Monday, January 25, 2010
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
Friday, January 15, 2010
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.
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. www.mkdesignbuild.ca
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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.
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
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 email@example.com 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.