Natural Building Colloquium 2007: Kerrville, Texas

photo galleries











October 19-28, 2007

Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, Texas

List of confirmed presenters/speakers
(updated frequently)

Penny Livingston-Stark of Permaculture Institute of Northern California

Penny Livingston-Stark
Permaculture Institute of Northern California


Penny has been working professionally in the land management and development field for 25 years and has extensive experience in all phases of ecologically sound landscape design and construction as well as the use of natural nontoxic building materials. She specializes in site planning and design of resource-rich landscapes, integrating rainwater collection, edible landscaping, pond and water systems, habitat development and watershed restoration for homes, co-housing communities, businesses and diverse-yield perennial farms.


David Eisenberg of Development Center for Appropriate Technologies

David Eisenberg
Executive Director
Development Center for Advanced Technologies

David Eisenberg co-founded and is Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT) in Tucson, AZ. His three decades of building experience range from the high-tech, such as the steel and glass cover of Biosphere 2 to building with structural concrete, steel, masonry, wood, adobe, rammed earth, and straw bales. For over a decade David has led the effort to create a sustainable context for building codes. He served two terms on the Board of the U.S. Green Building Council where he founded and chairs the Building Codes Committee. David has presented workshops, seminars, keynote addresses and lectures at international, national and regional conferences and lectured at universities in the U.S. and abroad. David is on the Advisory Board of Environmental Building News and Natural Home magazines and writes a regular column for The Last Straw Journal called "Straw Bale DEtours." He is co-author of The Straw Bale House book and has written dozens of published articles, forewords, book chapters and papers.



Pliny Fisk III, Gail Vittori, Co-Directors of Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Pliny Fisk III and Gail Vittori
Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems


Loved and recognized the world over, directors of CMPBS Pliny Fisk III and Gail Vittori have been at the forefront of sustainable building--and how it supports human health--since the early Mesozoic. Together they have developed comprehensive building solutions for a huge variety of site and climate conditions in (to name but a few) China, Brazil, Yemen, and... oh, yeah: Texas. They are tireless inventors who dig very deep to find longlasting wisest uses for land, landscape, plants, water, energy, materials and rebar. Gayle has been working on greening the U.S. hospital system. If you have never heard Pliny speak, come wax down your mental surfboard for a wild Biggest-of-The-Big-Picture ride describing how It really could all Work. Then later you can throw away that bottle of Prozac.


Albert Bates of Institute for Appropriate Technology

Albert Bates
Executive Director
Institute for Appropriate Technology


Albert Bates has been director of the Institute for Appropriate Technology since 1984 and of the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee since 1994. Bates has played a major role in the ecovillage movement as one of the organizers of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). He was also the principal organizer of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and served as its president (from 1996 to 2003). In 1994 he founded the Ecovillage Training Center, a "whole systems immersion experience of ecovillage living." He has taught courses in sustainable design, natural building, permaculture and technologies of the future to students from more than 50 nations. His books include Climate in Crisis; Voices from The Farm; The Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook; The Post-petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times.


Catherine WanekCatherine Wanek & Pete Fust
Author, photographer, innkeeper
Black Range Lodge

Catherine Wanek and Pete Fust held the first Natural Building Colloquium in 1995 at their Black Range Lodge in Kingston, NM, where they a creating a center for ecological building and permaculture. Author of The New Strawbale Home and co-author of The Art of Natural Building, and producer of four videos about straw-bale construction, Catherine also published and edited The Last Straw Journal for five years. She also originated the Build Here Now! event at the Lama Foundation near Taos, NM. She and her husband Pete are founding members of Builders Without Borders.

