Qualification - Certificate in Alternative Construction

Course CodeVSS100
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

Explore Different Ways of Building things

A distance learning course in alternative construction enabling you to learn more about producing sustainable, ecologically friendly and psychologically healthy buildings.

Study four core modules of Mud Brick Construction, Healthy Buildings I and II, and Carpentry. Followed by two elective modules.

  • Start anytime
  • Work at your own pace
  • Study from anywhere


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Qualification - Certificate in Alternative Construction.
 Carpentry BSS100
 Mud Brick Construction ASS103
 Healthy Buildings I BSS200 (Building Construction and Health) BSS200
 Healthy Buildings II (Building Environment & Health) BSS300
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 9 modules.
 Building Renovation BSS104
 Landscape Construction BHT111
 Masonry Work BSS101
 Starting A Small Business VBS101
 Cabinet Making BSS201
 Environmental Waste Management BEN202
 Materials Technology VSS202
 Project Management BBS201
 Welding VSS204

Note that each module in the Qualification - Certificate in Alternative Construction is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

More on the Core Modules

Healthy Buildings I

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction To Building Biology
    • Scope and Nature of Building Biology
    • Building Diseases -Chemical, Electrical, Cage, Location
    • Environmental Law
    • Biological Damage to Buildings
    • Environmental Considerations
    • Clean Interiors
  2. Building Materials
    • Introduction
    • Dangerous Building Materials
    • Chemical Effects on the Human Body
    • Timber
    • Formaldahyde Adhesives
    • Plastics
    • Masonary and Concrete
    • Insulation Materials
    • Soft Furnishings
    • Paints
    • Timber Treatments, stains, polishes, etc
  3. Construction
    • Roofing Materials
    • Roof Gardens
    • Roof Construction
    • Floors
    • Reasons to Choose Different Floors or Floor Coverings
    • Pests in Buildings
    • Dust Mites
    • Fleas
    • Ants
    • Termites, Flies, Mosquitoes, Wasps, Cockroaches, etc
    • Spiders
    • Rodents, Birds, Snakes, etc
  4. Services
    • Electricity
    • Electrical Fields
    • Circuits
    • Measuring Electricity and Exposure limits
    • Terminology
    • Power Supply Systems
    • General Waste Disposal
    • Waste Water
  5. Temperature
    • Introduction to Heating and Cooling
    • Principles of Temperature Control
    • Heat Loss
    • Types of Heaters
    • Cooling Effects
    • Air Cleaners, Filtration, Circulation, Air Conditioning
    • Energy Conservation
    • Solar House Design
    • Active and Passive Solar Heating Systems
  6. The Internal Environment: Ventilation
    • Scope and Nature
    • Natural Ventilation
    • Mechanical Ventilation
    • Air Conditioning
    • Humidity Management
  7. Light
    • Internal Light in Buildings
    • Natural Light
    • Artificial Light
    • Electric Light
  8. Acoustics
    • Internal Acoustic Control
    • Improving Internal acoustics
    • Noise Insulation
  9. Ergonomic Considerations
    • Scope and Nature of Ergonomics
    • Form, Shape and Spatial Dimensions
    • Furniture Design
    • Interior Layout
  10. Psychological Considerations
    • Scope and Nature
    • Physical and Psychological Affects of Colour
    • Stressful or Calming Environments
    • General Principles for Interior Design

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the concept of healthy buildings including its relevance to human health.
  • Select building materials which are safe to human health.
  • Evaluate the health impact of different building techniques, including construction and design.
  • Explain how the way in which services are installed, can impact upon the health of people using a building.
  • Explain how building design can impact upon the quality of the physical environment inside.
  • Explain ergonomic considerations in building design.
  • Explain psychological considerations in building design.

