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Natural Building Intensive

Endeavour’s one-month Natural Building Intensive puts you at the heart of a natural building project, from foundations to finishes.

You will learn about the design and construction of modern natural buildings, using materials sourced from the local environment to create healthy, affordable and energy efficient shelter.

You will work with teachers and practitioners who are leaders in the field and work with fellow participants who are motivated and enthusiastic.

Join us for an experience that will give you the skills to tackle your own natural building projects!

2019 program dates: August 6 – August 30

Natural Building Intensive Overview

Our one-month natural building intensive is designed to give you hands-on experience with all the key building materials, systems and strategies for natural building. We will undertake a small-scale project that ensures participants get to experience all stages of construction, from initial site preparation to final finishes, including:
  • straw bale building
  • hempcrete
  • timber and wood framing
  • natural plasters
  • earthen floors
  • stone and natural concrete
  • recycled and repurposed materials
Classroom modules in the natural building intensive include:
  • design for natural materials
  • building science for natural structures
  • material sourcing and assessment
Participants will also tour natural buildings in the Peterborough area and meet with builders and homeowners in the region.

Is the natural building intensive for me?

Endeavour’s natural building intensive is designed to be relevant for newcomers to building and seasoned building professionals alike. The supportive, community-based learning atmosphere encourages engagement, deliberation and action! Whether you are looking to build a small backyard project or incorporate natural building materials into code-approved buildings, you’ll find your learning supported in the natural building intensive.

Entry Requirements

There are no formal prerequisites for joining our natural building intensive. Participants of all skill levels are welcome to join us. We provide all the tools and materials required, but participants are encouraged to bring their own tools.

Tuition Fee

$1,900 CDN plus HST. Food and accommodation not included.   Apply Now!

Earthbag root cellar at Trent University built by The Endeavour Centre

What is Natural Building?

There is no universal definition of “natural building” but Wikipedia does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of natural building. If you want to be inspired by lots of great photos of natural building around the world, Talking Natural Homes is a great place to start.

Here at Endeavour, our full time Sustainable New Construction and Sustainable Renovations programs focus on the use of natural materials in the context of high-performance, code-approved buildings where the natural materials palette is combined with responsibly manufactured products and high-tech mechanical systems. The natural building intensive focuses exclusively on the use of natural materials and simple, home-made systems.

New Sustainable Renovations program

Endeavour Centre now offers full-time, certificate program in Sustainable Renovations! Program starts September, 2017…

Thousands of aging homes across Canada are confronting owners with expensive energy bills, uncomfortable indoor environment quality, a large carbon footprint and sometimes health concerns. Addressing these issues is no easy task, but the faculty at the Endeavour Centre is uniquely qualified to teach renovators and designers to vastly improve the quality of older homes affordably and responsibly.

The 4-month, full time Sustainable Renovations program employs a unique curriculum that mixes experiential education on a real renovation project with focused classroom curriculum to provide students with an immersive and in-depth education. In addition, LearnMate Tutoringl has been honed in the school’s Sustainable New Construction program, now entering its sixth year and responsible for training dozens of students on award-winning building projects.

Sustainable Renovations

Students will learn how to assess green building materials and strategies, source healthy materials, perform energy audits and design for energy efficiency, responsibly handle construction waste and be part of an integrated design and construction team, while participating hands-on start to finish of a project.

Lead instructor Shane MacInnes has spent years as a project coordinator for leading green renovations companies in Ontario and British Columbia. “There are so many opportunities for meaningful work in this field, and I’m excited to welcome students with and without construction experience into Sustainable Renovations.” MacInnes believes that “experiential education is the key to becoming a well-rounded renovator, one who understands the key principles and knows how put them into action.”

Endeavour director Chris Magwood is excited to be adding Sustainable Renovations to the school’s full-time, certificate program offerings. Having taught hundreds of students in sustainable new construction who have gone on to have careers in the field, he sees renovations as a key part of a cleaner, greener world. “Dealing responsibly with our existing housing stock is critical to our economic and ecological future, and we are excited to contribute meaningfully to this effort with this new course offering.”