Pete grows and offers workshops in growing bamboo. Bamboo has been called the most useful plant in the world. It can be fashioned into shelter, tools, and musical instruments, and is an important food source for millions of people. It’s the largest of the grasses, yet is stronger by weight than steel. Bamboo grows very fast and can thrive in diverse climates, including the American Southwest. Poles can be harvested from established groves in three to five years. Bamboo Basics will dispel common myths, and include identifying bamboos that will thrive in the West, and how to grow and maintain bamboo in a variety of climates. * Pete Fust grew up on a North Dakota farm, has a degree in horticulture, and worked designing and creating landscapes in Seattle and California. He currently practices permaculture and natural building in Kingston, NM


Sun Ray Kelly, custom builder

Sun Ray Kelly
Builder extraordinaire


"I practice or try to practice Organic Architecture. What Organic Architecture means to me is a state of reverence for Nature, an ability to look around at your surroundings and ask yourself the questions How do I live in harmony with my surroundings?”


Carole Crews

Carole Crews
Plaster Master of Earthen Finishes


Carole Crews approaches natural building as an artist. Drawing from tradition and her own experiments she is able to use many of the same materials in the studio and on the construction site to create luscious surfaces, As a girl making mud pies in an old adobe village near Taos, New Mexico, she never imagined that her play would lead to a career, but after earning her degree in art at U.T. Austin and participating in an adobe building project in 1975, she discovered the compelling nature of clay surfaces and their possibilities as an artistic medium as well. She collaborated with the late Lori Lawyer in 1990 to start "Gourmet Adobe" and has also built an adobe dome with additions west of Taos which offers ample opportunities for ongoing experiments.

Carole has taught at Natural Building Colloquia for the last decade and contributed to several books including The Art of Natural Building and Alternative Construction; Contemporary Natural Building Methods. She is currently working on a book of her own and seeking a publisher.


Tom Watson, septic guru

Tom Watson
Septic composting guru



Forget everything you think you know about conventional wastewater system design. Fervent genius Tom Watson has come up with a design which breaks every rule in the book. A "Watson Wick"; (see image, 174K) is a subsurface bio-swale which provides all the advantages of a flush toilet, septic system, and composting toilet. It's is a simple, inexpensive septic system alternative designed to reuse the nutrients and water in black-water for irrigating and feeding a lush oasis of plants surrounding the system.


Mark Lakeman on left and Lydia Doleman on right

Mark Lakeman and Lydia Doleman
City Repair
Portland, Oregon

As both an organization and a larger movement, City Repair inspires and guides the transformation of the grid infrastructure of the typical American city into a vital social commons. Natural building and permaculture are key components of this work. Whether converting street intersections into public squares, or organizing other forms of permanent or ephemeral place interventions, City Repair is effectively engaging citizens in the reinvention of the public landscape. Mark is also the principal of Communitecture, a private design firm specializing in ecological building and planning projects at many scales. Lydia is the lead builder for City Repair.


Brad Lancaster, rainwater harvester, activist

Brad Lancaster
Rainwater harvester and activist



Living on an eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona, where rainfall is less than 12 inches annually, Brad practices what he preaches by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year.  Instead of directing rainwater off their property and into storm drains, the gathered water is incorporated into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape that includes habitat for wildlife.  Author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volumes 1 and 2.


Matts Myhrman, Balus Emeritus, pioneer

Matts Myhrman and Judy Knox
Straw bale builders, authors, pioneers
Tucson, Arizona


For the last 20 years Matts and Judy have been on the trail of bales.  From the first rumors of hay houses in Nebraska twenty years ago to fire testing for widespread code approval and straw bale igloos, this pair from Arizona had often lead and always influenced the resurgence of bales. They operate an international strawbale education and resource service Out on Bale from Tuscon, AZ.  Matts co-authored Build it with Bales with Steve MacDonald.


Doni and Kaki

Kaki Hunter and Doni Kiffmeyer
Earthbag builders and educators
OK OK OK Productions

Earthbag building is a modern adaptation that combines the traditional technique of rammed earth in conjunction with high-tech woven polypropylene bags and tubes that act as a flexible form to contain the earth. Arches, niches, curved walls, domes, straight walls are all possible. Based in Moab, Utah and having many years of experience teaching earthbag building workshops, Doni and Kaki can build 'em and show them off like no one else.


