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Sustainable Renovations in Canadian Contractor magazine

Canadian Contractor magazine put Endeavour’s Sustainable Renovations program on the cover of their November/December 2018 issue. The article gives a good overview of the participants who came from all around the world to work with us on our first offering of this unique program.

You can see the full article here.

Sustainable Renovations program in Canadian Contractor magazine

The Sustainable Renovations program undertook the rehabilitation of an old concrete block garage by turning it into a new, healthy, carbon-positive, non-toxic living space. Full details on the project will be available soon…

Building for climate drawdown

Endeavour Centre is committed to helping reverse climate change by creating buildings that are carbon capture and storage devices. Our buildings store more carbon in their materials than was emitted in making the materials… climate positive building. Add this to our net zero energy practice and use of onsite renewable energy and we can change buildings from being a leading cause of climate change into a leading solution!

Chris Magwood recently presented to Passive Buildings Canada about how this can be done, using Endeavour Centre buildings as case studies. You can watch a video of the presentation to learn more:

Peterborough Tool Library – New at Endeavour

Peterborough Tool Library – New at Endeavour

The Endeavour Centre is now more than just a sustainable building school! In June, we also opened the Peterborough Tool Library.

A tool library is like a typical library, but for tools instead of books. The Peterborough Tool Library allows community members to borrow from a large inventory of power and hand tools and take those tools home to use them. 

Endeavour director Jen Feigin had the idea to start the tool library, and she and her team of dedicated volunteers got the library up and running with an Indiegogo campaign that pre-sold memberships. They’ve been running the library for over 6 months now, with new members joining all the time. There is a dedicated group managing tool repairs and maintenance, and the inventory is constantly expanding.

For just $50 a year members can start borrowing tools… undertaking their own building and repair projects.

The Peterborough Tool Library is a community resource that will support independence, creativity, and sharing in our community!  

Touring Sustainable Homes

On October 3 and 4, two great organizations are teaming up to help get you inside some unique sustainable homes in Ontario!

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) has its Doors Open event on October 3. On this tour, you can see a wide range of homes that employ a variety of renewable energy strategies, from solar electric and solar thermal to small scale wind and micro hydro.

The Ontario Natural Building Coalition (ONBC) has its Natural Building Tour on October 4. On this tour, you can see homes built with all kinds of natural materials, including straw bale, hempcrete, rammed earth, cob and compressed earth blocks.

The links above will take you to maps that show all of the homes involved in the tours. There will be no better opportunity to see and experience such a wide range of homes, and to learn all of the insights gained by the owners and builders as they created their projects.

Straw Bale Construction in China and Ontario

December 1st Presentation

On Thursday, December 1st, we are excited to join the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition in sponsoring Three Presentations on Straw Bale Construction at Ryerson University, Room ARC 300E, 325 Church Street in Toronto. 7:30 pm

Shi Yi, Wang Li and Tong Yu from the China Academy of Building Research will present on their lab testing program for straw bale walls, and on their involvement in straw bale home building projects in villages around China.

Colin MacDougall from Queen’s University Department of Civil Engineering will present on the numerous testing programs he has conducted on straw bale wall systems and other natural building materials.

Chris Magwood from the Endeavour Centre will present on the state of straw bale construction in Ontario, including homes built by professional bale builders, owner-builders and students.

For those with an interest in straw bale construction, the evening will be a fascinating look at a wide variety of approaches to using straw bale walls and a glimpse at the scientific testing that has made bale buildings acceptable in Canada and China.

For more information, contact us.

Clay Plasters: Beautiful and Green

In advance of Endeavour’s upcoming Make Your Own Clay Finish Plasters workshop on November 26 & 27, we thought we’d direct your attention to an article that Chris wrote recently for Our Green Home magazine.

There is still room in this workshop… contact us to register and you too can be making beautiful, healthy walls!

Natural red pigment and untinted clay walls

Clay Plasters: Beautiful and Green

Imagine the walls of your home giving you a warm, gentle hug every time you are in a room. That’s the way most homeowners describe the effect of clay plasters as a wall finish. Clay plasters are also among the very greenest finishing materials available, making them an attractive option for remodeling an existing room or for new construction.

The use of decorative clay plasters is as old a practice as home building itself. The insides of caves, grass huts and early stone buildings around the world were finished with coloured clay plasters. Largely ignored in North America for the past couple of centuries, the use of clay plasters is enjoying a remarkable resurgence as homeowners seek natural, healthy and affordable ways to enrich their homes.

The basic ingredients in a clay finish plaster are no different today than they were thousands of years ago: clay, sand, pigment and a glue-like binder (often based on cooked flour!). What has changed is the method of application. In the past, many clay plasters were applied by hand to rough, uneven walls. Now they are applied with trowels onto straight, flat wall surfaces. But the link to the past is obvious when you experience a modern clay plaster as the richness and depth of colour and the unique interaction with light and sound are unparalleled by any modern materials.

For those concerned with indoor air quality, a clay plaster is a great choice. They are completely non-toxic and do not off-gas in the wet or dry state. They involve no petroleum products or other chemicals in their manufacture or application, and have been shown in German research to have some effectiveness at absorbing and transforming pollutants in the household air. The same research shows them to have excellent moisture-handling properties, helping to regulate humidity in the home.

Clay plasters can be applied directly over most existing wall surfaces and finishes, including latex and oil paints, drywall and paneling. On painted surfaces, a mixture of natural glue and sand is rolled onto the wall to provide the plaster with “tooth,” a rough surface that allows the plaster to grip the wall. The plaster can be recoated in the future, or can be painted over with conventional or clay-based paints.

