Eco-Architecture Internship at Yestermorrow

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week Eight

Goodbye yestermorrow!

August 7-12

Back to work on Monday, with a wonderful morning start of laughter in the conference room—it’s the first time it two weeks that all seven interns and three staff were present for the morning meeting and it was so good to catch up, review, share and discuss projects of past, present, and future, along with share stories of our adventures. To top it off, Kate brought some scrumptious blueberry muffins (still warm!) that far surpassed the standard PB and J sandwich I’ve become accustomed to lately.
After daily chores of recycling and return deliveries and cleaning/rearranging the shop/studio, I went with the interns to the site of the “Lean Too” to do some final cleanup and landscaping. By answering the questions on design choices brought up by my curious co-workers who didn’t take the class, I realized what a tremendous amount of understanding I gained in those last two weeks of building structure, design, and process. To feel confident using language about skids, trusses, cross bracing, finishing boards, fascia boards, joists, studs, facing, moment arms, deflection…all sorts of a new thing for me!
The rest of the week I delighted in the opportunity to help interns Alix and Lara on deconstruction of the Chalet deck (a lengthy process) and Christian with the construction of a screen door. The screen door project was especially unique because we designed it with out fasteners—it’s put together in timber frame style with tenor and mortises. Fun! Wednesday’s presentation was by Jon Todd on Living Machines—sound familiar? I took the opportunity to chat with Jon a bit about Berea’s EM and the troubles we have encountered in the past year. One cool fact I picked up--Jon made his first model of the living machine with Dave Sellers, an instructor of Yestermorrow, and Prickley Mountain Founder. The project is now in John Connel's greenhouse--the founder of Yestermorrow who lives in Warren.
On Thursday, we hung up the “staff retreat” sign for the second time of the summer and set off to inner tube down the Mad river for a cool break. The evening of celebration was topped off with some more of Kate’s fabulous cooking for a going away (me)/birthday (fellow intern Lo) celebration. I’m going to miss this Yestermorrow place with these incredible people of Yesterday and Tomorrow.

The covered bridge in Waitsfield we passed under on our innertubes.

By Friday afternoon I was packed up and ready to hit the road. Driving through the green Green Mountains on Route 100 South, Jack Johnson jamming and rain splattering, I replayed goodbyes in my head and mused over partings of early and late. Somewhere along the road as evening turned and thunder boomed, my attitude transitioned with my latest transition, I cheered and laughed with my wander-bug that finally set to wandering again. Maybe it was the quick dip I took in the Eerie cannel (slightly eerie contaminants in there I’m sure...) or the free cantaloupe I scored from a kind New York farmer, but it felt jolly good to be headed west again.
At some point of the night, exhaustion hit me suddenly and I pulled off the highway into a church parking lot to snooze a bit. Over the thunder carried familiar tunes of contra dance music and I couldn’t resist but to put on a skirt and investigate. The evening resulted in a raspberry pie sharing session of four grad/undergraduate students in the environmental studies field. Liz, a Forestry and Conservation major offered me a bed at her place for the night--she turned out to be the head of a cooperative living/student housing place for the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.
( We shared programming tips and stories about campus sustainability initiatives over a delicious locally grown breakfast of hash browns and eggs. Their Green Campus Initiative (GCI) have a ton of cool things going on with sustainability including composting, local food availability, co-housing, 20% energy reduction campaign, social justice, speak for peace....all kinds of stuff. Anyhow, a good resource for Berea we may want to keep in mind when we branch out our campus sustainability connections into "east coast".
On Saturday I headed south towards Ithaca—a name I’ve heard enough of that I figured it would be worth the stop. And worth it it was! On my way into town I dropped into a large festival of a farmers market and stopped to jam with some great Ithacan musicians and grab some lunch. I went to purchase some beautiful carrots at “Earth and Mirth” organic farm stand and looked up to see my friend David selling, from Berea also. Small world!
I obtained directions to Ithaca Ecovillage from some folks in the town commons, all of which pointedly warned me that the village was not open to sporatic visitors and it that is was a $30 fee for pre-arranged tours. I put on some hippie clothes, parked a ways down the road, and trotted down their scenic drive, past a luscious looking farm with all sorts of yummy looking veggies and such. The first person who I bumped into was Alene—a cheery chatterbox who just happened to be their outreach coordinator and good friends with Gloria Johnson of Berea. Yes, she would gladly give me a tour. Free. Smaller world, eh?
The village- split into to sects of “song” and “frog” is similar size range-- about 60 kids, 150 houses. Expensive--average home is 150 thousand, community fee is 40 thousand. They have community meals 4 days a week, meet once a week for addressing community issues. It was beautiful there, and because the design of the actual structures was so similar to our ecovillage (passive solar with houses facing each other, fairly close, walking loop w/in the village, etc...) it was really easy to visualize our ecovillage looking so lush and vivacious some day. They have the same trellis set up as us planted with trumpet vine and wisteria, low and behold. Sound familiar? Alene said that the best and worst thing for living in the Ecovillage was how well you know your neighbors. She pointed out that here they have the same mix of interests--some folks coming for the "eco" part and some folks coming for the "village" part. They have the most amazing farm that provides all community produce every summer. Adults work for the community 2-4 hours per week. We talked a lot about the community garden--right now there is a debate over weather it should be a space for individual plots or if it should be an actual community project. Problems are associated with both arrangements. I informed her of our upcoming “Year of the Ecovillage” at Berea, and she asked to be informed of our activities, saying that there may be some Ithacan interest. You can check the place out at