Sustainable Renovations

The new full-time program begins on September 5 and runs until December 22, in Peterborough, Ontario. It is open to students with or without construction experience. More details are available on the program’s web page.

Goodbye to the class of 2013

The fall has flown by so quickly that it’s hard to believe that the Sustainable New Construction class of 2013 has already been gone for over a month!

Straw bale vegetable processing facility at Circle Organic farm built by The Endeavour Centre

The class of 2013 and their almost-complete veggie processing building

This year’s class was an amazing collection of people, with Endeavour’s first international students making up half of the class. Participants from the UK, Brazil, France and the USA mixed it up with the Canadians to make it a very memorable five months of working on the farm at Circle Organic in Millbrook.

This photo gallery is a collection of just a few of the memorable moments from this year’s class… Stay tuned for more blog posts that will take you through this unique building project from start to finish!

Whoo-hoo, we're finished!

Whoo-hoo, we’re finished!

Haiti Team Returns!

Port au Prince

February 29, 2912

The Endeavour in Haiti crew: Dave Hope, Soumare "Sam" Barker, Shane MacInnes, Paul Adlaf, Tina Therrien, Jean-Paul "JP" Efford, Megan Carter

Here we are… departure day for the Endeavour group. I’ve had such fun with these guys – I’ll miss them. I feel really blessed with the group who came on this excursion. They are resourceful, hard working, talented, and a lot of fun to boot. Going into this endeavour was definitely an unknown for all of us – not knowing exactly how we would gel, what projects would really unfold, whether or not people would be able to handle the sometimes tough conditions in Haiti. They definitely rocked it out, and pulled off a lot of projects in our (relatively) short time here.


Starting with our time at Haiti Communitère and making the Ubunto blox cleaning station and the new hen house, to going to Deslandes and finishing the compost toilet building to painting the earth block school, the group jumped in enthusiastically and met their challenges. We were only sorry that Centre Inspiration Jeunesse (CIJ) couldn’t get wood there for us in order to make doors for the washrooms. Alas, we finished all that we possibly could.

Our work day would start somewhere around 8 or 8:30 am until around noon – early morning is one of the cooler times of day. By noon, the heat was generally unbearable (highs of over 30º every day, with little to no shade cover. We worked straight through the first few days (with a lunch break!), but soon found that we needed a mid day break, and would break for two or three hours, returning to work by late afternoon and working until dusk. This proved to be the best way to survive, and was by far, the coolest time of day to work.

Our jobsite had constant spectators; mostly youth, but also some adults. Kids were keen to help out. Haitian kids don’t have a lot of toys, and are content to spend long periods of time just hanging out with adults. I think they especially enjoyed spending time with us, as we gave them lots of positive attention. Many kids pitched in to help with various tasks at the jobsite, such as collecting straw for plaster, mixing plaster, painting, and cleaning. They are extremely observant, carefully watching how you do a task, then picking up a tool (without being asked) and replicating the job. It’s uncanny how good they are at that!

The community in Deslandes is really appreciative of our work and our interactions with them. We were the first invited group to go to Deslandes (who weren’t funders), so we were testing new waters all round. There are recommendations and suggestions from us and from the folks in Deslandes for how to improve the experience for future groups- but we sure were treated well there.

I feel like our venture was successful: beyond achieving building goals, it was about being integrated in village life for a couple of weeks, of laughing with the community, of playing with kids, of knowing what water shortages are like, what extreme heat is like, and having to accept that there are always going to be hungry people in such a community, and that we can’t help everyone. We have completed an 8-stall composting toilet facility that is desperately needed in the community, and this model is being replicated in some of the poorest areas in Port au Prince, so we can be proud of the little bit that we have done while here. The lasting impressions of the beauty of the Artibonite River landscape, the smiling faces of the children we saw daily, and the beautiful people we connected with won’t soon be forgotten.

-Tina Therrien, Endeavour in Haiti project leader



First Report from Endeavour in Haiti

by Tina Therrien, Program Coordinator

The first ever Endeavour group has arrived safely in Port au Prince, where we are based at Haiti Communitère ( for our first few days. Haiti Communitère (HC) has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, specialising in post disaster relief. A combination of international volunteers plus some local Haitians make up the core team of HC. Located about a kilometer from the airport, this is a great landing pad for volunteers coming into Haiti, as a place to get grounded, and network with others working on rebuild efforts.

