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.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Shop Programming Meeting Notes

Phase 1a Shop Programming Meeting, September 17, 2105

We kicked off the design of Yestermorrow’s first building with a programming meeting that focused on the site plan as it relates to building design. Facilitated by the design team, Rob Bast and Mac Rood of Bast & Rood, and attended by staff, interns, faculty, and friends of Yestermorrow, a lively and productive discussion captured the enthusiasm around the start of our master plan build out.

Rob and Mac had an ambitious goal of addressing a list of nearly 20 topics related to site planning, including: circulation, building functionality, maintenance, solar exposure, sound, and many more. While we touched on all of the topics, the majority of the discussion focused on the following areas:

Building Location: There was considerable interest and support for building the first shop in the southernmost location of the shop building envelope (the master plan identifies a general building envelope within which 4 shop buildings are approved for construction). In this location, the building would support future campus construction phasing by creating an edge and node around which other features would congregate, it would offer visual importance to those entering campus and passersby, and it could serve as a marketing tool for the school.

Open Space: It is generally believed that one of the main “ingredients” of a successful Yestermorrow experience includes the presence of open, natural outdoor space on campus. By preserving the majority of the main green area located between the existing studio and the future shop buildings, space for activities, games, outdoor dining can continue to occur.

Road Construction and Circulation:
There was general sense that maintaining the tennis courts/southern parking lot for its varied use is important until its function is replaced with a future shop building. In this regard, the existing drive and the parking lot to the south of the existing drive would remain through Phase 1 or longer, to serve the functions they currently hold for Yestermorrow classes and the semester program. Discussions held after the programming meeting with our stormwater and wastewater engineers addressed this idea and confirmed that it would be a feasible strategy while also allowing our stormwater and wastewater planning goals to be achieved at the outset of the project.

Parking: Many of our students rely on their cars for transportation to/from campus as well as for secure storage while on campus. Because of this, it is important that we keep a designated area for parking during construction while also fulfilling one of the design principles of the master plan which focuses on locating parking in one spot, to the perimeter of campus, emphasizing the pedestrian-nature of the campus.

Building DNA:
Before the close of the meeting, each of the meeting participants were asked to share, in their own words, what they feel this building should encompass or achieve. The responses represent the creativity and excitement surrounding this project:
  • It should demonstrate design at Yestermorrow: design as fundamental to quality of building
  • It should be a fabulous building. It is first.
  • Building the shop first, the kingpin of the plan, reinforces Yestermorrow hands on.
  • Putting building to the south would make that role central in the campus.
  • Don’t miss opportunity to anticipate future energy consumption; conserve in structure, save bucks.
  • Build Awesome. Build Practical.  (asides: reinforces existing parking/tennis need, consider proximity to existing design studio)
  • Make it a great building: Transparency of teaching, of being able to see how the building is put together. document for the future, for teaching purposes. Be energy effective. Remember, we gotta get out of the tent! big problem now for year round operation.
  • Looking down on work going on: Love the sense of seeing what people are doing while moving around campus (looking down on wood shop now from walkway cited).
  • The first new building should project a valuable image for Yestermorrow; should be a great tool from a marketing perspective. Should somehow project what we believe in, what we want to teach, be inspiring, make intentional community building…the building can be a catalyst for people interacting creatively.
  • Invest in the building, less in the infrastructure until needed (future). Phase 1 may be in place for a long time, so consider it as stand alone until money supports next phases.

Tuesday, October 6, 7pm: Envelope and Mechanical Systems

Thursday, October 8, 7pm: Structure

Tuesday, October 13, 7pm: Delight, Aesthetics

Thursday, October 15, 7pm: Student Involvement

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Invitation to Shop Building Planning and Programming Sessions

Join us as we begin the design of Yestermorrow's first building in our master plan build out!

Following on the heels of the September 2nd kickoff meeting, the design team will be conducting six initial programming sessions to allow the Yestermorrow community to weigh in with feedback, ideas and dreams related to the design and construction of our new shop and classroom building.

We have divided the programming sessions by topic to allow people to focus on the areas that are of most interest to them. Of course, everyone is welcome to attend all six sessions if they wish. Please join us for any or all of the meetings.

Each evening will include a review of the program for the space and a focus on the core principles that guide the Yestermorrow master plan and the design of this building. It is important that the new shop advance key Yestermorrow ideals. Hence, What is the DNA of the building? What is the vision that frames all other considerations as we move forward with a design?

The meetings will be held at Yestermorrow from 7PM to 8:30PM. 

