Big project in mind?
(Rocket Mass Heater, Earthen Oven,
general cob projects)
Promoting an Event
Hosting / Hospitality
Workshop List (details)
Rocket Mass Heaters:
We often travel to give presentations or workshops. Check our workshop schedule to see where we will be this year. Adding a weekday consultation or evening presentation to a planned tour is a great way to minimize travel costs.
For larger projects, think ahead at 6 months or more so there is time for site planning, spreading the word, and gathering resources for a successful project.
A few notes about working with us: We are hands-on educators, not building contractors. Please don't ask us to bid on a construction project. (We will be happy to work with a local contractor or building professionals in a consultation capacity.)
The following gives a general idea of our hands-on education events at several different scales, and what we consider a fair market value for these services. For experienced host organizations, repeat clients, locations outside the USA, or especially technical projects, we may negotiate an appropriate rate, or work with your organization's established rates and process.
Hands-On Classes: 1-4 hours, make-and-take projects, 10 to 30 people. Popular with libraries and other education centers, and for parties and community events. Minimum rates $50 plus travel, typical fees $150 for 2 instruction hours, $300/half-day. Plan at least 1 month in advance. More about Classes
Presentations: 30 minutes to 3 hours, for larger audiences (30 to 500+). Can be tailored to the audience and venue, e.g. firepit demos or auditorium slide shows, conferences and events. Rates vary with size of audience and established nature of event. Approx. $100/hr or $300/half day for standard presentations, more for custom presentations and larger crowds. More details below.
Building Projects / Installation Workshops: 1-3 days per workshop, a larger project may be a series of weekends. Group size varies; typically 8-24 people. Hosts plan a project, sell tickets, and participants build it together. Includes hands-on building experience, instruction, discussion, and creative problem-solving. Plan most building workshops 6-12 months in advance. Typical rates $2500 plus travel for standard designs; additional $300 design consultation fee for most custom projects. See below for details, and also our site planning page.
Private Parties / Consulting: For hosts who need a more flexible timeline, or prefer building things themselves over facilitating public events. We offer flexible rates; in-person, or long-distance consultation. Typical rates about $600/day plus travel. Details below.
Instructional Materials: We produce design drawings, lesson plans, and project instructions for many topics, published versions are available in our Shop. We often share other curriculum materials with teachers, parents, and outdoor educators. Please contact us if you are interested in a copy of our lesson plans or other resources on any of our sampler topics.
The topics on this website, and others, are available in a one- to four-hour class format. Our $50 minimum per visit represents about half an hour of instructional time, plus prep and cleanup.
A typical evening class might be 2-3 hours, with a brief introductory presentation, materials processing, make-and-take projects, and printed resource handouts, for about $150 per class. (Participants might pay $10-15 per student, usually 12 to 20 students, or up to 30 with an assistant.) Travel costs must also be covered for events outside our area or current travel schedule.
We have led hands-on classes at local libraries, parks, intentional communities, at festivals and schools, and as professional development for teachers and childcare providers.
Our most commonly requested presentations include
- Rocket Mass Heaters: superefficient wood heat using earthen masonry.
- Natural Building: may focus on Earthen Architecture; fireplaces, ovens and mass heaters; appropriate technology; or a hands-on introduction such as Fairy Houses or Dirty Secrets: Earthen Art for All Ages
- Pacific Northwest eco-harvesting; edible plants; natural crafts;
- Nautical skills (water-tracking and navigation; boatbuilding; boat & oar designs)
- Science topics (fire-science; maritime ecology; carbon and climate.)
- Planning time: We can put together a custom presentation in as little as 2 weeks if not booked elsewhere. If you are selling tickets, we recommend allowing at least 2-3 months to plan & promote the event. Longer planning times (and recurring events) boost attendance.
- Most events are 1-3 hours.
- Anticipate paying us $150/hour, or a minimum of $300/day. We usually work as a team, and may bring an assistant if needed. We are open to negotiation on rates, especially with experienced event hosts or repeat clients.
Consulting is where we consider your project needs and offer our best advice. This can be done through phone or email, or as a site visit. Most of our consulting is on owner-built projects, but sometimes we work with local contractors, building professionals, or supervise an on-site work-party.
Clients who need help to physically complete their project, but do not want to host a public workshop, may consider hiring us to oversee a private work-party, or advise local contractors / builders. Resources for finding experienced earthen-masonry builders are listed below.
Consulting and private work-parties allow us to truly focus on your particular situation and goals. We can take the project at its own pace, ensuring the best solutions for unusual building shapes, older construction, or a custom design to suit your particular needs. We often get more done, more quickly, because the team works together more efficiently and with fewer explanations.
(In a workshop, paying participants tend to want to learn about the work they are least experienced in. At a work-party, hand-picked helpers use their strongest skills, and usually get the job done more efficiently.)
Our starting fee for consulting is $300. This covers two to three hours of email, phone, or in-person conversation; you will get the best value from this time if you use our site planning page to clarify your project in advance.