Healthy Buildings II

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Environmental Impacts On Buildings
    • Scope, nature and principles of building biology
    • Environmental impacts on buildings
    • Climate, building location, radon, air quality, allergies, temperature, humidity, light, EMR
    • Creation of electric fields
  2. Chemicals
    • Air pollutants
    • Cleaning chemicals
    • Chemical breakdowns
    • Leakages and spills
    • Pesticides -household, industrial, agricultural
    • Solid Waste pollutants
    • Persistent organic pollutants (POP's)
    • Formaldehydes
    • Heavy Metals
    • Ammonia
    • Resins
    • Where different chemicals originate in a building
  3. Building Surrounds
    • Creating a buffer zone
    • Windbreaks, hedges, screens
    • Creating Shade
    • Designing a healthy home garden
    • Going natural in the garden
    • Avoiding problem materials
    • Disposing of waste
    • Making compost
    • Working with rather than against nature
    • Energy conservation
    • Solar House Design
    • Green principles for house design
  4. Furnishings
    • Gas appliances, heaters and fireplaces
    • Furniture
    • Materials characteristics
    • Floor Coverings
    • Cane
    • Metals
    • Fabrics
    • Flame retardation treatments
    • Mattresses
    • Dry cleaning and mothballing
    • Temperature and acoustic properties of fabrics
  5. Finishes
    • Chemical reactions
    • Lung disease, cancer, skin disease
    • Paint
    • Repainting
    • Timber finishes against decay
    • Varnishes and oils
  6. Pesticides & Alternatives
    • Types of insecticides -inorganic and biological (organophosphates, carbamates etc)
    • Rodenticides
    • Miticides, Bactericides, Algaecides, Termite treatments
    • Understanding pesticide characteristics -toxicity, persistence, volatility, etc
    • Common chemicals used in buildings, and natural alternatives
    • Common garden chemicals and natural pest/weed management
    • Understanding Insect Pest Management options
  7. Managing Interior Environments
    • Assessing air quality
    • Ventilation
    • Temperature control
    • Cleaning
    • Acoustics
    • Electricity
    • Domestic pets
    • Light
    • Colour
    • Indoor Plants
    • Other hazards
  8. Consulting
    • Services that can be offered to a client
    • Checklist of building hazards
    • Procedures and business practice for a consultant
    • Setting up costs
    • Operating a business
    • Developing a business plan
    • Determining fees to charge

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Mud Brick Construction

The content of each of the 10 lessons is outlined below:-

1. Scope of Mud Brick

  • What is Mud Construction (Adobe, Pise).
  • Advantages of Earth Construction (Cost savings, Self satisfaction, Aesthetics, Eco friendliness, Health benefits).
  • History of earth construction.
  • Pise (Rammed Earth).
  • Mud Brick.
  • Wattle and Daub.
  • Cob.
  • Cinva Ram.
  • Cement Stabilisation.
  • Bituminous stabilisation.
  • Mortar.
  • Variations in Earth Building Techniques.
  • Appropriate Soils for Earth Construction.
  • Finding Resources.

2. How to make a mud brick

  • Testing and working with different soils.
  • Soil Tests.
  • Steps in making a brick.
  • Plasticity Soil Test.
  • Cake Soil Test.
  • Compression Tests.
  • Brick Size.
  • Brick Weights.
  • Moulds.
  • Binding Materials.
  • Mixing Mud.
  • Treating Bricks after they are Cast.
  • Stacking Bricks.
  • Troubleshooting.

3. Planning and Site Works

  • Choosing Building Materials.
  • Timber (Characteristics –Selection).
  • Adhesives.
  • Plastics.
  • Masonry, Bricks and Concrete.
  • Insulation Materials.
  • Selecting a Building Site.
  • Solar House Design.
  • General Principles of Building Design.
  • Impact of Buildings on Health.
  • Dangerous Building Materials (Awareness and factors).

4. Legal Considerations

  • Building Regulations (Variations between jurisdictions).
  • What might be regulated.
  • Types of Permits.
  • Building Codes.

5. Foundations

  • Strip Foundations.
  • Slab Foundations.
  • Specialist Engineering Advice.
  • Rock and Rubble Foundations.
  • Problems to Avoid.
  • Sealing Foundations.
  • Other Options (Masonry pillars, timber pylons).
  • Earth Floors.

6. Laying Bricks

  • Damp Proof Course.
  • Methods for laying bricks.
  • Making mud mortar.
  • Laying mortar.
  • Bonding.
  • Reinforcing Walls.

