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Duration (approx) 600 hours
Qualification Certificate

Study alternative construction and healthy building construction with this certificate level qualification


  • Understand the impact of building construction on human health.
  • Learn about the elements of buildings and their construction which affect its occupants - materials, finishes, colour, light, ventilation and much more.
  • The Certificate In Alternative Construction includes 2 elective modules, enabling students to tailor their studies to particular areas of interest.

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Improve your knowledge of alternative methods of construction with this Alternative Construction course


  • Study by distance learning and find out more about building healthy, ecologically friendly and sustainable buildings.
  • This course is suitable for people wanting to build small buildings, such as sheds, right through to those wanting to build their own homes.
  • Learn more about mud brick construction - this ancient skill is still used today and can provide safe and sturdy homes.
  • Also learn more about temperature, light, making buildings efficiency and the psychological effects of buildings and how these affect human health and well-being.
  • Course Duration: 600 hours of self-paced study.  Start at any time and study where and when you want to.  Full support is provided throughout your studies by knowledgeable and experienced tutors.


Students are required to complete a total of 6 modules.  Study 4 core modules of Healthy Buildings I and II, Mud Brick Construction and Carpentry; then choose 2 elective modules from Environmental Waste Management, Landscape Construction, Project Management, and Starting a Small Business.


The following 4 Core Modules are to be studied by all students.  Summaries of the modules are provided below; for further information on each, please click on the module title to follow the link to the respective pages.

Healthy Buildings I (Healthy Buildings Construction) BSS200
This module looks at the impact of building construction on human physiological and physical health.  Through 10 lessons, students will learn about building biology, building diseases, the impact of services, light, colour, ventilation and much more.

Healthy Buildings II (Building Environment & Health) BSS300
The Healthy Buildings II module builds on the knowledge gained in the previous module and also looks at additional areas such as the impact of the location upon health and surroundings to a building.  As well as considering the materials used in buildings and, in particular, materials or finishes used, the module looks at additional elements such as the management of interior environments and consulting services that can be offered to clients.

Mud Brick Construction ASS103
This 10 lesson module looks at the processes involved with constructing buildings with alternative materials such as mud bricks.  Students will learn about the different materials that may be used and how they are made.  The module considers all of the important elements of the building process, from planning and building regulations, through the selection of materials, to site management and the provision of services (water, electricity etc.).

Carpentry BSS100
Carpentry is a 10 lesson module which serves as a solid foundation to carpentry techniques.  Students will learn the practical skills of working with wood in such applications as building construction, furniture making, and landscaping.  As well as covering techniques, the module looks at all important elements such as selection of tools, methods for joining, finishing, and planning a project.


Students are to choose 2 electives from the list below.  Please click on the module title to follow the link to the respect module pages.  Or, if you prefer an alternative elective, please contact us on to see if this is a suitable module.

Environmental Waste Management BEN202
Through the 6 lessons in this module, students will gain a broad overview of the nature, and scope of waste, and the ways in which it is dealt with in the present day.  The module covers domestic waste, and industrial waste.  Students will gain an understanding of ways in which waste can be dealt with – whether it can be recycled, or treated, and what chemical or environmental impacts have to be considered.

Landscape Construction BHT111
This is a 10 lesson module through which students will learn how to construct or build a landscape in the correct or appropriate manner.  The module includes the planning, and selection of tools and materials, as well as notable factors such as drainage, irrigation, and plant elements.  The module concludes with a lesson on suitable workplace safety and management considerations.  

Green Walls And Roofs BHT256
Green Walls And Roofs is a 9 lesson module looking at the exciting approaches of introducing greenery into residential, commercial, or public landscapes where space may be at a premium or to improve the aesthetic of environments.  Students will learn about the construction of vertical and roof gardens, the materials to use and which plants are most suited to these applications.  The module includes a lesson on maintaining these – how plants may be provided with water and the appropriate nutrients, as well as the control of pests or diseases.

Project Management BBS201
The Project Management module comprises 9 lessons.  In order to develop a business, or operate within a contractual environment, managers need to possess the skill set that enables them to introduce and manage projects of change.  The module covers key areas which include the identification and planning of projects, and the strategy for the implementation of projects.  The lessons will impart the knowledge for students to develop their leadership and personnel skills, considering the different types of leadership skills as well as looking at how conflicts and problems may be effectively resolved.  The module is concluded with a special assignment where the student will develop a full suite of documentation for a planned project.

Starting a Small Business VBS101
Through 12 lessons, this module introduces you to the world of running a business.  Students will learn about the first steps to take – what types of business there are, planning, and marketing a business.  As well as learning about forming a business, the module considers all important aspects in lessons including planning, budgeting, and bookkeeping.  The module will provide the essentials basics to forming a business and give those studying the pointers to the correct approach to making a success of their venture.

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



Mud walls were used a lot in England in prior to modern times; particularly where other materials are too expensive for cottages. Earth built walls can be very durable, but may require more maintenance than stone or brick. The skeleton of the cottage would be formed by upright pieces of timber, about four inches square, placed at a distance about fifteen inches from each other, and properly braced and tied together by other horizontal pieces which support the floors and roof. The upright timbers, strong plastering laths (or sticks), are nailed in a horizontal direction, and mud or plaster, composed of earth, rather inclining to clay, mixed with chopped straw is laid over the laths with a trowel. When the plaster is dry, a thin outer coat of lime and sand is applied over it. The inside of the building is lathes and sometimes plastered with mud; and sometimes with lime and hair.

Those mud walls are best when composed of clay and a large proportion of sand, in sharp and angular particles: for these angular particles form as it were, wedges to hold the clay together; and the mud plaster is not so liable to crack, as when composed of clay mixed up with fine sand”

Source: “Improvisations: traditional low Cost Building Techniques by John Archer, Second back Row Press, Australia, 1979.