The application of clay plasters takes some practice, but it is well within the ability of most homeowners to apply. Some practice on a spare sheet of drywall will help to hone a technique, or you can take lessons in application from professional plasterers. The plasters can be applied with an endless variation of appearances, from perfectly smooth to roughly troweled or textured finishes. The plasters can be burnished so they shine or left with matt surfaces. The possibilities are almost endless. A wide range of natural pigments allows a vast range of colours to be achieved, and the colours tend to be warmer and “friendlier” than synthetics.

Orange pigment in a natural plaster

There are some manufactured clay plasters available on the market, and these products have been largely responsible for the surge of popularity for this type of finish. It is also straightforward to make your own clay finish plasters from locally available ingredients with the help of some research and instruction on creating mixes. Buyers should be wary of products marketed as clay plasters that feature some amount of clay in a petroleum-based paint.

Clay plastered walls invite amazed reactions and a desire to touch the wall from those experiencing them for the first time. Unique, beautiful, healthy and affordable; there is nothing that quite compares to a clay plastered wall.


Tadelakt Workshop Wrap-Up

Our first workshop at Endeavour, Tadelakt and Advanced Lime Plastering, was a great success!

Tadelakt is a historical means of applying and treating lime plasters to make them waterproof. Originating in Morocco, the plasters are applied in successive thin layers, troweled smooth and then burnished with hard stones using an olive oil soap. The soap and the lime have a chemical reaction that creates the waterproofing. The soap and stone burnishing also creates a beautiful, glassy finish that is amazing to see and touch!

Over five days, instructor Ryan Chivers taught our group of intrepid plasterers a remarkable amount about lime and lime plastering. Here’s a quick look at what we covered in the workshop…

A Tadelakt Workshop Gallery
A Bit About Lime

The process of actually mixing the plaster is the same that we’ve experienced with clay and lime cement plasters. One of the best things Ryan taught us was that the need to “slake” lime into a putty is really not necessary with modern, Type S lime. Modern, north american limes are processed in such a way that they are fully hydrated at the manufacturer using heat and pressure. This greatly simplifies the process of working with lime plasters of all types as the weeks or months of slaking in water are eliminated. However, the plasters do want to be mixed at least a few hours before use as the lime does take some time to fully take up the water that’s been added. We mixed a day ahead of ourselves throughout the workshop.

 Applying Lime Plaster

Our first plastering was not tadelakt, but a finish lime plaster that was applied directly over painted drywall. The walls were prepared by painting on a mix of white glue and sand, which gave adhesion for the plaster. We then applied two very thin coats of lime. This system was very quick (a 12×15 room took about 1 hour for 2 people to apply, per coat). We’ll post finished pictures of the room once it’s all cured.

Practicing Tadelakt

Tadelakt is all about timing! You could read about doing tadelakt forever, but it’s all about timing, feel and doing the right thing at the right time. Luckily, Ryan was great at preparing us for what to expect at each stage. By practicing first on our tiles and cob balls, everybody began to understand the stages of tadelakt and how to know when it was time to move on.

Applying Tadelakt

We did one tadelakt wall in a “dry” area of the house. To be fully waterproof, the tadelakt must be done just right, so we had one wall that will not be exposed to direct water on which to practice. And it’s a good thing… it really does take a lot of practice (much more than one wall!) to get a feel for the technique.

Tadelakt Shower/Bathroom

Tadelakt is beautiful anywhere, but in bathrooms, showers and other wet areas it mixes beauty and functionality like no other natural material.

The timing for tadelakt gets more complex the more surface area there is to cover. In this bathroom, we had several different substrates under the tadelakt which all affected the timing, and we had many people applying, troweling, stoning and soaping. The result, however, is a wonderful, rich, shiny plaster!

In the end, the crew did an amazing job. We’ve all been promised a nice hot shower in the finished bathroom to appreciate our work!

We’ll post photos of the finished bathroom when it’s ready. The tadelakt takes 28 days to fully cure…

Our thanks to Ryan for teaching a terrific workshop and to all the participants for so much fun, hard work and learning together!





Welcome to Endeavour!

We are very excited to be introducing the Endeavour Centre, a new not-for-profit sustainable learning, building and living centre! While it represents a new beginning in many ways, it’s also the culmination of everything its founding members have been doing as builders and teachers over the past number of years.

We envision Endeavour as an exciting addition to the existing “hubs” of sustainable building activity that dot the globe and provide education, inspiration and support to sustainable builders worldwide. “Hubs” like this don’t spring out of nowhere. Our past roles as creators and instructors at Fleming College’s sustainable building programs has put us at the centre of a growing network of builders, teachers and graduates. With the Endeavour Centre, we hope to intentionally foster this community and help it to grow and develop into something exciting and dynamic.

The heart of Endeavour is its programs. Our full-time New Construction and Renovation programs will offer students an in-depth, hands-on experience in a real-life building project from start to finish. We will be adding a full-time Sustainable Design program to that roster of in-depth, intensive, hands-on learning opportunities.

We’ll be rounding out our full-time offerings with a wide range of exciting workshops that will bring together talented practitioners of sustainable and natural building techniques to share their knowledge in shorter formats. Our workshops will maintain the focus on hands-on, practical learning.

In a world that often seems overfull with “doom and gloom,” we have found that hands-on sustainable building skills are a sure way to overcome malaise and empower people to actively participate in building better communities. The “hub” we envision at Endeavour will bring together people who share a passion for sustainable building and create ties that enable and inspire real change.

We sincerely hope you’ll join us in this Endeavour!



Chris Magwood, Jen Feigin and Diane Csenar

Founding Directors,

The Endeavour Centre