Natural Building Courses at Atitlán Organics

Natural Building pictureJoin us for the upcoming Natural Building Intensive. We are collaborating with Liz Johndrow of Earthen Endeavors Natural Building and co-­instructor Charlie Rendall of Return to the Forest for two weeks of hands-on and classroom learning from building foundation to roof systems and most things in between. This course will give you the opportunity to try out tools, techniques and team building while creating a beautiful community space at Atitlán Organics’ Permaculture Farm.

Each day will bring a new hands-on technique and a class/lecture on topics including natural foundation systems, framing structures with a focus on bamboo and timber framing, loadbearing and non-loadbearing mass wall systems, cob and adobe benches and ovens, earthen floors, and clay and lime-based plasters including Moroccan lime tadelakt. We will also work on a community sculpting project and enjoy a tour of instructor Charlie Rendall’s many projects throughout the community. Each evening there will be a related video to watch if you choose.

Both instructors bring a huge amount of passion and building experience to the table! It will be a dynamic opportunity with some time for reflection and exploring. Hope you can join us!

Liz applying colored lime plasters in Nicaragua


Charlie framing
Charlie framing a bamboo pavilion in Guatemala














You will want to join us for this opportunity unlike any other!

Permaculture and Natural Building

11898819_748568625249014_3955067912383251173_nA major component of permaculture design involves sourcing and using local materials for building shelter and other infrastructure that meets the needs of people on site. Everywhere humans are found living on this planet, you can be sure that nearby are a host of natural materials that can be employed in building and designing appropriate technology. In Central America, and especially in Guatemala, we are fortunate enough to have access to a great diversity of natural materials for building.

While we have been building with natural materials for years, we have only recently decided to begin hosting natural building workshops.




Why Study Natural Building at Atitlan Organics

We could mention that when you book a course with us, you stay at the amazing Bambu Guest House, which is itself an amazing example of natural
building that is clean, modern, and comfortable.

We could mention that the food you are served is almost exclusively grown and raised by Atitlan Organics and prepared by the master hands of several local, internationally trained chefs.

But really, you study natural building in order to learn. And we could not be more excited about the line up of professional, internationally recognized natural builders who will be facilitating our workshops.

Liz and Charlie bring expertise, passion, fun and serious learning opportunities to their teaching.




Liz Johndrow    Liz

I enjoy spaces that bring me in touch with my natural surroundings. As a builder, I was thrilled to discover I could bring that experience deeper into my home experience through my choice of building materials. Since that discovery, I have been exploring the world of cob, strawbale, adobe, earthbag, earthen plasters and floor systems, lime plaster techniques and timber framing. The simplicity of these systems and materials allow for people of all ages and abilities to participate. The past few years have taken me further into the role of teacher, facilitator, instructor and co-conspirator. I am increasingly passionate about helping others learn these skills so they in turn can share their vision of beautiful, sustainable, and socially just structures. My more recent work in Nicaragua working with the women and youth in the northern pueblos has been my most challenging and rewarding work thus far.

Liz seems to empower all who listen to her, while she is incredibly humble and very easy to talk to, even as a beginner. Her work also speaks for itself. Check out a few of her projects here:

Website:     and

Facebook:   and

Thanks to Liz for this collaboration. We could not be more excited!

Charlie Rendall     charlie

I became a barefoot architect after building a house for my family in Guatemala 11 years ago. I loved it so much that I started building for my neighbors and since then I’ve specialized in bamboo, timber, lime and earthen techniques. Working and learning with local builders, engineers and architects, I have led builds ranging from renovations and extensions, through to hotels, clinics, and temples. I’m especially fascinated by bajareque, the American continent’s equivalent of wattle and daub, which uses only renewable materials available in the surrounding countryside. I also love developing renewable, earthquake-resistant and low-cost wall systems, and training local builders in bamboo and natural techniques. I am currently developing a local design and planning team so we can further disseminate natural building methods as a safer, healthier and more sustainable alternative to more industrialized systems.

