systems
• Site selection & working with the landscape
• Passive solar design, heating & cooling
• Engineering basics & structural integrity
• Planning & budgeting for your building
• The global context for natural building
• Designing & managing the work site
• Electric & plumbing
• Permits & codes


BIG PICTURE…Small solutions in your hands
Modern building is rooted in practices and materials that demand extensive use of resources and energy that compromise the environment, the inhabitants, and the buildings themselves. Other solutions must be explored to address the world’s housing needs, including materials, design, cost, beliefs and attitudes that will work for us now and into the future. One great potential can be found not in futuristic materials developed in a lab, but from traditions built on thousands of years of time-tested use, with easily accessible, abundant, healthy and workable materials that are right under our feet: Earth. Clay, sand and straw beckon us to experience Natural Building.

With examples from the past and present, the NBS will go on a journey into the possibilities of hand-crafted structures. Earthen building from the world over will be the guide in understanding form and function, appropriate design and artistic expression, grounded in a hands-on experience that will support student’s success on their own building projects. Natural building is part of a growing global movement that explores solutions that affirm and strengthen harmonious ways of building and living  on this Earth


Asheville, NC is an incredible mountain town, full of artisans, delicious organic restaurants, farmers markets, street life, live music, yoga studios, and more. It’s as local as any American city gets! Asheville is the first Bee City USA, and #1 Beer City in the country, four years running. The vibrant downtown is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the gentle beauty of the oldest mountains on the planet. This region is one of the most bio-diverse temperate climates in the world. There is tons to do outside…besides mudding. It’s easy to fill a weekend with hiking, biking, visiting rivers, or some plain ol’ chilling out.


The NBS will be hosted at the instructor’s building site(s) within an eight minute drive to downtown. The main site will include work on an outdoor courtyard, as well as a 12×12 cottage, both of which will include earth and straw walls. This or other sites may include projects, such as an earthen oven or fireplace, an earth bag wall, foundations, earthen plaster, paint and/or earthen floors. Because of drying time and project phasing, the NBS will be hosted at two+ sites so that we can cover the full curriculum. Students must be able to drive, bicycle or be willing to carpool.


warrenMy experience at the Natural Building School was very empowering. I now feel comfortable in many facets of natural building because of the quality of instruction and knowledge I gained. The instructors have a depth of experience that shows in the work they produce and in their ability to effectively respond to student’s questions with a clarity that simplifies sometimes complex problems. And their humor and amiable personalities made for a very enjoyable and constructive experience. This course offers a lot of value whether you are a beginner to building or an experienced builder. ~ Warren, 2013 NBS Graduate 


Steveo BrodmerkelSteveo Brodmerkel is a hands-on builder, designer and general contractor with 30 years experience in the trades. He works on all aspects of projects, with experience spanning repair, renovation and new residential. For the past twelve years, Steveo has focused on natural building, materials and techniques, which have become his main focus of thinking, designing and building, as well as teaching. He has led workshops on clay, sand and straw construction with The Natural Building SchoolKleiwerks International, and the Ashevillage Institute. Steveo’s understanding of the built environment and materials makes him a designer and builder trouble-shooter extraordinaire. His keen ability to design effective building systems and to articulate the process in ways that are easy to grock, makes him a gem of a teacher. Steveo’s very first natural building project is one of the finest examples of an earthen-built home in North America. Let’s just say he’s a natural.



mollie_muddyhandsMollie Curry
 is co-founder of MudStrawLove with her partner, Steve Kemble. She started her mud career at Earthaven EcoVillage, and has been teaching natural building across the southeast since 1998. Mollie is deeply versed in cob, straw bale, slipstraw, earthbag, carpentry, as well as permaculture. She has a particular passion for earth plasters and paints. Mollie has written articles for various publications on natural building, permaculture, and other practical, spiritual, and emotional topics, including Beauty. Mollie has run her own natural building business since 2003. In her earlier days, she was a wilderness forest ranger and spent much time alone in the wilderness.

Steve KembleSteve Kemble is an engineer who has been involved in the straw bale building revival from the beginning. He attended the first ever class on the subject in 1990, then went on to design his own home and sponsor the second straw bale workshop. Steve co-produced the first video on strawbale, as well as the book, How to Build Your Elegant Home with Straw Bales, and a Straw Bale Home Plans booklet. He has been teaching ever since, including a wide variety of techniques in a number of climates. Steve is trained in Permaculture and also pursues percussion persistently and passionately…He’s been playing the drumset since age 10! Steve is co-founder of MudStrawLove, along with his partner, Mollie Curry.