The path (notice plantings!), a strawbale house, common washing machines (look familiar?), the individually designed side of the EV, and the commons house at Ithaca Ecovillage.

I’ll visit some other Bereans tonight-Leslie and Drew on their farm near Buffalo, then Miss Megan Naseman (who will have some wonderful Arcadia/CCAT stories to share no doubt) in Ohio before I hit home pad for a while. So I guess this is it—my very last Yestermorrow Journal update. What a summer it’s been! The school has sent me off with a great increase in knowledge and endless connections for the sustainability and building world. My thanks to all!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Community Design Build Process -- A visual tour

Before starting the group design process, we spent some time investigating the site area and wondering what the beaver population of Sugarbush snow pond would think of our building site.

Preliminary drawings of the structure done by some of the more talented artists in our class prior to presenting to the clients.

Design discussion continued...and
the layout of trusses begins in Yestermorrow's shop.

And the first truss template is completed-- a sneek preview of it's intended future use.

Examining of the site--is it built all ready? Nope, that's just the model in a snazzy pic by Mike.

Builder's survey begins...

The ribcage in the shop waiting for workers to return on Monday morning-

Loading the van for a precarious trip down the road (yes, those are the trusses jammed under the seats--question is, will they make it under the bridge?)

Hauling those heavy things down the trail took 6 people grunting and tripping.

Construction continues...

The open blade at Beards Lumber that used to be hydro powered.

Landscaping detailing...

The ribbon is cut! Completion! Note the "happy head" hanging off the roof--that's me delighted to be finished with the roofing!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Campus Projects

Good composting signage...
Poor picture, but this (on right) is our compost bins with the 25th anniversary compostable plates, cups and forks included. Can you imagine how many folks have come to us trying to help out by fishing out "trash" from our compost? Eco works and another west coast company put out this cool dishware which has already disinigrated into unidentifiable parts of the pile!

The day of the chainsaw lesson--Interns teaching fellow interns has been one of the most beneficial ways for learning at Yestermorrow this summer.

(Left) The cob oven re-done with a new coat of plaster and a new smoke pipe that won't catch the roof on fire! Ready for Thursday night pizza and foursquare (see below!).

The infamous "religious" clothes line that was finally completed.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Week Seven