I’m thrilled to teach on this course with Liz and our very talented local collaborators. We look forward to seeing you here at the lake!

You can see more of my work on

Course Schedule

Dates November 13th – ­ 26th, 2016


Daily Schedule:

6:45 (45min) Breakfast

7:30 (15min) Walk to Site

7:45 (2.5h) Practical #1
10:15 (30m) Snack, Breaktime

10:45 (2.5h) Practical #2

13:15 (2h) Lunch

15:15 (1h) Review/Check-In

16:15 (1h) Lecture

17:15 (1.25h) Free Time

18:30 (1h) Dinner

19:30 (1h) Movie/Activity/Rest


Lodging and Food

20160302_184318-1The food and The Bambu Guest House spoiled me! Antonio and Juana are angels.” Zsofi, Czech Republic, Class of March 2015

Permaculture Design Courses have always been known for their excellent, organic, locally grown food and our courses are no exception. Atitlan Organics works closely with the Bambu Guest House, which is a five-minute walk from the farm and where participants stay for the entire course. The Bambu Guest House has a Farm to Table Restaurant that serves up delicious and filling plates mainly composed of Atitlan Organics’ and other local farm products. Currently, Atitlan Organics supplies all of the milk, yogurt, cheese, salads, cooking greens, honey, coffee, chicken, taro root, pigeon peas, and herbs to the Bambu Guest House Restaurant. The restaurant is run by three young, local, aspiring chefs named Antonio, Juana, and Petrona, all only 19 years old. They are amazing!

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. Lodging is shared, but private rooms are also available for an additional charge.

All food, snacks, coffee, tea, and frescos are included in the week-long permaculture course, as well as lodging for the duration at The Bambu Guest House. Three meals a day are served, buffet style, as well as coffee and tea throughout most of the day and daily snacks as well. Basically, you are well-fed and well-kept. And it feels soo nice! If you are interested in private housing, please mention that to us when you write.

Travel and Logistics

20160226_162550The workshop always starts on Sunday afternoon. Participants are expected to arrive by 4pm, but are welcome to come and check in at the Bambu Guest House any time throughout the day.

Once the course starts, all food, lodging, training, and travel is covered and included in the cost of the workshop. We often travel on local pickups, which makes all excursions fun and exciting. Adventure travel for sure!

The intensive ends on a Saturday a noon, following a big brunch, student presentations, and goodbyes. We can help arrange shuttles to/from the airport, Antigua, or anywhere else for that matter. Just let us know if you need this service.

Upon writing us to express interest, we will send an FAQ and a food allergy questionnaire. We can accommodate almost all requests including vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, etc.


Coming from Antigua, you would go to Panajachel, which is one of the three big towns on the lake and takes about 3 hours to arrive.

From Panajachel, you take a boat (lancha) at the public dock. Tell the captain that you are going to the town of Tzununa (zoo-new-nah) which is three public stops from Panajachel.

Get off at the Public Dock in Tzununa and take a Tuk Tuk or little three wheeled car and tell them you want to go to El Bambu. It costs q5 per person per tuk tuk and should be around q15 to q20 per person for the Lancha ride.

When you get to El Bambu, go through the gate and up to the main building. Someone will show you your room.

As noted, we are in the little town of Tzununa, quiet and still ‘undiscovered’. From the guest house you are less than 10 minute walk to the lake and less than 20 meters from beautiful rivers. You are a 45 ‘minute walk or a 10 minute tuk tuk ride away from the town of San Marcos la Laguna. This has many places to eat, drink, practice yoga, etc.

Again, we can help you get to the lake from Antigua or the airport, or from anywhere. Just let us know and we can arrange a shuttle for you.


The cost of the 2 week Natural Building Intensive is Q7500 or $985 per person. This includes 13 nights and 14 days stay at the Bambu Guest House, plus all three meals a day, snacks, coffee and tea. It also includes the facilitation, all field trips and travel, plus course material, note packets, and other electronic information.

There are several partial scholarships available. Please request more info through the contact form.