Jannelle Kapour and Meka Bunch of Kleiwerks

Janell Kapoor
Founding Director

Founding Director and Program Coordinator of Kleiwerks International, Janell is an avid mud mama, international activist, and community organizer. Since 1997, she has shared the joy and art of earthen building with people from 25 countries. Janell co-organized and taught the first earthen building trainings in Thailand, which have since spread to thousands. She has also taught at and co-sponsored events in Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand, Canada, India, and throughout her country of origin, the United States. Janell is dedicated to getting the word out about how easy, affordable, and natural it can be to house ourselves. She is dedicated to the grassroots, to the champion within each of us, and to the possibility that we may learn to live more balanced within ourselves, with eachother, and with this most beautiful planet we are blessed to inhabit.


Meka Bunch of Kleiwerks

Meka Bunch

Michael "Meka" Bunch attended his first Cob Cottage Co. workshop in 1996 and proceeded to build a two-story cob studio in Wolf Creek, Oregon, offering workshops during 4 years of the building process. Ever since, Meka has been muddin' it up, locally and abroad, demonstrating and teaching natural building techniques via public events and workshops. He has worked and played with Cob Cottage Co., Becky Bee of Groundworks, and most recently in Thailand and S. America, with Janell Kapoor of Kleiwerks International. He has also taught at three of the annual Village Building Convergence events in Portland, Oregon..


Coenraad RogmansCoenraad Rogmans
Natural building educator
House Alive!, Jacksonville, Oregon

In the summer of 1990 Coenraad and his wife Courtney visited Guatemala for a period of two months with the intention of learning Spanish and exploring the country. They ended up taking a course in organic farming and appropriate technology: solar ovens, photovoltaic, planting corn and rural communities. Since that time, providing uplifting alternatives to industrial consumerism has become a full time occupation. The Rogmans' off-grid homestead in southern Oregon now serves as workshop central and a living example of how one family can thrive in the wealth of sustainable options.


James Thompson

James Thompson
Natural building instructor
House Alive!, Oregon

In addition to a busy workshop schedule in the US, James has gotten "down and dirty" with cob projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, and Jamaica. He has found his biggest challenge as a natural builder is to figure out how to best help people living in these areas of economic hardship, and is continually amazed at the power of cob to bring people together and lift spirits. He shares reflections on his experiences and offers suggestions for others interested in working in similar situations.


Amazin Walter

Amazin Walter
Sandsculptor, photographer, magician, clown


The old "Son of the Beach" himself. A community fixture on South Padre Island along Texas' coast, what some folks call "local color!"


Janine BjörnsonJanine Björnson
educator: naturalizing conventional homes


Janine Björnson is a natural builder, practitioner and educator. She began her career in natural building when she trained with The Cob Cottage in 1996. Since then, she has taught over 65 workshops in Canada and the United States, from east to west.
Her passion for building with natural materials bloomed out of her love for the earth, in conjunction with her concern for diminishing ecological resources and toxic buildings. As a result of this, Janine has devoted the last decade to immersing herself in the world of natural materials and the knowledge of how we can shape dwellings that are healthy, healing, inspiring, and beautiful. She has developed a penchant for natural paints, and plasters and loves the concept of "naturalizing" any kind of home. She loves to share this knowledge with others and this is evident in her enthusiastic teaching style.
Janine has assisted in organizing 2 Natural Building Colloquia. She has presented at the Natural Building Colloquium in Bath, New York, and Kingston, New Mexico. She teaches the natural building component of New College of California's EcoDwelling program. She is the "natural materials" cyber panelist at She lives in Sebastopol, California.