Yet another week has slipped by here in the tumble of Yestermorrow fun, and another two community buildings have been built, one of which my hands had a large part in. The first project was the Earthen Structures class and their earth bag root cellar construction. They didn’t fully complete the living roof, hence, fingers crossed, I’ll be able to go up to the site and work on it a bit this upcoming week. I did catch the tail end of the evening presentation and picked up many tips regarding strawbale and earthen construction:
When you purchase bales, you need to look for 13-18% moisture—check it before you load them. If you’re putting bales in a timber from, tack tar paper on the wood to prevent the plaster from causing moisture problems with the wood. Use nails in bottom and top frame to impale bales and add more strength to the strapping/rebar structure. Lisa (the instructor) advocated stacking the bales in any old way-vertical, with end grains parallel to ground or horizontal to the ground…this was the only advice that was at variance to what I’ve heard in the past. I was always under the impression that bales that to be stacked horizontally with end grains pointed out to the sides for the best strength under compression and sticking effect with earthen plaster. In the case of using earth bag construction, barbed wire is laid between layers to “catch” the next layer of polypropylene. Lisa also strongly advocated using lime wash for the outside layers of earth building-at least three layers of slaked lime that is then whitewashed or pigmented. The disadvantage of cement structure or stucco finish is that it needs a control joint to prevent cracking. Great pictures of amazing buildings (some load bearing and some not) at various Vermont intentional communities—including one of a house that neglected to raise the bales off of the concrete floor and had a pipe break, so 2/3rds of the house had to be rebuilt! Lessons learned vicariously. She also recommended always having an architect or engineer around to stamp your design drawings so that the builders code guys are more likely to pass it. In regards to cordwood construction, the recommendation was to refer to the sawdust/cellulose layer in between concrete as a “thermal break” rather than insulation—that comment is up for interpretation, but to me it says that cordwood really isn’t the most practical method for natural building of homes.
The second structure of the week was the “Lean Too” on Sugarbush pond, the first project to be completed by the Community Design/Build Class in their allotted two weeks for the past several years of classes. With one wall canted out substantially and a trapezoidal floor and roof line, it’s quite the sitting and info booth for the Mad River trail!
I certainly benefited from the opportunity to soak up all sorts of info from Jim Adamson, Steve Badanes, and Bill (can’t think of the last name!). One of my favorite quotes of the week was Badanes saying, “it’s such a gift to be an architect because you have the chance to design something that someone will consider their most beautiful home for life but with that opportunity comes social and political and environmental responsibility.” The Jersey Devil projects over the years have followed that pledge for responsibility in the most creative forms imaginable. The chance to work with such skilled individuals was priceless (well, literally too, thanks to the Compton), as well as with my classmates—many of which were experienced in the architecture field or the building field or some other field of interest. Tips on how to cut angles, use bevels, trim metal roofing, use a table saw for various cuts, make detailing, place fascia, test stability, stabilize, strengthen, cross brace, and all other sorts of stuff were in great abundance…I only hope I can remember them when the time comes to put them to good use! I was part of several lumber runs to a fun place—Beards lumber. Andy (I think that’s his name), a heavy set, gruff, old time Vermonter, has an open shed that used to be hydro powered, filled with locally harvested hemlock and other softwoods. We watched in awe as he skillfully sawed lumber on a large open blade with a manually powered push cart/clamp on tracks. Such an operation is obviously a dying art, and we were all so thankful to have a more sustainable source of rough sawn lumber to work with for the structure—though it was substantially more difficult to work with than the dimensional stuff. Part of the course that was unique and much appreciated was the chance to build as a community. I imagine that the methods of building most vernacular architecture (such as old time barn raisings) were similar to what we experienced as a class. More minds and talents make for a more solid and durable building, along with a fun skill share session and chance to learn and work with others.
This week’s Wednesday seminar on “Homes of Sun and Earth” was delightful, filled with great pictures of buildings all over the world. The speakers experience spans both design and construction of environmentally appropriate buildings and works with structure, materials and surroundings in a permacultureally based manner—though he didn’t use the term.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Family Weekend

The Long Trail's views. WoW!

Those Vermont waterfalls that are perfect for jumping (that's me in the red shorts by the falls!)
The family (excluding pops) at the "snail", a past Yestermorrow project.

Week Six

Yestermorrow Design/Build School
Journal Week 6

I’m sitting on the porch with my friend Jahan. He says, “that’s my name”. He’s four and his favorite colors are blue and red. His mother works at Yestermorrow and he comes to help her on Fridays and Sundays. Jahan doesn’t like slugs that eat his flowers because they’re slimy. His birthday is December 11th or December 24th. Chocolate and rice crispies filled up his belly so he’s running around with his shorts unbuttoned. He’s reading this as I’m writing it. We play Frisbee sometimes, and I really appreciate living in a community where I can spend quality kid time due to new people coming through for class.
Class has been intense but fun. We designed for two days (and some substantial night hours too) until we came up with a suitable model for our project—a shelter/kiosk for the Mad River Path. On Tuesday night, our clients came to the studio to give us the thumbs up or thumbs down, which we got the former (thank goodness) and have since started construction. It’s been quite the experience to work with professional architects and Jersey Devil founders. (Web link can be found at

SteVermontnes' vermont composting toilet--a mirrored mosaic that createcamouflaged camoflauged pooper!

