Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 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 35th 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.

Monday, January 25, 2010

MLK Day of Service Project

Yestermorrow's Americorps member Jose Galarza organized a volunteer project today for the national Day of Service. We worked at the Vermont Foodbank at Kingsbury Farm right down the road from Warren, helping them renovate the farmhouse, and creating a farm office. Today's project was to demolish a closet and create stairs to access the basement from the new office. We got a lot done- thanks to volunteers Robert Riversong, John Stephenson, Jordan Diez, Nick Salmons, Jose Galarza and Nils Shenholm (pictured above with the new stair).

Dominican Republic class builds children's park for Pueblo of Samana

This just in from instructor Kyle Bergman whose Dominican Republic Design/Build class wrapped up last Friday 1/22.

"Hi all,

A quick snapshot of the 2010 Dominican Republic Design Build Class. This was another adventure and a successful project. We designed and build a children’s park for Pueblo of Samana – which is 45,000 people strong. There has not been a children’s park in the town since the early 60’s. Many of the children there have never been on a slide.

We transformed a former dog fighting ring into a kid's park, with a tree house, hopscotch, a slide, murals, sculptural bamboo gates all in a very shady part of the main green in the center of town. We had our challenges beginning with the rain and then a backhoe (trying to deliver materials) knocking down one of our existing walls and a few trees ( a good opportunity to redesign), electricity going on and off, a 7.0 earthquake 197 miles away, stop orders by different political factions one with guns and guys in military wear – but the Mayor came each time and we got the go ahead to keep pushing to finish. The last night we worked until dark and then had a candle light rooftop Yestermorrow awards ceremony followed by dancing at the local bachata place and then came back next morning at 7:00 to finish and clean up before the 10:00am dedication ceremony. This was all topped off with Whale Watching during our final afternoon.


Check out some images of the class and final project in our Picasa gallery

Monday, January 18, 2010

A little treehouse in the woods

A few years ago Harry and Will Reynolds (father and son) took the Treehouse Design course at Yestermorrow led by John Connell. They took their plans back to their home in Lincoln, VT and built it together over three summers. It’s now heated, wired, insulated and finished and rented out as a bed and breakfast spot for folks looking for an unique lodging spot. The treehouse is very quiet and perched on four maples in a blanket of ferns. Access is by a ramp 50 ft. from the main house. The loft has a queen sized futon and there is a single bed on the main floor. It also has a comfy reading chair that rocks and a porch. Private bath and shower in the main house. Their treehouse is rented out through the website where it’s been ranked in the top 40 sites worldwide and they have hosted guests from as far away as England and Australia.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Instructor Andreas Stavropoulos Featured in Modern House Blog

Yestermorrow instructor Andreas Stavropoulos has been busy cooking up a new project at the place to find plans for a modern urban chicken coop that you can make yourself!

He's profiled this week on the blog Modern House Notes

Is Adding On Really the Answer?

This article was written by Yestermorrow instructor Moneca Kaiser to share with the Yestermorrow community.

Your Home-- Is Adding On Really The Answer?

When I was apprenticing as a carpenter, I got to work on some really great additions. Often they were new family-friendly kitchens with tons of counter space, a place for the kids to do their homework, and with casually elegant family rooms off of them. Usually they had two story banks of windows, maybe a fireplace, ambient and task lighting, clear maple flooring… welcoming wonderful spaces. They were grand -- the kind of space we all seem to want to live in these days.

Unfortunately, we’ve been seduced by all those glossy magazines. I’m sure if the people who live in those pages have problems, they’re the elegant kind -- like having been invited to two dinner parties with fascinating guests on the same night. The magazines want us to believe that we need more space.

The underlying message is that more space means there’s a place for everything. Then our house won’t be so cluttered and our mornings will be calm, the kids won’t fight about who’s got who’s mittens because they’ll each have one of those Martha Stewart-style wicker baskets, and they’ll always put there stuff there as soon as they come home. I’ll be able to enjoy that second cup of coffee in the morning, and maybe even glance at the paper instead of playing referee.