There can be many variations in the way a timber framework is created. This early English account portrays a very orderly approach. At the other end of the scale, it’s possible to use sticks and branches from trees.

John Mason (principal of ACS Distance Education) built an office with three mud brick walls; and one wattle and daub wall (1982 in Victoria, Australia). By creating a mesh work of branches and twigs off Eucalyptus trees. The smallest twigs were around 0.5cm diameter and the largest branches up to around 8cm thick. Most were 1-3cm diameter. Most held together by weaving. Any timber that didn’t hold in position was tied together with some nylon rope or nailed together. The wall was then plastered following the contours, ins and outs of the framework.  The wall was then painted with several coats of 1 part bondcrete and 10 parts water on both sides. One side was the interior of a building (all other walls were mud brick (Yes you can mix building methods); and the other side an exterior wall. A metal roof overhang of 0.75 metres helped provide protection from weather.  When Mr Mason sold the property in 2003, this wall had showed no sign of deterioration whatsoever. This wall was built in a temperate climate with an annual rainfall of around 35 to 40 inches.

A variation of wattle and daub is to create two timber walls with a cavity in between that is filled with mud. This type of wall can be either created by completely constructing the timber walls before filling with mud; or by building the walls step by step and filling the cavity as the timber parts are increased in height.

Have You Tried Wattle and Daub?

This is one of the fastest methods of mud construction. It has been common and popular in Africa and South America and during gold rushes of the 19th century it was widely used in Australia and the USA. It has also used widely throughout history in many other parts of the world, including Europe. If a wattle and daub wall is reasonably thick (30cm or more) it can last for hundreds of years. Wattle and daub does offer more flexibility in the shapes that can be created in a wall. This method can be good if you want to create a wall with bumps and hollows; perhaps niches or shelves embedded into the wall; or artistic forms (e.g. the shape of a person or animal emerging from the surface of the wall). By constructing rough shapes in timber framework that dip into or protrude from the wall, you can provide a foundation to sculpt the mud plaster over.

One potential problem with wattle and daub can be if pests (e.g. termites) infiltrate and eat out the form work. Once the wall has settled and dried, this may not be a total disaster anyway. The wall may well still hold firm. The possibility should however be considered in areas where termites can be a major problem.

You can start the course at any time.

It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies.  Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way.  If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.

To complete the course, you are required to study six 100 hour modules.

There is an assignment at the end of each lesson. For example, in the Starting A Small Business module, there are twelve lessons, so twelve assignments.

At the end of each module, there is also an examination which you can take at a time and location to suit you.

To pass the course you are required to pass all assignments and six exams.

If you are not sure about going straight to the Certificate, you can study each of the modules mentioned as a standalone course. Please click on the links for more information.


... What next?

If you would like to learn more about producing sustainable, ecologically friendly and sustainable buildings and housing, this is the course for you.

  • Offer unique and niche services to customers.  Increase your own business and marketing potential. More and more customers are looking for environmentally friendly products and what is more important than a person's home.

  • Or study alternative construction to improve the buildings around your own home.
  • Apply your learned skills to advise others - provide advice based on your knowledge of materials, finishes, locational elements, interior light and ventilation.

This course will provide you with detailed knowledge of alternative methods of construction and the important aspects of healthy buildings.

Any Questions?

Our tutors are more than happy to help with any questions about our alternative construction course.






Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Farm ManagementThe Farm Management ebook is a valuable piece of equipment for any farming student or current farmer. Improve your farm management skills or learn new skills and techniques. The topics covered within this Farm Management ebook include 1/ Scope and nature of the farm industry, 2/ The farm site, 3/ Production systems, 4/ Managing livestock, 5/ Managing pasture, 6/ Managing crops, 7/ Managing equipment and materials, 8/ Computer applications, 9/ Farm structures and buildings, 10/ Financial management, 11/ Marketing, 12/ Farm planning, 13/ Staff management, 14/ Water management and 15/ Diversification.
Climbing PlantsClimbing Plants is an excellent reference for professionals in the landscaping/ gardening industry, for students or for the hobby gardener. Explaining which climbers can be used for specific situations, this ebook is a great starting point using climbing plants in the garden. Topics within this book include Introduction and growing climbers, directory of climbers, how to use climbers, bougainvillea and clematis.
Garden Design Part 1The Garden Design ebook part 1 is an essential handbook for students and landscape professionals. A foundation guide to garden design, this book provides stunning full illustrations to demonstrate tips and examples on garden design, functional uses and aesthetics. Some topics that are covered in this ebook include 1/ Introduction to Garden Design, 2/ Appropriateness of garden design, 3/ Creating an impact, 4/ Designing to a budget, 5/ Choosing plants, 6/ Using the garden, 7/ Where the garden meets the house, 8/ Making the winter garden more comfortable, 9/ Gardens for children, 10/The secure home and garden, 11/ Lighting a garden, 12/ Dealing with shade, 13/ Garden Art, 14/ Pots and planters, 15/ Colour in the garden, 16/ Applications for colour and 17/ Garden furniture.
Commercial HydroponicsThe Commercial Hydroponics ebook is ideal for students, professional horticulturalists and those who want to build a strong foundation knowledge in hydroponics. The commercial hydroponics ebook explains how to set up a commercial hydroponics system, including growing techniques and equipment that you will need. The topics covered in this book include an introduction to hydroponics, site considerations, alternatives, plant nutrition, nutrient film technique culture, rockwool culture, aggregate culture, other techniques, hydroponics equipment, greenhouse operation, plant culture in hydroponics, Vegetable crops, berry and other fruit crops, flower crops, other crops, managing a commercial hydroponic farm and a troubleshooting guide.