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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Master Planning Update

Yestermorrow is poised to address pressing needs that have long hampered the school’s effectiveness. The school’s 38-acre campus has evolved in such a way that it does not represent the design ideals and environmental goals that are at the core of the school’s mission. At the same time, to grow to an optimal level of students and instructors on campus, Yestermorrow needs additional space for learning and living.

For much of 2010-2011, the Board of Directors has wrestled with how to move forward with the campus master plan through a thoughtful planning process, and has committed resources towards the first phase of campus master plan development, with the second phase to be completed by the end of 2011.

Timeline and Phasing:
November 2010 – March 2011:
Yestermorrow hired Bill Reed to facilitate 2 day-long board meetings on 11/20/10 and 3/5/11 focused on achieving alignment around Yestermorrow’s Purpose and Principles.

May – June 2011:
Yestermorrow has hired Regenesis Group* (including Bill Reed, Joel Glanzberg, and John Boecker) to complete Phase 1 of the Campus Master Plan, focused on an assessment of socio-ecological context and evolutionary potential of our place, which will influence and guide the master plan. This is intended to assist Yestermorrow in laying the groundwork for informed design of school buildings, infrastructure, operations, teaching opportunities, and larger opportunities for social and community integration.

Through on-site research, interviews with stakeholders, and the facilitation of their course “Regenerative Design and Development” June 19-24, Bill, John and Joel will work to understand the potential for positive interrelationships between Yestermorrow and the larger community. Then they will facilitate a day and a half board meeting June 24-25 focused on the essence and purpose of Yestermorrow, and developing a set of Design Principles that will guide the development of a site plan in Phase 2. The deliverables for Phase 1 include: the “Story of Place” (essence) in PowerPoint Form, list of principles, site forces, bubble locations diagram, and framework for master plan.

July –October 2011:
Yestermorrow will hire a design team (TBD) to complete Phase 2 of the Campus Master Plan, focusing more specifically on the physical development of the campus, including: site analysis, soil analysis, phased development budgets, and story lines for each building. This work will be performed working with the School’s Board and Staff to develop the programming for the build out. Simultaneously, the Staff will develop a Strategic Plan for 2011-2016 which will guide the School’s operational, curricular, and financial objectives. The design team for phase 2 will not be chosen until Phase 1 is completed.

2012 and beyond:
Yestermorrow is currently seeking funding to support a new position of Design/Builder in Residence who would:
· Develop a site plan for the campus based on the vision articulated in the master plan, which will identify existing and future utility infrastructure, septic, water, drainage, parking, trails and lighting;
· Work with Waitsfield’s Development Review Board to obtain required permits and steward the proposed changes through the State’s Act 250 process;
· Solicit requests for proposals from design firms and coordinate the design firm selection process, ensuring that critical stakeholders are involved;
· Involve stakeholders in identifying programmatic needs for all Phase One buildings, manage design charrettes to elicit input and feedback on various schematics, and coordinate with the design firm on revisions and changes;
· Integrate as much of this process into appropriate class work so as to deepen experiential learning opportunities for students;
· Generate excitement about the school’s bold new campus plan and buildings; and
· Offer interns real life experience helping to manage large design projects—an important professional development opportunity.

This project will ultimately strengthen the school for decades to come. The campus changes will transform Yestermorrow into a vibrant place of learning that fosters creativity in those who visit, learn, work, and teach here. It will enhance our ability to provide a top quality educational experience for our students. It will be a model both in Vermont and nationally—serving as a beacon to inspire others to push new boundaries in designing and building.

By moving the Campus Plan forward, Yestermorrow will:
· Raise the bar for sustainable design across Vermont and New England;
· Showcase regenerative design principles in action;
· Infuse the experience of visitors, students, interns, instructors, staff, and guests with state-of-the-art design and sustainability practices;
· Provide a dynamic learning experience for students;
· Offer instructors a vital setting for teaching; and
· Create a stronger and more vital organization.

If you have any questions about how this planning process will unfold over the next 6 months, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Kate Stephenson
Executive Director

*For more information on the work of Regenesis, and to see some of their past projects, please visit:,,,,

New Orleans youth visit Yestermorrow.

The Yestermorrow campus is generally brimming with all sorts of folk, but most days an astute observer may notice a genuine dearth of children. Not the case the last week in April when we were blessed with not one, not two, but five child visitors ranging in age from 12-16. The kids were part of a group from New Orleans called Rethink, and were here in Vermont to gather ideas for their entry in a competition to design a new "Oil Free School" in their community.

Rethink began in early 2006 when a group of community organizers, artists, architects, media experts and educators came together to help give middle school students a voice in redesigning and rebuilding their schools post-Katrina. Students from New Orleans were scattered across the country for six months to a year after Katrina, and in the words of these students, “for the first time most of us saw bathrooms with toilet paper and soap, libraries with books and hallways with lockers. It made us realize what good schools actually look like.” Our five visiting students and two leaders are part of a growing group of Rethinkers in New Orleans who are redesigning schools and implementing school-based projects that promote respect, communication, justice and sustainability.

