Natural Building Course

2- weeks Natural Building Intensive, introducing various earthen building and timber framing techniques

Have you been dreaming of building your own natural home, remodeling your house or just want to have a natural building immersive experience?  Then come for this 2 weeks intensive hands-on course!

 At Terra Alta we aspire to live off-the-grid and aim to build homes that are appropriate for a humid coastal climate. In the past years, we have been actively researching and experimenting with the most functional techniques to provide comfortable housing using natural and locally available materials. Using Permaculture as a tool, we design our structures to work harmoniously with the landscape while being both beautiful and functional.

Topics covered


  • Sustainable material sourcing and application
  • Planning, designing, and realizing a building project
  • Working with hand tools
  • How to make different foundations theory
  • Timber framing in round and square wood.
  • Basic woodworking and carpentry skills
  • Building Rocket Mass Heaters
  • Building with Earth; Finishes and traditional wall building techniques such as Light clay and Cob.
  • Renovating existing structures with natural materials
  • Introduction to Natural Plasters and Finishes


During these two weeks, you will submerge into the vast world of building with raw, natural materials processed by your hands alone. Together with experienced natural builders and teachers we will construct a Roundwood shower, learn to design and build two Rocket Mass Heaters.We will also work on an existing Roundwood house, utilizing a variety of natural building techniques including timber framing, cob, light clay straw and earthen finishes. The workshop is designed in such a way that you will learn and understand a variety of natural building techniques and how to apply them in different contexts. We will explore various construction systems and smart designs for natural homes.The structures we create will be a remarkable exemplification of natural building and appropriate technology. Besides this learning journey, we will dance in the mud, play music around the fire, and go for a walk to the beach in order to fully enjoy being at Terra Alta.

Terra Alta will be hosting the event and giving tours of the already existing natural buildings and permaculture systems. We are inviting professional natural builders and facilitators to share these techniques with an emphasis on hands-on learning while being complemented by classroom/theory time.

The workshop is designed to be accessible, interesting & challenging for both the intermediate and unexperienced natural builders. Join us for a knowledge-packed course where you will be walking away with new skills, friends and an experience you will not forget!

Since we expect a variety of nationalities the main language will be English.

For more information and to register contact Henrik at the following:

Date: 16th June (arrival) to July 1st (departure), 2018

Course Fee

495 € ( Early Bird Until 15th March )  550 € ( From 16th March on )

Plus 350 € ( Food and Camping Place  )


*includes camping accommodation and all meals that are delicious and homemade with a focus on organic and local

The Projects

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Rocket mass heaters

 In this part of the course, we will be constructing two separate highly efficient wood-burning stoves. They are known as Rocket mass heaters or just mass heaters. One of the heaters will be designed and built by the students themselves with the teachers’ supervision. The other stove will be built alongside the teacher.  So what is a Rocket mass heater and why learn to make one? Traditionally Mass heaters were created in order to burn less wood and gain more heat. This was a very good solution to stop using so many trees in Europe. These stoves became very advanced and took a highly skilled craftsman to make. The situation looks similar today. Rocket Mass heater offers a very similar option to these stoves but require less experience and can be made out of readily available materials. The way they work is that they burn your wood at maximum efficiency which means a very, very hot fire with very little pollution. The heat is then stored in a “mass” such as stone, clay, sand or rocks. The exhausts from the fire are very clean and are at a low temperature, meaning that the heat is staying in your house. There are many aspects to building a Rocket mass heater that make it very interesting. You learn about the properties of Natural materials and how to use them, heat transfer, earth building techniques, passive heating design and of course how to design and build your own mass heaters. These skills are very valuable if you are aiming for living a more self-sufficient, sustainably oriented lifestyle and also for the do-it-yourself enthusiast.

Timber Framing Structure


Timber framing is the art of connecting large wooden pieces together using nothing but “joinery” and wooden pegs to secure the structure. Joinery is the essence of timber framing, it is sculpting different male and female parts that connect and form a very strong bond that can outlast any metal connector. In these classes, we will learn different layout methods on round and square timbers with inspiration from Japanese, Scandinavian and North American building traditions. We will be using mostly traditional hand tools like axes, chisels and hand saws to work the wood. Topics included in this course are Wood management, tool use, safe building practices, timber frame design, drawing structures, layout methods, cutting and raising a timber frame. These building methods encourage sustainable forestry and local wood use, it makes beautiful homes and structures that will last for generations to come.