KIko DenzerKiko Denzer
Sculptor, Author


Earth is a natural material for sculpting and the combination of earth with sand and straw provides an extraordinary structural flexibility that dissolves the division between sculpture and architecture. Kiko started carving stone when he was ten, and still works in stone, wood, and other materials. But earth, and the revival of interest in it as a natural and environmentally friendly building material, have provided a context where art has an essential and practical part in a more sustainable cultural vision. Creation returns to its rightful place as a community endeavor, and people who wouldn't consider tackling a life size sculpture will gleefully build an oven or even a house.
Kiko has authored two books: Build Your Own Earth Oven, and Dig Your Hand in the Dirt


Lakman YapaLakshman Yapa
Professor of Geography, Penn State
Re-thinking Urban Poverty

Lakshman Yapa is a professor of Geography at Pennsylvania State University. His doctorate is in Geography from Syracuse University in New York. He teaches courses on GIS, economic development, and poverty. He has won several university and national awards for his work on poverty alleviation. He has extensive experience in consulting work overseas and has worked for the World Bank, US AID, UNDP, Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD), the Government of Sri Lanka and many other non-governmental organizations. He has published widely on issues of urban poverty in the US and overseas, computer mapping, and development. He has for several years directed the project titled, "Rethinking Urban Poverty: Philadelphia Field Project," a course in outreach, service learning and public scholarship.


Dr. Richard Burt and Charles W. Graham, Ph.D., A.I.A., F.R.I.C.S
Department of Construction Science, Texas A&M University

Earth Block Construction: It's not about mud anymore! As professors, researchers and administrators Burt and Graham have embraced earthen construction bringing students on to construction sites and mud into the classroom. They will demonstrate and discuss compressed soil block fabrication, soil selection and construction.


Elke Cole,  architect and cob builder

Elke Cole
Architect, cob builder
Victoria, Canada


Educated in Germany as an architect, in the past thirteen years Elke has seen Canadian natural building evolve from "cob? what’s that?” to "cob! oh yes, how can I have one?”  Part of a trio of builders known as "Cobworks”, she has developed "O.U.R. Ecovillage" as a natural building demonstration site along with work in Tanzania and other locations.


Chris Magwood

Chris Magwood
Straw bale builder, instructor, author



As a partner in Camel’s Back Construction, Ontario, Canada, Chris was involved in designing and building over 40 bale structures. Since leaving Camel's Back three years ago, he has acted as the designer and lead instructor for Fleming College's Sustainable Building Design and Construction program where students are responsible for creation of a cutting-edge sustainable building for a public institution . He has co-authored: Straw Bale Building, More Straw Bale Building and Straw Bale Details.


Christina Ott and Craig Sommers

Christina Ott
Cob builder, educator


With no more construction experience than a "basics of cob" workshop Christina began with a small studio in her Florida backyard. Within two years this structure had withstood two major hurricanes including the weight of a fallen oak tree. As Christina says when the "tree hit the cob it just stopped." Since that time Christina and her partner Craig (aka Nature, author of "the Raw Foods Bible) have founded a natural building school in Tennessee. As an emerging builder and educator Christina aims to inspire and empower those who have traditionally been shut out of the building process to create their own healthful and heartful home.


Frank MeyerPatt Taylor
Cornerstones Community Partnerships, New Mexico


Pat Taylor has worked for Cornerstones Community Partnerships as an adobe conservation specialist for the the last 17 years. Cornerstones is a non profit organization that works with communities, their youth and other volunteers to restore historic structures through out New Mexico. Pat's 29 years in working with adobe also includes experience in carpentry, masonry, and contracting. He brings a unique perspective on traditional building practices that is coupled with a commitment to the next generation in their training.


Ben Obregon,  architect and straw bale builder

Ben Obregon
Straw bale architect
Sustainable Design Center

Ben writes "I was introduced to straw bale construction by Pliny Fisk and Gail Vittori in 1993 and it opened up a whole new world for me. I have been actively involved with the design, construction, building code and insurance related issues regarding straw bale construction since.