This is how we get seduced. The problem is that rarely is an addition the most elegant solution to the challenges of our house. Often the more sensible (and affordable) option is to renegotiate our existing space. The problem with adding on the “aint it grand room” is that it can easily wreck a house. The rest of the house is demoted because it’s dwarfed by the grandeur of the addition. Sometimes an addition is in harmony with its potential, in which case I say, let the excavators roll. But too often it can be like too much water on that precious seed, and you end up with a soggy mess.

Now the “old” part of the house looks just that way -- rooms that were a decent size seem stingy in relation to the “ain’t it grand room,” and they become lonely, forgotten spaces. Lonely, empty rooms and grand additions can suck the life out of a house. They’re also wasteful; in the age of climate change and peak oil, we’re not going to be able to afford to heat these spaces. Small will be appreciated more and more as beautiful; the magic lies in letting it breathe and feel spacious. Gargantuan additions and lonely, empty room are the antitheses of the homey-ness we so desperately need to nourish us and provide refuge so we have more to share with the world.

Still think you need more space? Could be. But the next step isn’t to start planning an addition. The next step actually is to make a list of everything you need and want -- a wish list. Don’t even think about how to achieve it. Then it’s time to get an as is picture of your house and lot. What do you already have, and how are you using it. Then it’s time to play! Draw, scribble, sketch. How can things be re-organized or rearranged to provide you with what you need. Re-imagine the space you have.

Most of the time, we discover that if we rework the existing space, we need much less addition (if any) than we anticipated to satisfy our wish list and maintain the integrity of the house. Compromise is the magic element, but it can be hard to do with visions of dream homes dancing in our head.

Some friends came to me thinking they needed to add on at least a 400 sq. ft. great room because they love to have family gatherings and also wanted a space for their grandchildren to stay over. Their current space just wasn’t working. Their lot could easily accommodate this size of an addition, and it almost made sense until we looked closely at the existing space. In the end, we were able to add just a small foyer (well under 100 sq. ft.) and renovate their existing spaces to accommodate everything on their wish list that really mattered by eliminating all the dead space (see before and after drawings below). Often the problems originate in previous additions that don’t live up to their promise.

So as you imagine your home’s next iteration, think inside the house! There are so many delightful, sustainable ways of transforming a house into a home. And many times, those options are already available under your already built roof. If you listen very carefully your house may even tell you how. Greenspeed!

Moneca Kaiser is a trained carpenter, designer, writer, student of eastern philosophy and owner of Moneca Kaiser Design Build.

the home's floor plan before renovation

home's layout after renovation

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking for a Cabinets Unlimited project

Here's a great opportunity- we're looking for a client for our Cabinets Unlimited class coming up in March. This is a one week section of the Woodworking Intensive program, and it's a great opportunity for someone who's looking for an unusual cabinet for their home. Here's the course description: "This class pushes beyond where Basic Cabinetry leaves off. We'll cover more advanced techniques such as raised panel doors, tambour, intricate moldings, inlay, bentwood, and more. The general approach will be the same as with the original class, covering techniques relying on basic shop equipment like the table saw and router. But we will really push the limits of what these tools can do and open up a whole new world of possibilities as we work on a group project for a real client."

As the client for this project, you'd be responsible for the cost of all materials including wood, hardware and finishes. Our instructors will work with you to design the cabinet and it would be ready for installation in mid-March, and you'd need to be able to pick it up at Yestermorrow and install it yourself.

If you're interested in potentially being a client for the cabinets unlimited class, please email Woodworking Intensive Program Director with an idea of what you're thinking of. We will review the requests we receive and choose the project which is most appropriate for the scope of the class.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Intructor Ben Graham to present at upcoming conferences

Yestermorrow instructor Ben Graham has a long term vision to bring natural building methods to a wider audience of builders, architects, designers and people in general. This winter he will be taking a clear step in that direction by presenting on natural building at two of the biggest conference/trade shows in the northeast. The first one in February is the Vermont based conference, Better Buildings by Design put on by Efficiency Vermont in South Burlington. The second is in March at the NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association) Building Energy conference in Boston.

