Update: February, 2012
No more earthbag workshops are planned. We’ve filled up our land with buildings and there’s no more space to build.
Use our EarthbagBuilding.com Workshop page to locate workshops near you.
And try out our Bulletin Board to locate volunteer projects.
My new Earthbag Building Guide covers everything about building with bags.
And my new 3 hour+ Earthbag DVD is now available.
Everything below this line is old news.
There is another earthbag workshop this year on April 1-6, 2011. For those who want additional, more advanced training, I suggest coming for an internship and staying longer. Scroll down this page for internship details.
Update: Cool Pantry Workshop
The cool pantry is finished. A video that shows every step of construction is 99% complete and will be available for sale soon. Watch our Earthbag Building Blog for all major announcements such as my new Earthbag Building Guide that’s now available as a $20 ebook.
Date: 6 days, April 1-6, 2011
Cost: $500 (per person) includes excellent hotel, and transport to and from the work site
Payment: Full payment in advance — see below for details on sending money
Location: Sakon Nakhon, Northeast Thailand
Instructor: Owen Geiger
Email: strawhouses [@] yahoo dot com
Update: March 28, 2011
Just a quick update to let you know we are ready for the workshop. We dug the trench and moved two truckloads of road base next to the building.
Hotel rooms are $12/night. No special bargains because this workshop is at the same time as university graduation. (I didn’t realize that until yesterday.) Hotels will be crowded all over town.
See you soon. Email me if you have questions.
Update: February 14, 2011
Interns: We’re going to build another multi-purpose outdoor stove/oven immediately after the cool pantry. You may have seen the first one I built: All-in-One Outdoor Oven/Stove
The next one will be similar, except it’s designed for continuous operation. The first one is great for home use, but the next one will be for small bakeries, restaurants, etc. that need to bake or cook all day. It has the potential to boost profits for small businesses by using less fuel. And instead of using concrete blocks, it will be built out of compressed earth blocks (CEBs).
Note on workshop and internship payment: Everyone will be asked to pay the $400 balance for the workshop when you arrive in Thai baht. Please pay in Thai baht. The airport is probably the best place to exchange money. Interns pay the same amount at the same time. That way everyone has paid equally for the first week. This does not change the overall price for interns. It only means you pay more upfront.
Here’s the payment schedule for interns who stay 4 weeks:
$100 deposit per person before coming
$400 per person due on arrival
$100 per person due each following week (3 x $100 = $300)
Total cost: $800 (= $200 per week per person)
Update: February 13, 2011
I’m going to email everyone on my most recent workshop list and ask for a non-refundable $100 deposit per person to confirm your spot at the April 1 workshop. This applies whether you plan to come to the workshop only or for a longer term internship. I will include the details for sending money by Western Union, which can now be done over the Internet — you don’t have to go to a post office.
The hotel (the one we’ve been using for workshop folks) is next to a small lake about three blocks from downtown and about two or three blocks from a large Tesco Lotus shopping center.
Call us when you arrive and we can meet you at the bus station. I’ll email you our phone number after you pay the $100 deposit.
This year’s project: Earthbag Cool Pantry
We will build a Cool Pantry that is designed for keeping food cool without electricity (although we will use it for storage). Every home should have one of these amazing structures for storing food because they’re so practical. This is a simple, shed roof structure designed to be added onto houses. Complete instructions will be published in the next issue of The Owner Builder Magazine.
General building plan:
Goal: build walls and roof and start the plaster in one week (some parts won’t be completely finished, but we will do as much as we can so you get at least some experience on each step of construction).
Hard, dirty work will be completed before the workshop (digging trenches, etc.) so the focus can remain on learning.
Workshop participants can assist with any or all building activities as they choose (ex: you may or may not want to climb on the roof, that’s okay).
The emphasis is on hands-on learning, although there will be short training periods throughout the day with white board, and question and answer sessions.
All earthbag building skills are covered in detail in my upcoming earthbag book (due out March 2011).
1. Send a short email saying “Yes, I am interested in your workshop” to strawhouses [@] yahoo dot com.
2. Full payment in advance is required. First come, first serve. See below for payment instructions.
How to send money
The best way to pay for the workshop or internship program is with Western Union. Most post offices have Western Union. I will provide you the details by private email, but here is the basic procedure. First, sign up by emailing me. Then locate a Western Union service. I will send you the necessary addresses and contact info. Fill out the form at Western Union and wire the money to me. Then send me the Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) from your sender’s receipt, and the city and country you are sending it from.
Potential tours and related activities as time allows: all are near the base of Phu Phan Mountains and Sakon Nakhon.
Phu Phan Center: cutting edge research sponsored by the Royal family on permaculture, rubber trees, CEBs (compressed earth blocks), rice, aquaculture, etc.