"I believe that, though not appropriate for all climates or design types, a well-constructed straw bale structure can provide thermal and sound insulation far superior to other building systems in it's price range. When you factor in the renewability of the material, the embodied energy of the manufacturing process and the community building aspect of the wall raising process (people from many different economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds all working together for a common goal) straw is truly a special building material."


Massey Burke

Massey Burke
Natural builder, educator


A classics scholar, violinist and soprano, Massey recently fled the academic world in search of dirtier work. She appeared in the natural building world working under Michael Smith of Emerald Earth, where she co-teaches the apprenticeship, and at the Real Goods Headquarters in Hopland California, where she is leading the reconstruction of the intern village destroyed in a recent flood.


Joeseph Jenkins

Joseph Jenkins
Author, composter king, slate roofer


Joe Jenkins started working on slate roofs at the age of 16 in Butler, Pennsylvania under the tutorship of a 63 year-old named Peter Odrey, in 1968. He eventually graduated from college and attended graduate school where he wrote his first book, The Humanure Handbook , as a graduate thesis turned into an underground bestseller, first published in January, 1995. His second book, The Slate Roof Bible, published in 1997, sprang from the slate roof restoration trade he had developed over the years.


Javier CortezJavier Cortez
Dos Puertas Publishing


Through hands-on experience, research, and interviews with members of various tribes, Javier has become an expert on the portable dwellings favored by the Plains Indians. His Lakota-style tipi is a familiar sight to patrons of the Kerrville Folk Festival: over the past two decades, hundreds of campers and musicians have stopped to share stories and songs within its sheltering circle. Javier is co-author of Tipi - A Modern How-to Guide (Dos Puertas Publishing, 2003). He has lectured and demonstrated tipi camping skills at Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo, the Texas Heritage Foundation's Living History Day at Schreiner College, and at schools and heritage festivals all over Texas. His bead and leather work has appeared on album covers, folk and country music videos, and the 2004 Touchstone Pictures film, The Alamo.


Art LudwigArt Ludwig
Oasis Design, Southern California


Art Ludwig's idea of being rich is being able to drink the water that he swims in each day. His books and web site have helped thousands of people relate to water in ways that bring us all a bit closer to this ideal.
Ecological systems design has been Art's day job for 25 years. His specialty is integrated systems of systems.
His design interests include water and wastewater systems, edible landscaping, structural design, transport bikes, camping equipment, and personal finance.
Art has studied and worked in twenty two different countries, over 27 years. He's written a number of books including "Principles of Ecological Design," "Create and Oasis with Greywater," the "Builders Grey Water Guide" and "Water Storage."

Alfred von Bachmayr

Alfred von Bachmayr
World Hands Project, New Mexico/Mexico

Alfred is a licensed architect and ZERI certified. He specializes in energy-efficient residential projects emphasizing green materials and technologies. Alfred’s service to environment and community can be found in the numerous organizations he has either founded or directed. World Hands Project is Alfred’s latest endeavor where both civic and housing projects of a natural/salvaged/green nature make up the majority of the work in Anapra, a border village near Ciudad Juarez.

Mollie Curry, Steve Kemble
Steve Kemble and Mollie Curry
Natural Builders, Teachers, Consultants

Steve is a designer, builder and workshop leader avidly working with natural building for 17 years. His company, Sustainable Systems Support, has produced two landmark videos on straw bale construction. Mollie is a natural building practitioner and teacher, and long-time member of Earthaven Ecovillage intentional community. She brings the values of deep ecology to her work and loves to plaster. Steve and Mollie have joined forces with their new company, MudStrawLove, to help people create beautiful, lasting homes using natural materials, as an act of consciousness and fun!


Dafyd Rawlings

Dafyd Rawlings
World Hands Project

Dafyd is an intern architect, LEED accredited professional, permaculture-certified designer, board member of the Natural Building Network and World Hands Project administrator. His experience includes civic planning for the Japanese fishing village of Ine, experimental housing for migrant farm-workers, a stone masonry apprenticeship in Northern Italy, and a research project in alternatives to institutional forms of housing for shelterless populations presented to several city governments.