Despite some pesky spring rain showers, George, Ory, Alana, Vernard, and Ashley, along with leaders Mallory and Dominique, spent the morning exploring Yestermorrow alongside interns Malena Marvin and Gillian Davis. Although the kids were eager to discuss the different ways we Yestermorrowans are harnessing the sun's energy (photovoltaics, solar hot water, outdoor shower batch heater, garden cold frames), they were most exuberantly interested in touching the seasonal creek flowing out of the spring near the cabins. It was amazing to see their delight with the clear, cool water we so often take for granted. They were particularly enthused by the tree house, and so we spent some time under its cover connecting with the sounds and feel of a rainy spring day in Vermont, a notable contrast from their familiar southern city. We explored natural building practices such as strawbale and cob, the smile-inducing term “humanure”, took a look at our garden bursting with tiny greens, and had a great time feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, and mastering the art of the rooster call.

In the afternoon the talented middle-schoolers headed to the woodshop where they practiced using tape measures, squares, saws and drills to construct a new cold frame for our garden. Our woodshop Fun Meter traveled from "Boo" to "Woo" as the children completed the project successfully, and we brought the day to a close with a bit of reflection on what we appreciated most about the visit.

We were all truly impressed with the students’ curiosity, energy, and bright spirits, and look forward to seeing how they design their Oil Free School. We were also reminded of how inspiring and uplifting it is to have young people lending their fresh ideas and frank curiosity to our community.

Gillian Davis

George attaches the corner board.

Woodshop enthusiasm boosts our fun meter from 'boo' to 'woo'!

The cold frame starts to come together.

photo cred: Malena Marvin

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Solar Story

Late last April, here at Yestermorrow we took a huge step towards our goal of producing renewable energy on campus with the installation of a 28kW photovoltaic array. It wasn’t just a token demonstration project, this was a statement—seven tracking units each measuring 22 feet wide and 17 feet tall right out in front of our main building on Route 100. One year later, we were curious to see how the performance of the PVs matched up with our projections. The AllSun Trackers which we used on the project are designed to change their angle and their orientation throughout the day so they are always directly facing the sun. This means they produce up to 40% more energy than a fixed panel. Each of our trackers is projected to produce 5,640 kilowatt hours per year. Multiply that times seven units, and our anticipated production is 39,480 kWh per year.

The next question inevitably is… “so, how much did they really produce??”. Between April 20, 2010 when the trackers went online, and April 20, 2011 they pumped out 37,367 kWh – pretty close to our original projections! (You can check out the production day by day on the AER website at:

This is enough electricity to supply 74% of the demand for our main building (just over 50,000 kWh last year).

So what’s next? This year we’re hoping for more sunny days :) but we’re also looking hard at what we can do to reduce our electricity loads—remember, conservation always comes before efficiency and renewables. We’re working with folks from Efficiency Vermont and the Mad River Valley Localvolts to install a TED energy monitor so we can track our consumption patterns more closely and identify trends over time. We’re also using a Kill-a-watt meter to identify energy-sucking appliances and tools so we can plan future upgrades. And thanks to great state incentives, we’re also testing out some new LED light bulbs around different parts of the campus and looking into occupancy and daylighting sensors.

Learn more about Yestermorrow's eco footprint...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Common Ground Center

Ever wonder where you can see more than half a dozen Yestermorrow class projects all in one place (other than our own campus)? Check out the Common Ground Center in Starksboro, VT. It's a family camp (Camp Common Ground) and a retreat and conference center. About ten years ago they purchased 700 acres and have been transforming it into an amazing space for people to gather. Yestermorrow has partnered with them on many projects over the years that have helped to build out their facilities.

I was there on Saturday for the Grand Opening of their new Eco Lodge, designed by architect Carol Stenberg (a YM instructor who teaches courses on SketchUp and AutoCAD). It's a beautiful building featuring year-round guest rooms and common areas, with a green roof, nice daylighting, natural clay plasters, wood harvested on site, and many other green features.

While I was there I had a chance to take photos of the Yestermorrow projects there, which include 4 cabins, a composting toilet, a shed for the tennis court, and a pedestrian bridge. Some of the other cabins on the site were designed and built by Yestermorrow instructors Paul Hanke, Keja MacEwan, and Lisa Williams, and the master plan for the site was designed by Bill Maclay, so there are many Yestermorrow connections to this cool place!

The "Sugar Shack" cabin

Two "twin" cabins built in 2003

The "Butterfly Cabin"

Composting Toilet

Tennis Court Shed - built by a Carpentry class, 2010 (with AllSun Tracker in the background)

The "Bridge to Nowhere" built by a 2004 Bridge D/B class led by Josh Jackson and Jeremy Culver