Rocket Mass Heater Intensive Workshop near Millarville, Alberta


Calgary AB & Woodland West, near Millarville AB

Rocket Mass Heater Intensive at Woodland West June 2014.

This will be a full on, hands-on workshop over 2 1/2 days. We’ll construct a full scale and fully operable Rocket Mass Heater so you’ll be able to design and build a system of your own.

Lunch included on Sat & Sun.

Rocket mass heaters are one tool on the path to sustainable independence. Take a moment to consider this image:
Imagine a chilly winter day, when the sun is low, and the skies are grey.
You have a small out building that you use as you office, writing studio, or perhaps you have a greenhouse. Instead of having a space heater that is powered by electricity (in the province of Alberta, supplied by a coal fired power plant, most likely) that relies on grid infrastructure, you take your hatchet, split some kindling, and get a roaring fire going. The wood you are using is probably either clean scrap wood from the nearby lumber yard, or perhaps trimmings left over from last year’s prunning.
If you are in your office, you sip your morning coffee, and take a minute to appreciate what you built with your own hands. You sit down to work, with the fire crackling in the background, releasing radiant heat.
If you are in your greenhouse, you stand back, arms folded, satisfied that your plants are warm and happy, and steadily growing to feed you and your family. You are content because through the use of simple technology, you have created a small pocket of resiliency in your life.
This is independence.
Rocket Mass Heater in Dirt Craft HQ office.
Let’s break through the jargon a bit, rocket mass heater? Not the most common wood burning appliance on the market, that’s for sure.
You won’t find it in the showroom of your local fireplace dealer, but you’ll probably find it in the workshop of someone who, like you, is looking for an affordable more responsible, efficient and effective way to heat.
Basically, rocket mass heaters make sure the wood burns really hot (this is the ‘rocket’ part), reducing the amount of emissions to mear steam and a bit of CO2, and then store as much of the heat as possible from that wood. Like a big heat battery (this is the mass heater part).
Rocket mass heaters (RMH) are a great DIY option for creating cheap and super efficient heat for a variety of situations. They can be used for heating a green house, building, home, or, in some applications, to heat water for showers or a hot tub.
The inner workings of a rocket mass heater – this is the ‘rocket’ part!

For a more in-depth look at how these slick units work, check out our Rocket Mass Heater main page here.

In a nutshell, a rocket mass heater can:
  • heat a space using a fraction of the firewood
  • burn the wood so efficiently that there is virtually no smoke, simply steam and CO2 (after all, smoke is simply unburned fuel)
  • maintain heat in a building for several days after only one firing
  • be built for under $200 and in just a couple of days
  • provide the most beautiful radiant heat
This will be hands-on 2 1/2 day workshop, during which we’ll construct a full scale and fully operable RMH for heating a 300 sq ft straw bale studio.
If you are considering building a greenhouse, perhaps this type of system would fit your design, and truly extend your growing season. And of course these systems can be used for other purposes such as home heating, water heating, etc. — all of which will be discussed in the workshop.


The flu for our rocket mass heater: instead of sending all the heat straight up a chimney, the flu is encased in earthen masonry to store that heat – this is the ‘mass heater’ part.

We’ll cover: 

  • Design theory – learn the in’s and out’s of how a RMH works so you can be sure that your design will work
  • Learn some really appropriate applications for these systems, but also learn what the limitations are
  • Play with plenty of fire, hands on experience building test configurations
  • Build and test the working guts of a RMH before it is installed
  • Go through the nitty-gritty of building with cob – a mixture of sand, clay and straw. This material is great for the thermal mass component of the rocket mass heater – no need to use concrete
  • The role of ‘thermal mass’ in a system based on radiant heat. You’ll never look at building efficiency the same way again!
Applying an earthen plaster to finish off a rocket mass heater in green house (with Verge Permaculture)
Read about our experience living with our RMH which we installed in our office 4 years ago, and check our gallery of rocket mass heaters here.
For more about rocket mass heaters, visit our extensive resource page here.

A Few Details:

Friday, June 13th, 5:30-8:30pm: We’ll converge at Dirt Craft HQ (in Calgary) for a 3 hour evening session on fire, design & theory.

Saturday June 14th & Sunday June 15th, 9am-5pm: We’ll be out at Woodland West (one hour south of Calgary), getting our hands dirty, building the rocket & learning about earthen masonry.

Lunch included on Sat. & Sun.

About the Camping Option:

As this is such a great site to spend some time at, our hosts have offered up a camping option. We thought we’d look after dinner & breakfast if you’d like to stay overnight. Just select that option when you go to register. Note: this option is an additional $30 & only available for Saturday night.

About Woodland West (Host Location for this workshop):
We are really excited to be partnering with Woodland West again. Last year, you may recall a little straw bale roundhouse with earthen plasters that we spent many loving hours on (read about that project & photo blog here). It really is a great space, and you’ll have the opportunity to see lots of natural building in action.
Woodland West is a beautiful retreat about an hours drive south of the city of Calgary, near Millarville, AB. The expansive site backs onto Kananaskis Country Provincial Park, has a creek running through it, and is surrounded by forests. Margit and Drew McNaughton are thrilled to be our hosts once again. They have an amazing vision for their place which includes education in all things sustainable. As such, there is already a large classroom facility that is solar powered, complete with a clay paint interior, which will serve as a classroom and working area should we encounter adverse weather during the workshop. You can look forward to a most excellent composting toilet experience!
Expect that your time at Woodland West will be rejuvenating, and use this weekend as an opportunity to spend some time in this tranquil place.
Woodland West & The Straw Bale Roundhouse where we will be building the rocket mass heater.
Why Take a Dirt Craft Workshop:
Thoughts on Natural Building Education:

We strongly believe that natural building is best learnt in a hands-on environment, and this is why we always work on real projects in our workshops. Our goal is to ensure that you get the education and experience you need, to have the confidence to work on your own projects. We want to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner to the natural building community and we think that education, with integrity, in the latest building techniques can expand and add to this emerging field.

Learn From Experience:

We have taught over 450 students, and worked on many projects since we officially became a business in 2010. This means we have encountered many different, and sometimes difficult situations. We bring this experience and knowledge to each workshop, so that when you encounter your own difficulties, during your own project, you will be armed with all of the necessary information to make decisions when the time comes.

Review our cancelation policy here.

**Please note that we send out specific course information to all registered participants about a week prior to the workshop date  which includes location, and a brief reminder of what to expect, and what to bring. When you register online, we save your contact your contact information, for our records only (we respect your privacy, and would never sell it to a third party!). If you would rather bypass PayPal (you don’t have to have a PayPal account to use our online registration service), we gladly except cash or cheques instead. Payment in advance is still required to reserve your spot. Please call us if you would like to pursue this option, 403-700-2629. Thanks!

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