Additional time can be billed hourly ($120/hour), daily ($500/day, approximately 10 man-hours, or reduced rates for partial days), as time-and-materials, or in some cases as a weekly or project bid. On-site work-parties usually run $600 to $1200 plus travel (design consultation plus one to two-and-a-half days on site). We may adjust these rates for long-term contracts, repeat clients, or at our discretion.
Services we provide for the basic consultation fee may include a half-day site visit, design guidelines, an existing plan set if relevant, and either scale drawings of your site / project or full commentary on your proposed drawings. It is often possible to include a site visit and concept sketches in the cost of your initial 2 hour consultation. Expenses and ongoing services will be billed separately. A full plan set (floor plan and side views, materials drawn brick-by-brick) is usually a week or more of work, so expect to pay more beyond the initial deposit for this level of detail. If a project is close enough to existing plans for quick adjustment, all available details will be supplied.
We recommend some free background reading before hiring us, to make the most of your budget. Search for free public advice on the Energy / Rocket Stoves forum at www.Permies.com/forums. Use our site planning questions to clarify your general information and intentions, so we can quickly get up to speed on your project.
Please call us or email to discuss your needs. We are happy to provide an estimate tailored to your situation.
Planning a large installation takes time. Several months may be needed for site hosts to survey the site, plan the design, gather materials; organize event logistics; promote the event, and take registration.
Advertise early: If you want to sell tickets in order to cover workshop and project costs, allow 6+ months for promotion & registration. This promotion period should include appropriate seasonal months in your region - fall and early winter are prime time for 'wood heat' curiosity, while summer is better for boats. Many successful institutions publish their calendars 12 months in advance.
- Set dates, project parameters, and design goals with us.
- Send your deposit and start advertising several months ahead.
- Final confirmation, planning, and materials list by 30 days ahead. (At this point, we will not cancel a workshop except for medical emergencies.)
- For private hosts: Have site clean and ready for work one week prior; food, water, toilets, etc. (Institutions generally have this in hand.)
- We arrive a day or two ahead, check materials and site layout, and help with any problem-solving that may remain. (less for 1-day workshops.)
- People arrive for workshop; they learn, eat, work a little, learn some more, and achieve a substantial completion goal by the final day.
- We remain on site the following day to correct any problems, answer the hosts' questions, and ensure that everyone is comfortable with the remaining work to be done. We get paid and go home.
Rocket Mass Heaters: a week of prep, one 3-day weekend of instruction and assembly; a day or two for quality-checking; another weekend (or more) for finish work. We are most typically hired for the planning and assembly; many owner-builders feel comfortable doing their own finish work.
Kayak or umiak workshop: 14 days, or a series of 6 weekends.
Earthen Art mosaic/fresco (small/medium): 1- to 2-day workshop.
Our fees: Anticipate paying us about $2500 per 3-day weekend workshop, plus expenses.
(A large part of this fee covers non-instruction
hours such as project and event logistics, verifying site prep and materials, recruitment conversations with participants, and post-workshop time reserved for quality control and troubleshooting.)
We will ask you for a non-refundable deposit up-front for project planning (usually $300, same as private consultation base rate). This deposit reserves your dates, and allows us to start specific project planning.
If you also have a local engineer, builder, or designer in mind, we are happy to work with them throughout the process.
For project help without the workshop logistics, we also offer private consultation and work-party facilitation. In many cases this can be cheaper and easier than hosting a public workshop; we can simply make a date to consult or visit and move your project forward at its own pace.
Will the workshop pay for itself? Ticket sales can offset fees and costs, or even to turn a small profit, with successful recruitment. It is also possible for a workshop to involve a lot more work and expense than a private project. Recruitment and hospitality take time, effort, and a certain social savvy.
Many hands make light work, but not fast, careful work: A public workshop may double or triple the amount of our time needed for the installation. It is not practical to rush novices into working at a
seasoned builder's pace; both the project and the participants will
suffer. (More than 6 people on a ducting layout, for example, can take a near-infinite amount of time.)
If you want to invite others to participate primarily as a way to get help with labor on your project, consider a work-party with volunteer helpers/participants, rather than a paying-students workshop. Work parties allow us to maintain focus on the project itself, usually accomplishing as much more more than a workshop, but without the need to push project timelines to meet promises to paying students. For example, in a work-party a heater could be finished but not fired because a heat-shield was to be added later by local help. In a workshop, the students would be promised a working heater, and an improvised heat shield might be needed to allow a test-fire.
What gets done?
Planning, guidance for prep and materials, and substantial functional completion are our goals in the workshop setting.
We can't guarantee project completion in a workshop setting; our job is to teach all the skills needed to complete such a project. We generally achieve 'functional completion', e.g. a heater can be test-fired, a boat should float, an oven should have all its structural layers in place; there will be some drying time and finishing to complete after we are gone. If the project was damaged during the workshop, or did not reach structural completion, we can use our follow-up day to bring it back on track.
