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, September 19, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Vermont and Yestermorrow Volunteer Efforts

Hurricane Irene brought the worst flooding that Vermont has seen since 1927. Rivers crested well over 15 feet their normal level, taking roads, bridges, and even entire homes with them. Flooding has also been completely devastating to the true heart of Vermont, its dairies and farms, leaving many of them with damaged facilities, unrepairable equipment and acres of land that has either been covered in silt or washed away completely.

For days after the flood, locales across the state were left under water and isolated from emergency vehicles leaving residents to fend for themselves and thankfully, each other. Vermont has received national and international coverage for its ability to pull up its bootstraps by organizing community by community to take care of business with the unstoppable, fearless ingenuity that runs as a natural heredity born by love of this place.

With a simple and collective deep sigh at day break the morning after the storm, Vermonters got to work. They first gathered to check on those who were most vulnerable, to comfort one another from the shock and loss and then to shovel, muck, purge, clean, demolish and soon enough, to rebuild. The generosity of time, clothing, tools, heavy machinery, knowledge and many other resources to mobilize what will surely prove to be many, many months of hard work was nothing short of awe inspiring.

The beautiful Mad River Valley where Yestermorrow Design/Build School is situated was one of the areas hit hardest by the flooding with the Mad River becoming truly “mad”. Geographically situated out of the path of the water, the Yestermorrow campus was left practically untouched by flood damage. First, from the west, the campus is buffered by distance and situated at a higher elevation from the immediate flood plain. Second, thanks to clever ecological designs implemented as part of campus improvements in the last year, groundwater flows from the upper elevations above us to the east were diverted away from structures and camping areas to ponds and newly formed wetlands. These designs worked in accordance with the natural flows of the earth’s surface to find a welcoming path for the thousands of extra gallons of water coming down the back hillside trying to get to the natural destination of the closest river.

In our downtown areas of Waitsfield and Warren the persistent drive of intrepid residents is paying off. Many shops and business have already reopend, restaurants and inns are gearing up for the oncoming foliage season and the Saturday farmer's market in Waitsfield is bursting at the seams with local crafts, breads, cheeses, vegetables and other Vermont made products.

And now…

Volunteer efforts are needed in multiple phases throughout the recovery process. Three weeks later, individual resources have been tapped out, volunteers are fatigued or have had to return to their pre-flood lives leaving those most hard-hit by the flood with dwindling volunteer efforts.

While Yestermorrow staff and interns have been out in the community individually to assist as much as possible and still keep our hectic day-to-day responsibilities on track there has been a tremendous number of inquires from instructors, board members and students to brainstorm how we can best disseminate the amazing resources of our internal community to those who most need it.

Yestermorrow’s community of experienced architects, builders, engineers, ecological designers, farmers, craftspeople, and other professionals are excited and able to volunteer their time to work on larger-scale issues and longer-term thinking as quickly evolving weather patterns affect Vermont’s landscape.

Yestermorrow takes action!

To start with, interns and staff have all been encouraged to be out in the community during regular business hours which has enabled Dan to clean mud out a neighboring pottery studio, Kitchen/Garden intern Josh to clean debris out of Small Step Farm, and Monica to shovel mud out of a local restaurant. The new semester program staff and students spent an afternoon working on residential homes in the town of Moretown and the entire Yestermorrow intern crew will be headed to assist Yestermorrow head cook Heidi’s church, which suffered devastating losses.

Would you like to join in the efforts?

A. A volunteer day is scheduled for Wednesday, October 5 to send a crew of Yestermorrow community members to towns south who were not immediately accessible to relief efforts and are subsequently weeks behind in clean up and demolition efforts. If you would like to be a part of the Yestermorrow crew on October 5, please RSVP to so we know how many people will be available and for further details.

B. The conversation about what can be done in the long term is well under way although nothing has been firmly decided upon since there are so many good ideas. Stay tuned for further updates about how you can get involved.

More information:

Local Mad River Valley volunteer headquarters (Information about volunteering, donating goods and services, and state and federal relief resources.):

Donate to Mad River Valley flood relief efforts:

Donate to state of Vermont flood relief efforts:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Intern [Family] Business As Usual.

The eternal question: What happens when seven motivated individuals are placed in rural Vermont surrounded by a transient student population, institutional constraints, and a faculty (and region) dedicated to being brilliant eco-evolutionaries?

Answer: Chaos and magic. As interns we are an (un) intentional community, perpetuators of inspiration, dabblers in burnout, and all-in-all badass creators. Often we are building structures for the school, sometimes for ourselves. Take a look at what we’ve been working on this month.

A savvy lumber junkie who is slick with renovation and can build one mean canoe, Design/Build Architect-in-Training Nick inspects our main building in preparation for its (at-long-last) exterior steps.

Diggin’ on the Adirondack camp style, Design/Build Aficionado Jeff flavors red the window bucks which will serve as vibrant accents to our soon-to-be-finished Cabin 5.

[Industrial] Design/Builder Justin refines his wood-based construction techniques through stringer and tread creation, erasing the gap from lawn to interior, producing his first set of stairs.

Design/Build Connoisseur Jess's carpentry ingenuity flourishes as she lightens up her cave-like basement room by installing an interior window.

High-spirited Woodshop Goddess Gillian, after building multiple sheds for women in Portland and desiring freedom of motion, tackles her own (tiny) house on wheels.

Lovin’ the geometric perfection of it all, Community Embracing Faerie Jess builds a mini-geodesic dome meditation hut as a Burning Man-esque retreat space.

Farmer Josh, Kitchen Wizard and Garden Guru, blends nitrogen fixers with knock-out kale to convert the Yester-grounds into an air-healing, veggie-producing campus tapestry.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Semester is Underway

Our inaugural Semester in Sustainable Design/Build is underway! Twelve undergraduates arrived in Montpelier on August 21st and immediately launched into an intense schedule of orientation, design exercises, and skill building.

Here's just a snapshot of what's happened already over the past two weeks:

Week 1: Students backpacked for three days on the Long Trail from Middlebury Gap to Lincoln Gap as part of a team building orientation, attended a lecture at Yestermorrow by Tedd Benson on "Reinventing the House", and learned basic tool safety and construction skills by building sawhorses.

Week 2: Students completed a series of drafting exercises armed with pencils and trace, discussed the program for the semester's tiny house design/build project, toured Yestermorrow's campus and architectural highlights of the Mad River Valley, and spent a morning volunteering in Moretown to help families whose homes were flooded with demolition and clean-up.

The students in the program range from age 19 to 40, and come from eleven different schools, including Skidmore College, University of Vermont, Clemson University, Hampshire College, University of Massachussetts-Amherst, Sarah Lawrence College, Norwich University, College of the Atlantic, The New School, University of Washington, and Pomona College. Their majors range from architecture to environmental studies, human ecology to construction management and fine arts.

Stay up-to-date on the program throughout the semester.
We're posting pictures and weekly updates to a special Facebook page and will have a blog coming soon, with more on our tiny house design/build project and student profiles. And mark your calendars for our Semester Program Open House scheduled for Saturday, October 29th at our semester program campus in Montpelier at Vermont College of Fine Arts.