Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 100 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 34th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bid on a Night at the Archie Bunker

Coming to Yestermorrow's 35th Anniversary Celebration on July 18th? Even if you aren't (but we hope you do), here's a unique opportunity: a chance to bid on a stay at the “Archie Bunker,” an architectural gem built by Yestermorrow friend Dave Sellers. This high-concept, renowned vacation dwelling sleeps six, has a full kitchen, fireplace, and Wi-Fi, and features a wall that opens straight into a swimming pool! Only four miles from Yestermorrow in beautiful Warren.

Bids accepted up to 5 PM, July 1 via email, here. The minimum bid is the advertised one-night rate of $700, and the highest bid wins. The winner will be notified by phone and will have two weeks to make full payment to Yestermorrow. The winner can also add a second night (Sunday the 19th) for only 50% of winning bid. Check-in on Saturday July 18th after noon; check out by 2pm day of departure.  100% OF THE WINNING BID GOES TO THE YESTERMORROW SCHOLARSHIP FUND!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Design by Committee vs. Design by Dictator

A guest post by John Connell, Yestermorrow founder and board member

It is a commonly held view that good design results when projects are driven by an autocratic leader, and bad design results when projects are driven by democratized groups.

Many find the notion of an alpha leader romantically appealing, believing that great design requires a tyrannical “Steve Jobs” at the helm to be successful. This notion is, at best, an oversimplification and in many cases it is simply incorrect. Design by Dictator is preferred when projects are time-driven, requirements are relatively straightforward, consequences of error are tolerable, and stakeholder buy-in is unimportant. It should be noted that with the exception of inventors, celebrity designers, and entrepreneurial start-ups, virtually all modern design is at some level design by committee (e.g., clients, builders, consultants, code officials, etc.). The belief that great design typically comes from dictators is more myth than reality.

Design by Committee is preferred when projects are quality-driven, requirements are complex, consequences of error are serious, or stakeholder buy-in is important. For example, NASA employs a highly bureaucratized design process for each mission, involving numerous working groups, review committees, and layers of review from teams of various specializations. The process is slow and expensive but the complexity of the requirements is high, the consequences of error are severe, and the need for stakeholder buy-in is critical. Virtually every aspect of mission technology is a product of design by committee.

Design by Committee is optimal when:
· committee members are diverse,
· bias and influence among committee members is minimized,
· local decision-making authority is encouraged (operating within an agreed upon global framework)
· member input and contributions are efficiently collected and shared
· ideal group sizes are employed (working groups contain three members, whereas review boards and decision-making panels contain seven to twelve members)
· a simple governance model is adopted to facilitate decision making and ensure that the design process cannot be delayed or deadlocked.

Consider Design by Committee when quality, error mitigation, and stakeholder acceptance are primary factors.

Consider Design by Dictator when an aggressive timeline is the primary factor.

Favor some form of design by committee for most projects, as it generally outperforms autocratic design on most critical measures with lower overall risk of failure — bad dictators are at least as common as good dictators, and design by dictator tends to lack the error correction and organizational safety nets of committee-based approaches.

· Autocracy is linear and fast, but risky and prone to error.
· Democracy is iterative and slow, but careful and resistant to error. 

Image from: Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design ~ Lidwell, William; Holden, Kritina; Butler, Jill.

Both models have their place depending on the circumstances. The strikingly original design for Freedom Tower came from Daniel Libeskind using a design process that can be aptly characterized as design by dictator. However, the requirements of the building that would take the place of the World Trade Center towers were extraordinarily complex, the consequences of getting the design wrong unacceptable, and the number of passionate stakeholders great. Given these conditions, Freedom Tower was destined to be designed by committee. As the design iterated through the various commercial, engineering, security, and political factions, idiosyncrasies were averaged out — a standard byproduct of design by committee. The final design is less visually interesting, but it is, by definition, a superior design.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Design Blog- Guest Post by John Connell

John Connell, Yestermorrow Founder
The following is the first in what we hope will be a series of guest blog posts from members of the Yestermorrow community on topics related to design thinking.

Yestermorrow Design Blog

Trying to invigorate the design conversation at Yestermorrow, I’m constantly challenged by where to start. I’ve tried design competitions, syntax, favorite examples, and inspired readings – none really launched the mission. This is probably more about my lack of follow-through than anything else.

So now, let’s try blogging! Participation is self-directed, from a long focused post to a quick comment on someone else’s. Or for the extremely tight schedule, one can just lurk in the wings.

This blog welcomes all comers to explore design issues, projects, concepts – whatever comes to the surface.

Design – is what?