Thursday, September 17:  Site Plan 
In this session we are soliciting feedback on the location of the building and its relationship to the site, including vehicular and pedestrian circulation. We will be working within the context of the existing established master plan.

Tuesday, September 22: Shop Functionality
What are the requirements for an efficient and functional shop? Tool placement, clearances, material storage, dust control, safety, power considerations, truck and trailer access are a few of the topics to be considered.

Tuesday, October 6: Envelope and Mechanical Systems
What should be our energy goals and how can the design of the envelope best achieve them? What strategies should we consider, and what mechanical or energy generation systems should supplement the building performance?

Thursday, October 8: Structure
What structural systems should be considered? What materials should we consider? What are our resources? The strategy for clear-spanning the shop space will likely be the most formative design decision we will have.

Tuesday, October 13: Delight, Aesthetics
How will we achieve the “delight” that Vitruvius suggests should be part of any quality building? What should the guiding design principles be for this building?

Thursday, October 15: Student Involvement
What are the best ways to involve students in the design and construction of the shop building?  The session should be of particular interest to staff and teachers who wish to take advantage of this quintessential Yestermorrow project as an educational opportunity for their students.

If you can't attend sessions in person but would like to submit feedback or ideas via email, please contact Rob Bast at

Friday, August 28, 2015

Treehouse Guy on DIY Network has Yestermorrow Roots

Former Yestermorrow instructor and longtime friend of the school, James “B’fer” Roth, has hit the big time as co-star of “The Treehouse Guys” airing on the DIY Network. 

B'fer's introduction to treehouse building was as a team member of the crew that designed and built Yestermorrow's (now defunct) wheelchair accessible treehouse. That project was a prototype for the fledgling Forever Young Treehouse organization, with which B'fer than played a major role as a designer and builder of numerous universally accessible treehouses in camps and public parks. He has more recently continued that work for a variety of clients as a member of the Treehouse Guys, with building partner Chris Haake.

In 2013, they were approached by the DIY Network about starring in a show, and the rest is history. A pilot was filmed and aired in 2014, and a full six-episode season is currently airing on Tuesday nights.  B'fer and Chris are now zig-zagging around the country building spectacular treehouses for clients in Florida, California, Hawaii, and points in between, and getting to show off the design/build process to the masses of wannabe treehouse builders and owners each week. Tune in and get inspired!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Celebrating the Past and Planning for Yestermorrow’s Future

By Kate Stephenson, Executive Director

35th Anniversary attendees
On July 18th, over 200 alumni, instructors, friends and family of Yestermorrow gathered to help celebrate the school’s 35th Anniversary. The day was filled with opportunities to reconnect with each other, see projects around the Mad River Valley, talk about Yestermorrow’s legacy in teaching design, check out improvements around campus, and hear about plans for the future.

Larsen River House
In the morning, a school bus and van filled with over 50 participants headed out to visit five homes around the Mad River Valley as part of our Innovative Homes Tour. Started in 2003 as a fundraiser for Yestermorrow’s Scholarship Fund, the Homes Tour has been a favorite with many local architecture lovers. One highlight was a visit to Jon and Mary Larsen’s home on the banks of the Mad River in Moretown. This zero net energy home designed by Maclay Architects was built in 2008-2009 and features green roofs, a 12.6 kW photovoltaic array and solar hot water system, and amazing views down into the river.

Sylvia Smith, architect
Back on campus, while the Timberframing class worked diligently out in the Hangar to raise their timber frame, while John Connell moderated a colloquium of architects and designers including John Anderson, Sibyl Harwood, Ted Montgomery and Sylvia Smith. The goal of the panel was to “create a vocabulary and/or grammar for people not professionally trained in design”. Panelists attempted to answer the following questions: Do you think a more accessible design discourse would have an appreciable impact on the way the school educates or the projects it embraces? What are the most misused (and thus misunderstood) terms of the professional designer, architect, artists’ lexicon? What are the biggest challenges to lofting a more accessible design conversation at the Yestermorrow School? The resulting conversation engaged many members of the audience. You can read some of John Anderson’s comments on the Yestermorrow blog.

Prickly Mountain founding members
Later in the day architect Duo Dickinson moderated a panel on the design/build history of Prickly Mountain featuring a variety of Prickly “founders” who still live nearby, including Dave Sellers, Dorothy Tod, Candy Barr, Richard Travers, Bill Maclay, Jito Coleman, and Randy and Nancy Taplin. We heard about the early days of Dave recruiting architecture students, offering them room and board and $500 for the summer to come up to Vermont to design and build. Duo asked whether something like Prickly Mountain could ever happen in this day and age and the consensus was definitely no- that between the cost of land and building materials these days it would be nearly impossible to replicate a similar type of situation. 

