Community Rebuilds houses have a specific style and are made primarily from straw bales. [Alison Harford / Moab Sun News]

For the first time in its 20-year history, the Rocky Mountain Natural Building Conference will be held in Moab. The conference is put on by the Natural Building Alliance, and the program includes podium presentations, breakout sessions, round-tables, and outdoor workshops. The conference partnered with Community Rebuilds, a local organization that builds straw-bale, energy-efficient, affordable homes.

Ian Smith is the executive director of the Natural Building Alliance. The alliance officially formed in 2019 as a rebrand of the Colorado Straw Bale Association, which began in 2000 to enhance the public’s understanding of straw-bale construction. They rebranded to include all-natural building materials, like adobe and earth block.

Smith is expecting about 150 people to attend. Conference attendees are usually “a wide mix of folks,” Smith said—some are first-time builders who are curious about natural building, and some are professionals who are well into their careers.

Emily Niehaus, Moab’s mayor and the founder of Community Rebuilds, attended the conference in 2010, Smith said, likely to get ideas for how to create the sustainable, naturally built homes that Community Rebuilds creates. The Natural Building Alliance has been loosely working with Community Rebuilds ever since, but this is the first year the two organizations officially partnered to host the conference.

Community Rebuilds started in 2010 with a mission to “build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability, and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program,” according to their website. As of 2021, they’ve built 52 homes.

The theme of this year’s conference is “All Hands In.” Smith picked this theme to unify natural builders, he said.

“We at the Natural Building Alliance have come to the realization that if we want to make any lasting, or major impact in sustainability advocacy in this country, we really need to be working together,” he said. “We need to work toward a common goal of advocating for all these building materials that we use to make them more well known, and to grow the acceptance of these materials.”

There will be over 30 program events, including talks such as “Building a Chinese Greenhouse Using Only Solar Energy,” “The Basics of Timber Frame Construction,” “Thermal Performance of an Earthblock Home,” and “Natural Building for Social Justice in the Deep South.” There will also be a panel discussion on “Challenges and Adventures of Women on the Job Site.”

The keynote presentation will be delivered by Chris Magwood, director of the Endeavour Center, which offers programs, workshops and online courses on sustainable building and design. In his talk, he’ll be exploring the question: are natural builders climate heroes?

“We try to select presentations and speakers that are doing really good, legitimate, professional work in their area of expertise,” Smith said, “and we try to select things that are very inclusive of all different building materials.”

The conference will run from October 14-16 at various locations around Moab, including the Community Rebuilds offices and Star Hall. Tickets are $250 and can be reserved online at

Event Info

What: Rocky Mountain Natural Building Conference

When: October 14 to 16

Where: Various times and locations across Moab

Tickets are $250 and can be reserved online at