Part of the challenge in wrapping one’s head around “DESIGN” is the varied uses made of the word. Design means so many things in so many contexts that a newbie is easily confused. For instance, architects commonly use the word to describe the 3dimensional result of their 2dimensional imagery while engineers use the word to describe the elegance of a numerical solution. Interior Designers use the word for everything in their field – she’s a “designer”. Graphic designers, landscape architects, fashion designers, animators, set designers, industrial designers, environmentalists, writers, book designers, cooks, painters and sculptors all use the word “design” in special ways. And yet, incredibly, they all share a common thread in that design always means intention or vision.

Regardless of the context, design is always the intended response to a problem (the “design problem”). The quality of a design solution is measured by how well it realizes the intentions or vision being pursued. So regardless of one’s professional bias or training or materials or methods,

design = intention

Design is Who?

In bygone times, design of any flavor was usually the result of one person. The architect, artist, master builder or craftsperson was almost always singular and their vision was a very personal expression. The study of architecture is a study of individuals remembered and venerated in our text books. Many hands and many minds entrained in one pursuit of one vision or goal laid out by The (autocratic) Designer. There are exceptions, of course, but generally this is the assumption behind architecture with a capital “A”.

Today, however, that assumption is being challenged. In a limited resource world with vastly expanded technological options, design (or intention) is not so easily outlined by a single vision. As the world gets smaller and more interconnected, the consequences of design become more complicated. Sustainable design, carbon neutral design, and affordable design are just a few examples that move beyond the earlier approach.

Pursuit of these more complicated design intentions requires the collaboration of many minds at the outset of a project. Finance, codes, structure, energy use, daylight, materials, health, comfort, ergonomics, land use, storm water, wastewater – any one of these alone could shape a building. Together, if not coordinated, they will reduce the design process to an internecine competition. This is why larger building projects are increasingly embracing some sort of integrated design at the outset. All the critical experts convene at the outset to work out a collaborative design (vision) that balances all the various agenda. This is a far cry from the autocratic design myth found in Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead.

Design has become a team sport! In a resource limited world, this is the only responsible approach…unless perhaps, if the building itself is quite small.

The house, if kept small enough, can still be the expression of a single person’s design vision. All the considerations listed above must still be understood and incorporated into that vision but it’s possible – just barely – for a single designer to pull it off. This is the allure of residential architecture. Each house becomes a talisman for how we must live sustainably on this earth. And since every site is different, this design problem must be reinterpreted endlessly to accommodate the infinite combinations of human cultures and natural ecosystems.

Autocratic Design vs. Team Design…(?)

Design Looks like What?

At Yestermorrow, this is the big question carried about just under the surface. It’s a great question and I want to advance it to center stage. We need to talk about it, hear various opinions, and develop some vocabulary.

In this post I have suggested that larger buildings benefit from Team Design while smaller buildings can still be the sublime invention of a single Design/builder. So let’s get some feedback on that!

Meanwhile, here are a few good resources to prime the pump:

The Art of Critical Making (my favorite book for Yestermorrow)

Universal Principles of Design (a classic on design at all scales)

A Pattern Language (a classic on vernacular design)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yestermorrow hosts AIA Vermont’s ‘Archistream’

For the next two weeks, there is a new addition to the Yestermorrow Campus. The renovated Airstream trailer parked in front of our main building is a Mobile Design Gallery and Education Center.

AIA Vermont has created this mobile architecture classroom to spread awareness of green ecological design around Vermont.  They call the trailer the 'Archistream' and it has been traveling around Vermont for the last 6 months, stopping around Vermont in places like the ECHO center on Burlington's Waterfront.

They were awarded a $42,750 Innovation Fund grant from AIA for the project. They purchased the used trailer, and undergraduate architecture students at Norwich university spent last winter remodeling the interior to house educational materials about design and hopefully bring more awareness about what architecture can do for them.

The Archistream is open to the public and will be parked out front for the next two weeks. Come see the engaging design, and learn more about ecological design in the process!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tackling Efficiency at Yestermorrow

by Kate Stephenson, Executive Director

When I give tours of the Yestermorrow campus, frequently I end up telling folks we have many components of a high performance building. But one of the challenges of working to renovate and retrofit an existing building (originally a hotel built in 1960) in phases over time is that often you don't get a chance to look at the larger picture of the building as a whole. Every year we continue to work our way through an extensive punch list of deferred maintenance and improvements with the ultimate goal of improving the student experience here at Yestermorrow. But it's been a few years since we took a step back to look at the bigger picture.

Luckily, we have some amazing expertise right here in the Yestermorrow family. In September we had a visit from Donna Leban, a new member of the Yestermorrow faculty and a local lighting designer focused on energy efficiency in lighting. Through Efficiency Vermont's RELIGHT program which provides financial support to businesses interested in lighting retrofits, we were able to hire Donna to do a comprehensive lighting audit of Yestermorrow's main building and recommend potential upgrades including LEDs and controls.