Royal Family Organic Farm
Nong Han Lake and Park
Thai OTOP handicrafts
Tour of sustainable features at the jobsite: earthbag dome with living roof, earthbag roundhouse (completed last year), fruit trees, earthbag bench/garden trellis, another earthbag bench, outdoor kitchen with 3-way stove (cooking/ grilling/baking), roofwater jars, raised bed garden
Evening activities: (most places within one to four blocks of hotel)
Nightclubs (limited), karaoke, coffee shop, Big C shopping center, Green Corner restaurant and bakery, Makro and Tesco Lotus shopping centers, night market, Expo open air market (small shops with low cost everything), department store, Internet cafes, Thai movies, massage, bookstore, numerous banks with ATMs (also ATMs at all shopping centers)
Very good hotel, just 3-4 blocks from downtown
Meals and snacks at the best restaurants in the city
Very nice coffee shops and bakeries
Work with Thai builders and Owen Geiger
Shaded break and instructional areas next to jobsite
Filtered ice water available in the shade all day
Work at your own pace (it will be hot and it is best to work gradually with plenty of breaks)
Free limited earthbag consulting on last day of workshop (very useful for those planning their own homes or careers in natural building)
We built this roundhouse at last year’s workshop:
Round earthbag office, 15’ interior diameter, 18” walls, earthbag foundation
Wood doors and windows, small bathroom, earthbag benches
16 sided wood bond beam, steel compression ring
16 sided roof is framed with 8 wood poles and milled lumber, plus terra cotta tile
Exposed wood ceiling with peeled eucalyptus saplings
[Note: Another option is to sign up for our internship program. See below.]
Visa info: Thai Visa.com
In most cases you’ll be able to easily get a 90 day tourist visa upon entry. Some airlines pass out the necessary forms shortly before landing, or you can get one at the airport in Bangkok, which is Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). Note: you could transfer in Bangkok and get a domestic flight to Sakon Nakhon, but it’s much less expensive to take the bus (about $25 versus $200 last time I checked about three years ago).
Bangkok taxis: Assuming you will spend a night in Bangkok to rest up, print the hotel name, phone number and directions from the hotel website. Be sure to include any Thai text to avoid translation problems. Taxi drivers claim to know English, but the reality is often far short of what you would hope.
Bangkok bus station: Take a VIP bus from Mo Chit station in Bangkok. You can buy VIP bus tickets upstairs (2nd floor?). If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask local people. They’ll be glad to help. Just use short simple phrases like “VIP bus” or “VIP to Sakon Nakhon.” You may have to ask two or three people. Your VIP bus will look similar to the one below. These buses make minimal stops, which is good because it’s about a 10 hour trip. They’re also much more comfortable than ordinary buses. We just heard the VIP buses to Sakon Nakhon are now running at night, leaving around 8:00 in Bangkok at the Mo Chit bus station. Buy your ticket early in the morning to help assure you get a seat. Tip: You’ll get a coupon for a meal at the half way point. The food looks pretty dodgy to me, but up to you. You can use the coupon to buy dried fruit and nuts, etc. in the gift shop next door. Ask for the coupon or they may “accidentally forget.”
Sam laws:Do not get in the sam law until the price is agreed on. Always negotiate the price beforehand. Example: two fingers equals 20 baht. Most everything you need is within a few blocks, so expect to pay somewhere around 30-100 baht. Sam law drivers can be difficult to deal with and often try to overcharge foreigners. Be wary of drunk drivers. Most everything in downtown Sakon Nakhon is within about 10 blocks, so you may choose to walk once you learn your way around. (Maybe take a sam law 1-2 times to get your bearings.)
Motorcycle taxis:This is my preference for low cost transportation. Cost is about 30-40 baht from the Sakon Nakhon bus station to the hotel. Show them the hotel business card. Drivers are clearly recognizable by their orange vest and must charge standard fare. Again, work this out before getting on the motorcycle.
Songthaews:Interns will be taking songthaews at times. The cost is 10 baht (30 cents) each way. We’ll explain the details when you get here. You’ll have transportation to and from the work site during the workshop.
Cost for 6-week internships: $1,200
Shorter stays: $200/week
Longer stays: Half price after 6 weeks
(All food, lodging, taxis extra)
The Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building announces a building internship training program in Sakon Nakhon, Thailand starting November, 2009. The internships largely involves a learning by doing approach with some classroom time. It encompasses earthbag building, sustainably harvested wood, earth plaster and floors, CEBs, adobe, thatch, and low-fired brick, as well as most aspects of general carpentry – setting doors and windows, tile, etc. through all stages of construction.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the program is excellence in building design. Over the next two years, we will be building a series of unique buildings that have been carefully chosen for magazine articles and future books: a roundhouse office, guesthouse, roofed dome, earthbag pantry. One project includes this roundhouse. Each building will focus on the best, low cost building techniques: what works best and why.
Interns will work directly with Owen Geiger (now a Mother Earth News Magazine Green Building Expert) and Thai builders learning a multi-cultural way of building with natural materials – where east meets west, so to speak. Students will rotate through on an ongoing basis (start and stop when they want), enjoy exceptionally low cost living (nice, new apartment = about $75-$125/month plus about $10/month utilities, 60 cent taxis, etc.), go on field trips and attend workshops at no additional charge. Class size is limited to a few students, so please apply early. Send a brief summary of your skills and interests to: strawhouses [at] yahoo.com.
Update: The internship program has started and the first students started during the April 2010 Roundhouse Workshop. This is likely the lowest cost natural building internship you’ll find anywhere. Interns have been staying at a new hotel about 2 kilometers from the jobsite. WiFi is available in every room, although there are no computers available — you have to bring your own. There are quite a few Internet cafe’s around town. There are now about a dozen coffee shops, including one near the hotel. There’s also a supermarket one block from the hotel. Please note: this internship program is now limited to three or more interns.