The Ti Kay Pay (Little Straw House) in Port au Prince

There are many different natural building experiments and prototype buildings that have been built here on the base, from an earthship (built by Michael Reynolds and volunteers), a super adobe shelter (long earthbag tubes), shipping container conversions, a straw bale house, a new bottle wall/clay straw house, and a fiberglass structure. Bales of trash (Ubunto blocks) are at the beginning stages of being incorporated into a structure. There is no shortage of innovative ideas for rebuild efforts in Haiti.

Some of these structures are being built with earthquake & hurricane resistance incorporated into the design, while others aren’t necessarily. I feel that if we are coming and trying to share ideas with Haitians, our prototypes need to be able to stand up to sure winds of up to 130mph. Haitians also have to like the look of the house – some of the more ‘out there’ designs aren’t quite so desirable to local folks.

Earthship in Port au Prince

Building in Haiti can be challenging. First of all there is the intense heat to deal with, but a lack of materials and functional tools is almost always the case. You have to be resourceful with the materials at hand – you won’t necessarily be able to get new materials (and most Haitians couldn’t afford them anyway), and if you do to purchase new materials, it can take much longer than you expected at the store, or waiting for delivery. Actually, every stage of building here takes longer, so we have to throw out our North American jobsite timelines and develop some realistic Haiti timelines. And even then, it will likely take longer than you think!

The heat of Haiti can be taxing to newcomers, as we found out yesterday, with a high of 95ºF. We got our bearings, and tried to find some volunteer projects here at the base for the next couple of days, since the original project we were going to get involved with is ahead of schedule (unheard of in Haiti – way to go Andy Mueller & team!). Our design teams quickly sketched out plans for a new chicken coop, and a washing station to be built with Ubunto blocks (we’ll attend a demo later today, and will write more about this soon). Dave jumped onto the jackhammer, breaking up chunks of rubble that can then be run through the rubble crusher. Sam and Megan tried out the rubble crusher, which is a great workout for sure… but a lot of work. We’re making sure to drink lots of fluids, and find shade while we can.

Megan and Sam crush rubble

Dave and JP have already realised that their initial plan of rebuilding the chicken coop isn’t feasible in the two days we are here with the materials at hand, so their revised plan involves making a new door (sorely needed) and a new nesting area that will hopefully encourage more egg laying.

Megan and Shane are building a table and shelving system that will become part of a washing station for Styrofoam containers at the Ubuntu block station. Paul is floating in between jobsites when he’s not behind the camera. Sam jumped in to finish painting some lockers inside the house at HC, so really, at this point it’s only me who isn’t contributing. It is strange to be here and not be on a jobsite, so I think I’ll finish this and get out there.

Everyone got acquainted with the Hole in the Wall, which is… a hole in the wall to the neighbour’s house, and from there, they sell soft drinks and Haitian beer (beer is less than a dollar!).

We’re staying here until Sunday morning, when Ospri, from Centre d’Inspiration Jeunesse, will pick us up and take us to a beach en route to Deslandes in the Artibonite Valley. Our internet access in Deslandes will be either sporadic or non-existent, but we’ll do our best to get news of our adventures out there as often as we can.

Now, onto the jobsite to see how things are progressing. And maybe get my hands dirty too!

tina therrien


Haiti Program Information Meeting

Join us for an information meeting about the Endeavour in Haiti program on Sunday, November 20th!

At this meeting, program leader Tina Therrien will outline the details of the program and answer questions from potential participants.

Tbe meeting will be held at Sadlier House in Peterborough from 2:30 – 4:00pm. For more information call us at 705-868-5328. If you are interested in this program but cannot attend the meeting, please let us know. We may be able to set up a Skype connection.

Endeavour In Haiti

For new details about the program, please click here.

About the Program

Endeavour is excited to be able to offer a three-week natural building sojourn to Haiti this February, where students will be involved in working on an earth block school building and volunteer activities in a small community in the Artibonite Valley.