Brad and Sayer set up the blower door
The next step was to bring in Brad Cook from Building Performance Services LLC in Waitsfield. Brad has been a long time friend of Yestermorrow, going back to when he was on staff at the school in the 1980s. He is BPI-certified to conduct energy audits and offered to donate a full audit of Yestermorrow's main building. A couple weeks ago he came by with his blower doors, infrared camera, combustion testing equipment to go through the whole building. Overall, we actually did better on the blower door test than we expected, coming out at 5,639 cfm-50 (cubic feet per minute at 50 Pascals). For an 10,000 square foot building that is decent for air tightness. However, we certainly found areas of potential improvement- failed windows, cracks around rough openings and in corners of sheetrock, and gaps in insulation between the foundation wall and first floor. Over the next couple of weeks we will work with Brad to put together a list of recommendations to improve the building envelope, and we're using a Kill-a-Watt meter to look at energy usage of specific appliances around the school.

Reviewing the blower door results via two different wifi enabled devices
Meanwhile we have also been looking at the bigger picture of the overall environmental impact of the organization. This summer we worked with a summer intern from the Community College of Vermont, Lisa Thacker, to update our Environmental Impact Report. We had published the first version of this report in 2011 with help from instructor Jim Newman of Linnean Solutions. Lisa and our staff went through the extensive process of reviewing data from 2012-2013 to update the metrics identified in the original report- including electricity, propane and water usage as well as local purchasing and occupancy. We will have the updated report up on our website by the end of the month.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to look at the efficiency of the campus and ways to reduce our footprint!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tiny House, Open House

For the last couple of months on campus, Katie Tomai has been a consistently inspiring presence. Her journey started in July in the Tiny House Design/Build course. During those two weeks, the class kick-started her building process by building the frame for her home.

Since then, Katie has been outside everyday chipping away at her house. With very little building experience, she has been teaching herself how to build a home from the ground up. We have all watched the house grow from just a trailer to an almost finished home.

To see her in-progress tiny house, and the just started tiny house the semester program is building,  come to our Open House this Friday, October 24th!

Check our Facebook Event for more information:

Friday, September 05, 2014

From Yestermorrow Student to Instructor (and a darn good one!)

Paul Derksen came to Yestermorrow in 2006 to take the Design for Builders and Timber Framing courses. The school was on Paul’s radar for quite some time. Building had always been an interest for him, as family-album  pictures of him trying to build a treehouse while still in diapers will attest. Renovation work on his own house as an adult, and some volunteer experiences doing home repair and renovations for needy West Virginians ultimately sealed the deal.

In 2002, he left a career as a research biologist, moved to Vermont, and starting his own design/build business. But he soon realized that he needed more knowledge and a deeper skillset. Yestermorrow’s courses became critical for his new path. He was drawn to the school because of its creative and inspired programming as well as its commitment to energy efficiency and natural materials. He wanted something more than what he would get at a technical college, and what he found was just that. “It is more than a place to learn a skill, craft or trade," he says. "There are a lot of other interests and values, and a community that you tap into when you are there.”

As some years went by and he gained more and more mastery of his craft, his connection to the Yestermorrow ethos never dimmed. He still felt connected to the community, and a desire to give something back took hold. He inquired about the possibility of teaching.

It just so happened that an instructor who was scheduled to teach the school’s Renovation class had a conflict and needed to bow out.  Paul came out of the bullpen and rose to the challenge with skill and grace. In fact, the students' rave reviews suggested that he possessed a natural gift. He has since been back several times, to teach Renovation again, as well as Intro to the Woodshop and Cabinets & Built-Ins.

 “I really enjoy working with the students,” he says, “empowering them to take the skills that they have, honing them and giving them some more information, because I know for myself how satisfying it was to pick up some of those skills, especially coming from another walk-of-life, trade or career. It tends to be that a lot of students have a desire and a passion, but there is a hesitance to do it before they have the skills.  Like watching someone using a powertool for the first time and being terrified of it.  But then realizing how they can do it properly and safely and make something beautiful out of it is really enjoyable.”

Paul’s best advice to aspiring woodworkers is to “do things with integrity. If you’re going to do something, do it well from an aesthetic perspective, a quality perspective, as well as with an efficiency with the use of the resources. That is the approach I take with my work—so that I make something that will last for more than 100 years and that someone would want to keep in shape for that long because of the way it was built.”

He adds: “The school and the community that Yestermorrow attracts tend to be totally on board with that [vision]. I learn something from them every time I teach. Seeing people mastering a skill and doing something they thought they couldn’t do before or learning something they really wanted to learn about is really satisfying work.”