Natural Building Intensive February 29th – March 12th 2016 in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

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 Natural Building Courses at Atitlan Organics

Join Atitlan Organics for our first two week 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 12 days of hands­-on and feet-­in learning, classroom theory, slide presentations, community clay art project, and an inspiring field trip. You will also have a tour of Atitlan Organics and learn a bit of the history and philosophy on the farm. We will cover everything earth, lime & clay from site selection, foundations and load bearing and non load-bearing earthen wall systems, to the fine art of clay sculpting, Moroccan tadelakt, and finish plasters and paints.

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

Permaculture and Natural Building DSCN1281

A 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.

16313818283_7b97bf4f39_kWe could mention that the food you are served is almost exclusively 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 contact 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, 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 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:



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

Charlie Rendall     charlie

Charlie has been building houses and landscaping gardens in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala for eight 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 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 wife and becoming technical director at her arts education project, La Cambalacha.

More of Charlie’s work can be found at his website:

Course Schedule

Dates February 29th – ­ March 12th

Daily Schedule:

7:45 (45min) Breakfast

8:30 (1.5h) Class time with Lectures and Presentations

16747463809_64d6b8654d_k10:00 (3h) Practical #1

13:00 (1h) Lunch

14:00 (3h) Practical #2

17:00 (1.5h) Free Time

18:30 (1h) Dinner

19:30 (1.5h) Evening Discussion or Movie (sometimes)


Day 1­: Includes: Introduction to one another and site orientation.

How to test clay soils.

Basic earth mixes and adobe blocks

14217358836_83a90e5978_kEvening slideshow­ covering the basics of earthen mixes

Day 2: Foundations ­and begin building bamboo and wood structures for wall systems.

Class on loadbearing vs non loadbearing and tying walls into foundations

Day 3 : Non-loadbearing wall systems

Class­ on site selection and foundations

build bamboo bent with Charlie

Day 4: Wall systems­ infills

Class on roofs and designs

Day 5­: Plaster community project- within the local community for us to leave something special


Day 6 : Wall systems­ infills continued

Class on bridging varied materials

Candida-and-Karen-buildingDay 7: Field trip­ to somewhere interesting on the lake!

Class on plasters- earthen and lime

Evening session to discuss your potential projects

Day 8­: Reparation, preparation and plaster on existing building

Day 9­: Plaster and continue wall systems

Day 10: Adobe benches as built in furniture

Class on clay and lime paints

Day 11: Morrocan Tadelakt lime plaster

Day 12­: Community sculpting project that we began earlier in the course

As is always the way, the schedule is subject to some order change but this gives you a good idea of topics covered and there is some evening time for spontaneous conversations.

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