Tina Therrien is a leader in the natural building community in Ontario, and has been for over a decade. In 2010, Tina spent close to three months in Haiti, forging connections with NGOs, Haitian organizations, as well as ties to villagers in a small community. Throughout that time, she worked with Builders Without Borders constructing the first straw bale house in Haiti, as well as volunteering on other projects including earthbag, compressed earth block, and light clay straw structures. Her experience with different building methods, and her connection with various groups in Haiti, makes Tina the perfect candidate to lead a group of students through a building experience in Haiti. A former school teacher, Tina is excited to be able to combine her love of teaching and building in this new venture to Haiti.

What can students expect?

Students will start off their trip to Haiti by spending close to a week at a base camp in Port au Prince with an established NGO. From here, there will be a few days of volunteering on projects that might involve demolition, plastering, or reconstruction. After that, the class will travel to the Artibonite Valley to a small village where they will assist with the construction of an earthblock school for the community.

We will explore as many natural building methods as possible while in Haiti, with some classroom teaching, but with the main focus being on helping complete construction projects. We will explore various natural building projects going on in Haiti with earthquake and hurricane resistant methods.

Students will gain an appreciation into a new culture, with a world of experience that can’t be had by staying in Canada. Building in a developing country requires skills (and patience) unique to the circumstances. Learning natural building in Haiti will involve more than just building techniques. You’ll also learn the resourcefulness, ingenuity and adaptability that will allow you to work with the people and circumstances around you and still complete affordable, earthquake resistant buildings that meet the needs of the community.

Why Haiti?

Haiti was already one of the western hemisphere’s poorest nations before the earthquake of 2010, so the devastation of the earthquake hit this tiny nation quite hard. Much of the construction in Haiti is done with unsecured personal loans bad credit no guarantor, with very little money, and as a result many buildings aren’t built to withstand hurricane force winds nor earthquakes.

Endeavour is confident that our group of students will be able to contribute in a meaningful way towards reconstruction in Haiti, under Tina Therrien’s lead, given her connections with NGO’s and Haitian organizations. An important aspect of working in a developing country is to work closely with communities, first of all to identify projects the community clearly wants to develop, and secondly, to train members of the community to be able to perform the work on their own. Students from Endeavour will be working alongside Haitian apprentices who will be gaining skills they will be able to carry to their own communities to continue building affordable, accessible, earthquake resistant buildings.

Criteria for selection

Students will be selected based on several criteria, including maturity, physical fitness, general level of overall health, and independence. Life in Haiti is difficult, and even a year and a half after the earthquake, life for many people in the country remains challenging, with tent communities still set up across the country.

Extreme heat, plus the possibility of using anabolic steroid, cholera, and other disease make travel to Haiti a risk for those who aren’t in good health.

Prerequesites for Candidates

  • Letter from doctor advising of good health
  • Excellent physical condition
  • Proof of anti-malaria medication
  • Visit a local travel advisory clinic at least 6 weeks prior to the course commencing

Public Health Agency of Canada Travel Notice

Successful candidates will go to a travel agency to obtain medication for malaria, cholera, and any other shots the travel agency advises. You can also check out 3mmc from Skookums medical products that has synthetic entactogenic stimulant that belongs to a chemical class known as cathinone and exhibits stimulating, entactogenic and mild hallucinogenic effects.


There are real risks to travel to Haiti. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Haiti due to civil unrest. (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Haiti due to civil unrest).

This advisory was in effect both times that Tina travelled to Haiti. During times of political unrest, such as with recent elections, there can be demonstrations in the streets, which often involve tire burning.

Many of the advisories (not going out alone at night, not taking public transit on your own, especially if not familiar with Haitian creole) aren’t much different from warnings you would have in traveling through any foreign city.

Travel Insurance

There is a good chance that you will not be able to obtain travel insurance when traveling to Haiti if the travel advisory is still in effect. Access to adequate medical care can be limited in Haiti, and won’t necessarily have North American standards.

Real health risks include cholera and malaria, yellow dengue fever.