This is an important marker in the development of natural building which has been considered a part of the fringe. Ben hopes to create awareness of local, natural materials as another element of a designer or builder’s pallet amongst many. Especially those interested in energy efficiency and low impact methods, natural materials and techniques offer important benefits as we develop structures for the future that use less energy and are healthy for people and the world.
Ben will show how his company, Natural Design/Build, based in Plainfield, VT, has been working with natural materials to create high performance buildings that can not only meet rigorous energy efficiency standards but also offer benefits such as recycleability, durability and life cycle costs that out perform many products widely used and raise the bar for what it means to be green.

The details:
Better Buildings by Design
February 10 -11, 2010
Sheraton Conference center, Burlington, Vermont
Natural Building 101: Tradition meets the future of energy efficiencyBen GrahamNatural Design/BuildLearn about how natural materials and methods are being redefined to become the next high performance system for low impact construction. You will see the latest details for straw bale, light clay and earth plaster solutions for the northeast and beyond. We will look at the building science and the latest data that supports using natural building methods to achieve high-level energy efficiency.R / Beginner Builders, Contractors, Architects

Building Energy 2010
March 9 – 11, 2010
Seaport World Trade Center, Boston, MA

Natural Materials: A New Look at the Old Ways Tuesday, March 9- 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM Workshop Speakers: Ben Graham Terry Brennan
This workshop will look at natural materials in two parts. First we will cover the materials themselves. There will be a discussion of the availability, cost and performance of different materials such as Durisol, Strawbales, clay plasters and wood fiber batts. We will cover thermal, hygro, permeability and durability performance based on test studies. The second part of the workshop will cover how the materials stack up in building assemblies. We will go over effective construction details and real data showing how natural building methods perform in a whole building.

Building Materials - Health Challenges and Natural Construction Alternatives
Thursday, March 11 - 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Session Speakers: Liz Harriman Ben Graham

This session will first look at potential human and environmental health hazards from construction materials such as finishes, plastics, additives, brominated flame retardants, fluoropolymers, and other substances. This will be followed by a presentation on natural building materials and systems that are minimally processed and are potentially more sustainable for our natural resources and human health. A view towards energy efficiency when building with natural materials will also be provided.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Day of Service January 18th

Dear Yestermorrow friends,

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 18th, Yestermorrow Design/Build School is organizing a Day of Service project at the Kingsbury Farm at the Vermont Foodbank in Waitsfield, VT. We’ve partnered with the Foodbank over the past year to help them with a renovation plan for the farmhouse, and work is continuing this spring in a number of different YM classes. However, there are some critical projects which don’t easily fit into the scope of our curriculum which we want to help them accomplish through a VOLUNTEER DAY OF SERVICE on January 18th.

On January, 18, 2010, people of all ages and backgrounds will come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. Dr. Martin Luther King devoted his life’s work to causes of equality and social justice. He taught that through nonviolence and service to one another, problems such as hunger and homelessness, prejudice and discrimination can be overcome. Dr. King’s teachings can continue to guide us in addressing our nation’s most pressing needs---poverty, economic insecurity, job loss and education.

Volunteer with Americans across the nation on the 2010 King Day of Service and make a real difference in your community.

What we’ll do: We will be building and installing a set of stairs in the new “office” portion of the farmhouse, plus additional sheetrocking, building the new bathroom, and whatever else we can get done in a day. Volunteers with carpentry experience are welcome, but those without a lot of experience are welcome too- we have a variety of projects lined up which can be accomplished by people of varying skill levels.

Time: 9:00am to 4:00pm. Come for the whole day, or just a couple hours.

RSVP: Please RVSP to if you plan to join us (you can just show up, but we’ll provide snacks and lunches for those who RSVP).

We hope you can join us.