The instructors serve, for the most part, as facilitators. The class has 14 people in it, from various (mostly architectural/construction) backgrounds. As you can imagine, it’s quite a feat to gather all of those skills and ideas into one design plan! After introductions and visiting the site, we split into three groups to throw out initial ideas/design plans. After three hours of debate, drawing, and design, we reconvened, presented, and scrambled our groups to continue creating ideas. By the end of the night we had a slightly more solid idea of what we wanted and decided to continue when we were freshened by sleep and coffee. In the morning, we broke into two groups, and by lunchtime presentations we miraculously had a unified picture of what type of building it was going to be! This left us with four hours to draft and build models impressive enough to present to the clients. Crazy!! It’s been so cool to pick up all sorts of building tips from experienced minds and hands, along with gaining a better understanding of building engineering in general.
This week’s lecture was on saunas. We saw all kinds of slides of saunas from Finland and the U.S., both home-made and professionally built. The presenter has done design/build with saunas for 15 years or so. I took notes for my folks, who are hoping to create a little sauna in their basement woodstove room—with a door opening directly to the lake. Maybe I’ll have a chance to but my newfound construction skills to use on that project.
This week’s report is a bit short (sorry Jim!) but my family is here for the weekend so I’m doing my best to soak up their company! We’ve fished, hiked, toured the valley, the contra dances, Prickly Mountain (an intentional community of sorts that has the most bizarre collection of homes inhabited by builders and architects-many of which were involved in the founding of Yestermorrow) and Yestermorrow campus. It’s been great to share a loved place with loved ones!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Week Five

Yestermorrow Week 5

So on Monday I helped finish the straw/clay/cob chicken coop that was unfinished from the cob class in June. We did a finish plaster on the outer walls, repaired places where the straw clay had settled and pulled away from the board, and did some other general finishing. Straw clay, as I learned, is a popular insulation for timber frame houses…it provides an effective heat barrier and can be finished in many different ways. As with most natural building methods, it’s a time-consuming building method. Part of the wall was done with a plain clay/sawdust (substitute for sand and straw) mix—the result was very smooth and beautiful.
We also started doing finishing work on a cob wall on Yestermorrow campus. We put the primary linseed oil coat on, and Tim explained that we will need to follow up with a 25% 75% paint thinner/linseed oil coat, and the one more final coat of 50% 50%. I asked him about the use of paint thinner in terms of human and environmental safety and he said it off gasses for the first two days or so, but is of course a pretty harsh chemical. The alternative product that can be used is citrus oil, more expensive, apparently (debatably) equal on offgassing, but obviously better for the environment. The purpose of these additives is to “thin” the oil and hence allow it to penetrate the earthen plaster better. I questioned why we would use the increasingly penetrating mixes on top of the thick layer of straight oil—wouldn’t it make more sense to do it the other way around?
“Boiled” linseed oil is what is required for use on earthen plasters, a product that used to be basically dehydrated by sitting in the sun. Nowadays, cadmium and arsenic are added instead. Ick.
Part of the cob wall was done with a wheat paste—something that has potential for a beautiful look but was put on the wall while it was still damp and hence flaked and cracked in this instance. Bummer. Other parts were finished with the wheat/sand paste of the SENS house. They look great.
Other projects of the week included the usual cleaning/prep, class evaluations, and shopping for classes, finishing the clothespin box for the clothesline, planning for a retrofit on the moldering toilet and a new screen door for the chalet, and demolishing a straw bale wall. And why would we do such a thing, you may wonder? Well, this wall was build in 1993, with no roof over head and no footer—breaking the first two rules of natural building (“needs a good hat and boots”). With strawbale, the bottom of the wall is recommended to be emphatically separated from the foundation by a waterproof barrier. In the case of the wall we demolished, the “foundation” was the earth, and the “waterproof barrier” was a layer of 1 ½ ‘’ pink Styrofoam. The first four layers of the stair step wall (pictures coming) were completely devoid of straw—all bale remains had settled down into the lower third of the structure and turned into “Black Sticky Goo”(a technical term used by strawbalers) that made excellent compost for both the garden and the newly planted living roof. On top of the lack of foundation, the concrete plaster was put on chicken wire--the old technique that we now know is strong but completely unnecessary and more of a hassle than it’s worth. Though the cement plaster does a good job keeping water off of the wall (since there was no roof), it also does a great job prevent moisture from flowing out of the strawbales. Rather problematic, indeed!

