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Community Rebuilds Essentials: How We Build Sustainable, Affordable Homes

In the past 12 years, we’ve learned a lot about building with sustainability and affordability at the forefront. This crash course will squeeze that knowledge into an action-packed five-day overview, complete with lectures, guest speakers, tours, and hands-on experiential learning opportunities. Topics in this course will include natural building techniques, working with local policies, and living with your home with sustainability and community in mind. On top of all that, residential participants will have the opportunity to stay in our straw bale Bunkhouse for eight nights, leaving plenty of extra time to enjoy the incredible desert landscape and experience Moab. 


Course Schedule


Course Dates:

Move in: July 24, 2022

Move out: August 1, 2022


General Structure:

All instruction days will begin at 9:00am and wrap up around 5:00pm, with snack and lunch breaks mixed in throughout. Instructional sessions will include both lectures and hands-on demonstrations and workshops, and there will be plenty of time for discussion and Q&A. Class days will take place Monday through Friday, leaving residential participants with a long weekend to cap off their experience with a couple days of desert adventures. See the schedule below for more detail!


Note: The schedule below reflects a rough outline of what participants could learn through this course. While specific lecture topics and activities may shift, we’re committed to putting up a course that not only highlights the best of what Community Rebuilds has to offer, but also leaves flexibility for the interests and discussions brought in by our participants. 


Day 0: Move In! 


Day 1: Introduction to Community Rebuilds

Key Topics:  Overview, what Community Rebuilds does (and how)


The first day will kick off with introductions and a chance for the participants and instructors to get to know each other and the goals for the week. Throughout the day, you’ll get an overview of how Community Rebuilds works and how we build affordable, sustainable homes. (Don’t worry, we’re not all talk - part of the day will offer an opportunity to tour around town and see current and past projects up close!)


Day 2: What’s in a Wall?

Potential Topics: Wall systems, working with straw, insulation options


Now that we’ve introduced you to how we build, let’s talk about what we build! Today, we’ll get into wall systems, and give participants a chance to learn about working with straw. Throughout the workshop, participants will have a chance to learn about the benefits of working with various wall options - focusing on straw bales - and how these options interact with the rest of the home.

Day 3: Energy Inside and Out

Potential Topics: Solar energy, site assessment, landscaping 


A huge part of sustainable homes is the energy it takes to keep them healthy and comfortable year-round. Today, we’ll talk about assessing your build site for decisions on orientation, landscaping, and integrating the natural resources right outside. We'll also be joined by a guest instructor to learn about using solar energy in your home! 


Day 4: Earthen Plasters 

Potential Topics: Plaster basics and samples, render rainbows, preparing walls for earthen plasters

Get ready to play in the mud! We’re digging into the basics of earthen plasters. Today, participants will gain experience on a real work site! After an introduction into the characteristics and application of plasters, participants will get to try their hand working on our current homes on the Moab Area Community Land Trust. making tiles with tadelakt - an incredibly durable and beautiful Moroccan style of plastering.  


Day 5: Tadelakt and Bringing it all Together

Potential Topics: Tadelakt tile making, carbon storage, fighting climate change through natural construction, the future of Community Rebuilds


We’ll spend the last morning of instruction with a discussion of where we go from here. With all this knowledge under our (and your) belts, it's time to talk about how to make it even better, and what's coming up in the world of sustainable building. Renowned builder, designer, and educator Chris Magwood will join us to discuss how the construction industry can fight climate change with sustainable materials. Then, we’ll wrap up our time together learning to make tadelakt tiles while joined by a panel of experts to answer your last burning questions..


Days 6-8: It’s the weekend!

The last three days will offer residential participants the opportunity to appreciate the desert surroundings and make memories on the river, explore Utah’s iconic red rocks, and more! 


Move-out by noon on August 1, 2022.


What’s Included:


  • All instruction, materials and tools. All participants will also receive a copy of the course curriculum so that they can carry everything they learn back home with them.

  • Lunch will be provided for all participants for each day of instruction. Registrants’ dietary restrictions will be taken into account.  

  • ​​Access to all sorts of desert adventures! The Community Rebuilds campus is nestled in the heart of Moab, UT, with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, and more all less than an hour’s drive from town. Each day’s instruction ends with plenty of time to take advantage of Moab’s plethora of beautiful landscapes, rich histories, and all sorts of outdoor recreation as the hot summer day cools down into the evening. Residential participants will have a long weekend in the Bunkhouse at the end of the course to explore Moab even further.

  • (Residential participants only) Housing in our two-story straw bale Bunkhouse! We offer single or double occupancy room options. The Bunkhouse is fully furnished and outfitted with washers/dryers, full communal kitchen and living room, and 5 bathrooms. The kitchen is stocked with breakfast essentials including coffee/tea, eggs, oatmeal, and toast, as well as basic cooking appliances. The grocery store is just around the corner, and residential participants are welcome to full use of the kitchen.