Meka BunchMeka Bunch attended his first Cob Cottage Company workshop in 1996 and proceeded to build an incredibly cool two-story cob studio. Meka has since been demonstrating and teaching natural building techniques via public events and workshops, locally and internationally. He has worked extensively with Asheville, NC based Kleiwerks International, and with City Repair’s Village Building Convergence in Portland, Oregon. Meka loves creating benches, garden walls, kiosks, wood-fired earthen ovens and Rumford fireplaces. His work may be seen atArtisan Builders Collective.


Early Bird Discounts are available as listed below. Full payments must be postmarked by or before the dates listed below in order for the Early Bird Discount to be applicable.

Spring Session: April 28 – June 20, 2014
• EARLIEST BIRD: $3600 — December 31 >> AVAILABLE NOW
• REGULAR EARLY BIRD: $4000 –  January 31 >> AVAILABLE NOW
• LAST EARLY BIRD: $4400 — February 28
• REGULAR TUITION: $4600 — April 7

Summer Session: July 26 – September 19, 2014
• EARLIEST BIRD: $3600 – March 31 >> AVAILABLE NOW!
• REGULAR EARLY BIRD: $4000 –  April 30
• LAST EARLY BIRD: $4400 — May 31
• REGULAR: $4600 — July 1
*Please note payment must be received in full or postmarked by the dates listed.

Payment Plan Options: The total for the payment plan comes to $5000 spread over five months. If you would like details, please contact [email protected].

Raising your own funds: Please see the Participant Fundraising resource page. If you would like further tips on how to seek sponsors/financial support, contact us.

Please note: Students must make their own lodging and transportation arrangements. For places to live, we will be happy to connect you with local networks and other students. Students will need their own work gloves, sturdy work shoes, pocket knife, tool belt, hammer, measuring tape, and a few other basic tools. Expect to spend $100-$150.

Participants with mental or physical disabilities: Interested participants who have diagnosed mental or physical disabilities may qualify for state vocational rehabilitation program funding for Ashevillage Institute programs. For more information contact your state’s Health and Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation office. NC residents click here or contact Tonya Clark at [email protected] or 828.670.3377.


We have 10 positions available for both the spring and summer sessions. Registration is first come, first served. We do plan to fill all seats, and encourage applicants to send their registration form ASAP if you are interested in joining the 2014 season! To register, follow these steps:


  1. Send the survey below. Copy/paste and send your completed survey to [email protected] with the questions included in the body of the text. We will get back to you within three business days to let you know if there’s availability.
  2. Reserve your spot. Your place in the program will not be reserved until we receive your tuition. To complete your payment, please select the Early Bird Deadline that works for you in the Tuition Sectionabove. Please write your check out to: “Ashevillage Institute,” 80 Buchanan Ave, Asheville, NC 28801. In the memo line, please write: Your name + Program name + Program dates. If you prefer to be on a payment plan contact us for details.
  3. Payments are non-refundable. Please see our cancellation policy for more details.

The intention of this survey is for our team to get a sense of your skills and background. Please copy, paste and answer the following questions. Send in an email (in the body of the email or attached as a Word document) to [email protected].

1. Name, date of birth, phone, email, home address, and name of program, including if you prefer the spring or summer session.
2. How did you hear about the NBS? Be as specific as you can. If you saw it on Facebook, which Facebook page? If on the internet, where exactly?
3. What do you hope to gain from participating in the NBS?
4. How do you intend to integrate what you learn into your life?
5. Do you have a follow-up project? If so, what is it?
6. Please describe related experience that you have to building. No experience is necessary.
7. Given you will be part of a team, please share about your background working with others.
8. Please share three interesting things about your life.
9. If you didn’t participate in the School, what would you do instead?
10. Will you be paying based on the early bird special or payment plan? If early bird special, by which date will you make your full payment?
11. Would you like tips on how to raise sponsorships to cover part of your fee?
12. Is there anything else that you would like us to know?
13. Please provide the contact info for one personal and one professional reference.


Kathryn Blau
Outreach Coordinator
[email protected]