NateEicherNate Eicher
Sawyer with portable bandsaw mill
Smithville, TX


Renegade Amishman Nate specializes in turning local logs into custom lumber. He'll bring his mill on site to slice roof sheathing from local juniper trees.


Darryl Berlin
Darryl Berlin
Emerald Earth Intentional Community, Northern California
Educator, Community Member

Darryl Berlin, is a founding member of Emerald Earth, an intentional community whose design and lifestyle emphasizes permaculture, based in Northern California. He and Michael Smith (of Cob Cottage fame) continue to grow one of the prime clusters of natural buildings in an active community context. For the last 9 years, Darryl has helped with the design and building of 6 hybrid naturally built homes, a handful of small sheds and out-buildings and developed and installed an off-grid PV/hydro power system for the community. For the past 4 years, he has been co-teaching a 2 month natural building apprenticeship, along with yearly week long natural building intensives, helping spread knowledge and skills to many people across the nation.


Derek RoffDerek Roff
Builders Without Borders
University of New Mexico


Derek grew up in New Mexico, and began working on natural buildings
(adobe) and alternative construction (domes, zomes, and hippy
free-forms) as a young teenager. After discovering straw bale in the
early nineties, he has focused on sustainability and energy conservation building techniques. He recently returned from Europe, where he visited exemplary building sites, architects and natural builders in several countries. Derek's contributions to the larger community of natural builders include serving as associate editor for The Last Straw Journal, and seven years planning "Build Here Now" at the Llama Foundation in Northern New Mexico. He is the founding member, and current director of the natural building education/advocacy network, Builders Without Borders. Interests include composting toilets, light-weight roof systems, phase-change heat storage, "near-zero energy" home design, trans-cutural communication and the Esperanto language.


Richard Heinichen
Rainwater Farmer, Tanktown, USA

Six years ago, Richard Heinichen, a metal sculptor, and his wife, writer Suzy Banks, fed up with drinking from their well - which yielded, as Heinichen puts it, "rock-hard sulfur water which turned our hair into fright wigs and our blue jeans into cardboard" - decided to harvest the sky. Heinichen perfected a tank-and-pump-and-filter system and now drinks water that "has never hit the ground" - and that exceeds the EPA's water-purity standard. He uses the water for everything and says his clothes are now softer, his faucets and toilets are sparkling, even the vegetables in the garden taste better. Heinichen has also become the self-proclaimed mayor of Tank Town, a business that sells collecting tanks and just about everything else any enterprising person needs for gathering H2O including a funny, down-to-the-last-detail book called Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged.


Joyce Coppinger
The Last Straw Quarterly Journal


Mark Meckes
Bamboo Cultivator and Artisan
Austin, TX


Lauren Ross and Scott Kellog
Rhizome Collective, Austin, TX


Frank Meyer

Frank Meyer
Natural building craftsman, singer-songwriter


In 1993 Frank built the first load-bearing straw bale building in Texas. Since then, he has built or helped build over 40 straw bale buildings. Natural Home and Southern Living magazines have featured one of his projects. He was recently quoted in The New York Times in an article about earthen floors.

As a professional musician for many years, he played bass for such luminaries as B.B. King, Luther Tucker, Peter Rowan and Johnny Gimble. Frank put the bass in the doghouse a few years ago when the urge to write songs struck him. He has since released three all original full length CD's: "Scrounger's Paradise" (2001), "Dagnabit" (2004) and a 2005 children's release "Get Serious Mr. Pancake." Frank's songs range from the sensitive to the hilarious, and from passionate to twisted. Two of his songs have been licensed to movies and his voice can be heard on various T.V. and radio spots. "Savage of Salvage" (Scrounger's Paradise) was recently featured on NPR's "Car Talk."