7. Doors, Windows and Roofs

  • Roofing Options.
  • Roof Pitch.
  • Roof Weight.
  • Roof Gardens.
  • Doors and Windows.
  • Lintels.
  • Fixing, Joinery and Plugs.
  • Ceilings.
  • Timber Finishes.
  • Slab Floors.
  • Supported Floors.
  • Floor Surfaces.

8. Finishes

  • Wall Finishes.
  • Whitewash.
  • Bondcrete.
  • Dagga.
  • Linseed Oil.
  • House Paints.
  • Natural Loam Render.
  • Cement Render (Plaster).
  • Latex Paint Render.
  • Other Options.
  • Floor Finishes.
  • Applying Paints and Renders.
  • Natural Healthy Paints.
  • Making Lime Wash Paints.
  • Problems with Lime Wash.
  • Aly’s Clay Paint.
  • Tallow and Lime Based Coating.
  • Using Commercial Paints.
  • Timber Treatments.

9. Services

  • Electricity.
  • Water.
  • Gas.
  • Toilet.
  • Working with Eartyh Walls.
  • Plumbing.
  • Electricity Supply Systems (Turbines, generators, batteries, Solar Cells, etc)
  • Safety with Electricity.
  • Electro Magnetic Radiation (Managing EMR).
  • Terminology.

10. Other types of Earth Building

  • Making Rammed Earth Walls.
  • How to Build Forms.
  • Tampers (Hand and air).
  • Rammed Earth Construction.
  • Wattle and Daub.
  • Sod Buildings.
  • Cob.



  • Discuss the nature and scope of Mud Brick construction.
  • Identify the legal considerations which need to be met when building in mud.
  • Determine the requirement for foundations for a mud construction.
  • Determine options for building doors, windows and roofs into a mud building.
  • Analyze options for coating or finishing the surface of a mud wall or other mud construction.
  • Compare options for providing water, electricity or any other required services in a mud building.
  • Describe a variety of mud construction techniques other than mud brick.


This course has ten lessons as follows:

1. Scope and Nature of Carpentry
2. Carpentry Tools, Equipment, Materials and Safety
3. Cutting and Joining Timber
4. Small Carpentry Projects
5. Outside Construction
6. Constructing Small Buildings
7. Understanding House Construction
8. Handyman Repair Work
9. Finishing Wood
10. Planning and Setting Out a Project


  • Describe the scope and nature of carpentry; differentiate between different timber products, and discuss the appropriate use of each.
  • Describe all significant carpentry tools and identify appropriate uses for each. Identify and manage risk in a carpentry workplace.
  • Describe a range of different techniques for cutting wood in a variety of different situations.
  • Describe and compare different techniques for joining wood.
  • Undertake a small carpentry project.
  • Explain construction of different things in an outdoor situation with wood; including fences, furniture and retaining walls
  • Explain the construction of different types of small buildings which are constructed mainly with wood; including garden sheds, gazebos and cubbies.
  • Explain a range of common carpentry tasks that a handyman may need to undertake in routine maintenance and repair work.
  • Explain a range of different techniques for finishing wood.
  • Determine an appropriate approach for planning a timber construction project.
  • Explain how a site should be set out in preparation for a construction project.

What Next?

This course is useful to anyone working within the building industry or enjoys building around their own home. It is suitable for anyone wishing to produce sustainable, ecologically friendly and psychologically healthy buildings on a small and larger scale.

This course will enable you to learn more about your subject. It will give you a solid foundation in learning to go on and build in a solid, eco-friendly way.

Making a start to learning more is the first step. This course will enable you to find new opportunities in your work and home.

  • Build your own alternative construction.
  • Expand your horizons for different methods of building.
  • Become a specialist in alternative construction and open up opportunities for you and your business.

To succeed in alternative construction, you need knowledge, passion and interest.

So if you would like to improve your own job and career prospects or develop your own business into a niche area, this is the course for you.

It's Easy to Enrol

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$1,653.00Payment plans available.

Courses can be started at any time from anywhere in the world!

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