The Facilitators and Hosts



Josh Roxendal – Facilitation 

Josh decided early on to create his own learning path in life and has traveled extensively gathering and sharing homesteading and natural building skills. Now he is a permaculturist, certified log builder, timber framer, and a natural builder, but foremost an advocate of re-connecting with nature. He has an innovative approach to building and enjoys finding solutions. After a pivotal course in permaculture, he initiated his own site in Sweden and is now a coordinator for natural building at Permakultur Stjärnsund where he helps people plan and build the structures of their dreams. His travels have taken him to Guatemala, Mexico, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark and Nepal to teach courses on natural building, including earthen building, tiny houses, and timber framing. Find more about Josh’s projects on Light Feet Living

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Pedro Valdjiu – Facilitation and hosting

In 2008 Pedro Valdjiu had a dream of creating a Permaculture Educational Center that would be the breeding ground of a cultural movement to spread around the world. Ten years later Pedro’s dream has come true: Terra Alta has trained hundreds of people from all walks of life, from permaculture design courses ( PDC ) to sustainable house building and regenerative living solutions. The community has become a model of what off-the-grid living can look like and Pedro Valdjiu has emerged as a visionary founder, teacher and cultural regenerative agent of a movement that keeps getting bigger.

Within the Permaculture world, Pedro is a Permaculture project consultant, a certified teacher of the UK Association of Permaculture, a student of Sepp Holzer and teachings of David Holmgren and a passionate facilitator in the areas of Beekeeping, Forest Gardening, Natural Building, Eco-Village Design, Alternative Energy and Off-the-Grid Solutions.

Outside of the permaculture world, Pedro is an award-winning filmmaker and musician. He is the founder and member of the world-renowned musical band Blasted Mechanism. He is the co-founder of a Waldorf School that brings a love based education to children into the local community. And he is the father of two beautiful daughters and companion for about 24 years of lovely Rita Seixas.

 To know more about Valdjiu Click HERE
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Henrik Ellerbrock  – facilitation and hosting

Growing up in the metropolis of Berlin, Henrik developed a particular sense of what are the urgent matters to address for establishing a global societal transformation. Through various projects for peace education and conflict resolution in southern and eastern Africa, as well as working with A. Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed” in different Berlin high schools, he understood clearly that social changes cannot be imposed from the outside, but have to grow from within.

After several years of work to create societal awareness for global political issues in Berlin, he decided to move to Portugal in 2010, hoping to find a more authentic way of life. Here he met Pedro and his family and joined the Terra Alta project, purchasing the neighboring land.

Since that time he has studied permaculture intensively as well as related aspects of sustainable living. As a passionate Natural Builder and consultant for regenerative design solutions Henrik currently works as a biointensive farmer and vegetable distributor drove by the vision of creating bioregional food autonomy. Through pertinent observation, constructive ideas and an eye for detail, he became an essential part of the educational center and every day is dedicated to living the dream of an alternative regenerative life.

To know more about Henrik Click HERE



Video from past courses





 The Host Site

Terra Alta is an aspiring off the grid holistic education host site and gives you the chance to be immersed in a landscape of learning. It’s located in between Almoçageme and Ulgueira, two quaint villages just above the sea and situated for easy access to the amazing beaches called Praia da Adraga and Ursa. It’s easy to reach from Lisbon and Sintra and gives access to our amazing sunset cliffs and beaches. Terra Alta offers a wonderful example of small-scale intensive systems working towards being off the grid. Because the site has had several years of Permaculture management, it is easy for students to immerse themselves in the principles of landscape development and holistic infrastructure development. The following Permaculture elements and functions are on display amongst others:
  • Small-scale Earthworks to capitalize on impervious surface runoff
  • Extensive Food Forest of subtropical, temperate, and Mediterranean species corresponding with the earthworks
  • Hot & Cold Composting (Vermiculture) systems for boosting soil life, picking up on waste streams, and cycling nutrients
  • Food Preservation and supporting local economy of food production
  • Small Intentional Community focused on adult education through Permaculture courses but more importantly holistic, Waldorf and Permaculture inspired education for the children of the local area
  • Natural Building techniques utilized for dwellings and outdoor cooking and social spaces
  • Renewable Energy technology featuring solar panels


During the courses students get a chance to experience a permaculture garden more intimately by camping on the land. In a semi-wild area, we have created level terraces among the trees, mushrooms and stones for people to pitch their tents out of view from the rest of the garden.
There is also the possibility for some students with their own bus/camper-van to stay on the land, although space is limited; so if you are interested in bringing a bus, please get in touch and we’ll do our best to accommodate everyone!


From the outdoor communal kitchen, we provide 3 meals per day, breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the cost of the course (except Sundays when the students are free to feed themselves!)
Prepared with love, the food is always diverse, fresh, healthy, homemade and vegetarian. By that we also help to stimulate the local food economy by purchasing what ingredients are not grown at Terra Alta from the local organic “Cooperativa” and other local producers and processors.