What do you need from me as a project owner / workshop host?
Hosting a Hands-On Event:
- Planning and Prep: Design done and materials in place 2 weeks
before the workshop begins. Don't get stuck missing some
simple part that is back-ordered at the hardware store. Instead, be excited to share more detail with participants who call.
If your institution or community has its own process for hosting hands-on workshops, we are happy to try it your way (provided our costs are met).
The most critical thing we need is clear, timely communication about commitments. It's a lot easier for us to grab an extra tool or part, if you tell us before we arrive. Successful completion of any project depends on timely, complete information and materials.
Please note that we are not building contractors - we are educators. When we plan a workshop, we earn our money by teaching you how to build and maintain your project, and by teaching others who may be attracted by the project. Our focus is on providing an excellent learning experience, and enabling you to take over the finishing and maintenance without further assistance.
We do not offer licensed, bonded, or guaranteed contracting services to build a project for you. Local building professionals can offer all of these things. Our rates do not include researching your local building codes or requirements, sourcing or pricing materials, or decorative finishing (except when that's the workshop topic).
If you need these services, we are happy to work with your chosen local contractor or building professional. We do recommend checking the conditions of your home insurance policy, and local zoning requirements, before planning your installation. We can help you understand how the physical laws of nature work; but we can't always anticipate how local laws and culture have decided to permit or outlaw these natural processes.
Don't feel obliged to rush into decisions about where to locate your project. The same skills can be taught in a 'no-install' workshop using temporary prototypes and experiments. 'Introductory' (non-installation) workshops can be easier to plan, as there are no permanent decisions being made about holes in the roof or where to relocate a favorite sofa.
As teachers, we hope to train others to continue and improve on our own work. We are always interested in helping local builders add to their professional skills. Two resources for finding local/regional natural builders are:
Cob Cottage Company (www.cobcottage.com, 541-396-1825),
The Natural Building Network: www.nbnetwork.org
Erica and Ernie
Please be aware that this is our livelihood. We must use our time wisely to make ends meet. Free advice on private projects is rarely the best use of our limited free time.
We love that our work contributes to a better world. We are honored to make our living in a life-giving field, sharing skills and information. We have provided a great deal of free information in publicly-accessible places, in anticipation of the growing demand for affordable and healthy solutions to life's common problems. (This website, and online forums at www.permies.com, among others.)
We ask that you respect the distinctions we make about free public information, and our paying products. (We sell online publications, private consulting time, and tickets to presentations and workshops).
Giving away free information on a one-person basis limits our time and resources to continue developing useful knowledge. If you have benefited from our info (especially if you discover you have received pirated information, or buttonholed us on a social occasion), consider making a contribution to our ongoing work.
We welcome volunteer assistants, spare materials, offers of expertise in other areas, box lunches for our road trips, or 'pay-it-forward' gestures such as donating a small scholarship for a future workshop student. (Our friends at Seven Fires can accept tax-deductible donations to support our work. We fit nicely within their mission to preserve traditional skills and cultures, and create opportunities for children and elders.)
We often get requests for help or information from people with limited incomes (youth & students, live-action philosophers, homesteaders, disabled or unemployed people, retirees). Since we have experienced many of these situations ourselves, we empathize. But we don't do pity parties. Please consider how you can reciprocate, or pay it forward. We accept most forms of legal and historic exchange, including PayPal, bronze ingots, and cacao beans.
We are most likely to assign a scholarship to someone who shows a serious commitment to others: for example a grandparent with foster children, someone trying to save their family's century farm, or a PeaceCorps or AmeriCorps volunteer who wants better skills for their upcoming assignment.
If you want to negotiate with something besides money, please contact us and make an offer. We have limited time at home, and can sometimes really use some help or expertise. If your timeline allows, we can also point you toward not-for-profit sponsors for community fund-raising. You may have more resources than you think.
If your budget is zero, we recommend taking advantage of easily-available resources. Free public information is available through local libraries, at community events such as the VBC (http://vbc.cityrepair.org), from project bloggers, and through online forums (below).
We regularly contribute to the wood-burning stove topics and other discussions at www.permies.com/forums, as do many other useful contributors and good-hearted novices. Permies is welcoming, free, and site owner Paul's policy is that if your posted question has no responses after 48 hours, you can contact him and he will personally make sure your question gets answered.
More technical discussion goes on at the ProBoards forum http://donkey32.proboards.com/ ("Answers Questioned"), and there are some excellent articles at Kiko Denzer's http://www.handprintpress.com/. and video on Paul Wheaton's www.richsoil.com Rocket Stove article.
Do your homework: Research and read up on other people's projects. If your question isn't already answered, then ask it in a relevant place. You will get the help you need, and also help others by filling a 'gap' in the available public information. Everyone wins.
We are sometimes available for pro-bono presentations or advice, e.g. in emergency shelters, public schools, or for charity events. Please tell us how your event serves an audience that could not attend a paying workshop on the same topic.
Thank you for your interest in our work.
Ernie and Erica