Preliminary Landscape Plan
After the Prickly panel we gathered in the Main Studio for an update on Yestermorrow’s master planning process. John Connell spoke about the history of purchasing the 38-acre Alpen Inn property back in 1990, and I recapped the more recent 5 years of master planning history. In 2011-2012 we worked closely with the Regenesis Group (Bill Reed, John Boecker and Joel Glanzberg) to set the framework for our master planning process, explore the site and our place in the Mad River Valley, and develop a vision, purpose and principles to guide our work going forward. Since then we have created a “Core Team” made up of members of the various stakeholder groups that has been working to develop the plans in more detail, engage with experts in areas of stormwater, wastewater and systems design, and move the plan forward through town and state permitting. All that preparation has brought us to the exciting point where we expect to break ground on the initial infrastructure work next spring and are ready to start designing the first building in the plan—a shop classroom space. We sent out an RFP looking for design/build teams in the spring and received 5 strong proposals. We are excited to announce that we have selected Bast & Rood Architects, along with New England Construction Company to work with us on the first project. Both Mac Rood and Rob Bast (the firm’s two principals) have had a long history of teaching here at Yestermorrow, Mac has served many years on the Yestermorrow Board, including as President, and both have been very active serving the local community and working with groups like ours on collaborative design processes. Paul Sipple is an experienced contractor, and recent graduate of our Passive House Builders Training. He and his crew specialize in commercial structures and high performance building. They have also brought in Yestermorrow board member and instructor Adam Cohen of PassivScience to consult on potential Passive House certification. 

After the big announcement, Mac Rood took the stage to tell everyone about the process for stakeholder input on the new shop design. We’ll kick off with an introductory public meeting on September 2nd, and then hold a series of mini charrettes divided into different subject topics including envelope, mechanical and energy systems, aesthetics, student involvement, and more to be determined. 

Jacob Mushlin at Yeopardy
A highlight of the evening hour was the unveiling of “Yeopardy” led by former intern and instructor, Jacob Mushlin. He led five teams through a series of trivia questions related to Yestermorrow history, architectural terms, notable personalities of Yestermorrow and more. Then in the second stage of the “YesterOlympics” teams raced to hammer in nails, de-nail the boards, and measure accurately without any measuring implements. Lots of fun was had by both participants and audience members.

We finished the evening with great music from the Eames Brothers Band while sipping local beers, enjoying amazing food, and watching the sun set over the valley (before the torrential downpour started!). Inside we watched old slides and movies from the YesterArchive and had a chance to catch up with many old friends. It was certainly an anniversary to remember.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yestermorrow Partners with NESEA to Offer Online Courses

We're excited to announce a new partnership with the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) to offer online curriculum through their BuildingEnergy Masters Series courses. With a platform powered by HeatSpring, the Masters Series gives you access to the masters of building science, on your own time, from your own location. Through homework, instructional videos, and practical tools, you'll gain the knowledge you need to take your skills to the next level, while gaining continuing education credits and building your professional network.
Unlike other online courses, the BuildingEnergy Masters Series gives you direct access to your cohort as well as the instructor through virtual office hours. Through this partnership we are able to bring you some of the leading-edge practitioners in the world of sustainable design, green building and energy efficiency.
This fall we are co-offering three courses which all start September 14th and vary from 4-10 weeks in length:

Instructor: Mike Duclos

4 weeks: 9/14/2015-10/9/2015
With a brief nod to theory and computation, this course will focus on tips, tricks, pitfalls, and what to expect when making Passive House a reality. Through case studies, videos, readings, quizzes, and Mike’s guidance, you will enhance your ability to be a part of a Passive House project team, the most vital component of any successful Passive House project.

Instructor: Andy Shapiro
6 weeks: 9/14/2015-10/23/2015
You’ll learn the basics of understanding actual energy use in buildings and answer two important questions: What information do we need to know to find out how well a building (or a system in it) is doing? And How do we gather and analyze information to answer our questions?  

Deep Energy Retrofits

Instructor: Marc Rosenbaum

10 weeks: 9/14/2015-11/20/2015
Spend ten weeks during this course learning to ‘fix what we have’ by focusing exclusively on existing buildings up to 45,000 square feet. This is a course for professionals who are serious about transformative energy upgrades in residential and commercial buildings. As a capstone project, you will generate a deep energy retrofit (DER) strategy for a building of your choice with the help of Marc and your classmates.