Pricing and Registration Options:

Residential Passes: 

Single Occupancy Room: $1200*  

Double Occupancy Room: $900*  


Non-Residential (Local) Pass: $450*  


Day Pass: $100*  


*Note: If you would like to pay through PayPal, rates are slightly higher to account for processing fees. Please add 3% to all PayPal payments:

Single Occupancy: $1236  | Double Occupancy: $927  | Non-Residential: $463.50 | Day Pass: $103 


How to Register:

Use the form below to save your spot for this course.  Note: Your registration will not be considered complete until we have received your payment.

How to Pay: 

Payment is accepted in cash, check, or through PayPal. 


*Note: If you would like to pay through PayPal, rates are slightly higher to account for processing fees. Please add 3% to all PayPal payments:

Single Occupancy: $1236  | Double Occupancy: $927  | Non-Residential: $463.50  | Day Pass: $103 


Click the according Buy Now button below to pay for the course and confirm your spot. 

*Note: If purchasing multiple passes, you may have to pay for each individually as PayPal does not offer a "quantity" option. If you would like to avoid this process, submit your total payment via out "Donate" section in the Contribute tab above.


If you would like to mail us your payment, please send to:


Community Rebuilds

150 S 200 E

Moab, UT 84532


Make sure you note your name and ticket types with all payments! (EX: Jane Doe, $200 for 2 day passes)

Residential Passes

Single Occupancy: 



Double Occupancy:

Non-Residential Pass:

Day Pass:



Registration Guidelines:

  • All participants must be at least 18 years of age by the start of the course on July 17, 2022.

  • All residential participants must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Community Rebuilds uses the CDC’s guidelines for full vaccination, which currently is defined as having received the full primary series and one booster shot. 

  • All participants must sign a release and waiver of liability in order to participate in hands-on activities. 

  • Registration will not be considered complete until we have received your payment and proof of vaccination (for residential participants).


Meet Your Instructors:


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Chris Magwood

Chris Magwood is obsessed with helping reverse climate change by making carbon-storing buildings that are also healthy, beautiful, efficient, and inspiring, and assisting others to do the same. In 2022, Chris joined the Rocky Mountain Institute's Embodied Carbon Initiative within RMI's Carbon-Free Buildings team. In 2019, he helped to establish Builders for Climate Action, and has been leading development of the BEAM carbon estimator tool for low-rise construction. Chris has also authored seven books on sustainable building, including his new book, Building Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture, co-authored with Bruce King and published by Island Press. Chris is joining this course virtually with experience as an active speaker and workshop instructor in Canada and internationally. 

Emily Niehaus


Emily Niehaus is the founder of Community Rebuilds and former mayor of the City of Moab. Recognizing the lack of affordable housing as the crisis that it is while serving as a loan officer in the 2000's, Emily turned to natural building as a beautiful, energy-efficient, and (when paired with the labor force of our sustainable building internship program), affordable solution. Emily will join us to discuss the Community Rebuilds program model and where we can go from here.  


Gerald Johnson

Hello, Gerald Johnson here! I have a diverse background in renewable energy which includes installation of roughly 1 MegaWatt of solar (~3,333 panels) per year during the last 4yrs; >75kWh of battery storage, 30kW micro-hydroelectric and 10kW pico-wind turbines. Various consulting services have included a 10MW geothermal plant, a Navajo nation greenhouse project and peer review for Engineers Without Borders. Educationally I have received a Micro-masters credential in Sustainable Energy from the University of Queensland and a B.A. in Sustainable Development from Prescott College AZ. Prior to working in the renewable energy field I worked in conservation through AmeriCorps contributing to the Elwah River Restoration in WA and miscellaneous wildland firefighting operations throughout the southeastern US. I enjoy rock climbing and am a guidebook author for Ogden UT, as well as running and cycling. Feel free to contact me directly and I look forward to teaching you about solar PV.

Community Rebuilds leaders and builders!

Who knows Community Rebuilds better than past and current staff? This course will lean on the expertise of all the superstars currently involved with Community Rebuilds projects. Check out the “Our Team” page in the “About Us” section for a sneak peek at all the faces you might see while on campus!

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Coming to town early?
Join us for early bird programming with Bruce King, co-author of Build Beyond Zero!

Conversation + Book Signing
Friday, July 22 6:00pm-8:00pm at Back of Beyond Bookstore in Moab

Bruce King is the author of “The New Carbon Architecture” and "Build Beyond Zero" with Chris Magwood, and has been a structural engineer for 44 years, designing buildings of every size and type all over the world. He is also author of the ASTM standard for earthen construction, the Marin County Low-Carbon Concrete code, and the books “Buildings of Earth and Straw”, “Making Better Concrete”, and “Design of Straw Bale Buildings”.


Mr. King is also the Founder and Director of the Ecological Building Network (EBNet), a non-profit information resource that sponsors the BuildWell Source (, an online library of low-carbon and carbon storing materials. 

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