The compost that was created inside a poorly constructed strawbale wall and the wall itself.

Yestermorrow does this cool Wednesday night summer lecture series that is free and open to the public. We usually get 20-30+ people (sometimes with classes, interns and staff included) in eager attendance. Folks like John Todd come down to speak/present, along with many local Architects/people in the field of sustainable design. This Wednesday was done by Ben Falk, the instructor who teaches biofuels courses here at Yestermorrow (one this weekend!) who talked about how biofuels can support the cultivation of a more livable and local economy. On August 17 (I’ll unfortunately be gone by then) there will be a film screening of “Blue Vinyl”, a supposedly hilarious eco-activism documentary, on the dangers posed by the life cycle of PVC. I thought that it might be a potential one to show for SENS Seminars. The good turnouts and positive feedback on these lecture series remind me how important this type of thing is for forming community connections, educating the public, and promoting the program. I think it’s important that we keep our SENS Seminar Series going and be sure to do some serious advertising for each one—attempting to reach community members and the student population who aren’t usually in attendance.
Other interesting occurrences in the valley this week were eating a fabulous Lithuanian dinner with some friends of interns (mushrooms harvested on their Long trail hike—many that I had never eaten before, slimy, juicy, stringy, all sorts of various surprising textures—they claimed that they picked only ones that they had seen in Lithuania before, and I was surprised that the same varieties grow in both places, but I’m still alive, so…)I went to the phantom theater (who is well known for the professionals they bring to the area) in Edgcomb barn (Architects, of course) to see Je Regrette Tout (I Regret Everything)--an original musical that tells the story of two New Yorkers who scheme to foil some do-gooders who want to outlaw unhappiness. Very entertaining and fun break from Yestermorrow stuff. Just as Megan described on her fabulous blogger, (complete with such beautiful pics), I’m getting into some heavenly raspberries, both black and red around the valley. So scrumptious in their perfect little caps of vibrant color…they just ask you to sit in the grass and thank the World of sky and night and God and Goddess for such a blessing.

Yestermorrow's library--now filled with books, it has become a favorite hang out spot.

The main studio where all the designing happens...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The swimming hole, the forest, and the ferns of Vermont.

Week Two

Wow, what a full week this has been! Fair Warning, this will be an extra long weekly report, but I want to get everything down…
June 27-July1
The course was lead by three instructors: Keith Giamportone, an Architect from Raleigh NC who is LEED Certified and done several large scale buildings with a sustainable approach, Jim Newman, who works for BuildingGreen, Inc, publishers of Environmental Building News, and Jeff Schoellkoph, an Architecture instructor who has taught at MIT, Norwich University, and Yestermorrow and is in associate in Edgcomb Design Group which specializes in humanistic and ecological design.
Much of the course was basic introductory information on ecological design—most of which I have been previously introduced to through last summer’s internship, SENS courses, or work, so I won’t go in to detail on the stuff that was old news to me but I will mention the new stuff!
So we started out the first day with a discussion on sustainability and environmental issues—the biggest problems and biggest solutions. A pretty general overview was given, and the instructors gave a historical view of the term which was a new approach that I hadn’t heard: The term really became used in the form as we know it in the 90’s, and was a great use of an old word because it was overreaching and inclusive enough to allow economists, environmentalists, and others working in the social arenas to “speak in the same language.” One of the largest aspects of sustainability that was stressed during our day one discussion was, of course, architecture, namely the dichomotomy of green design—simple, indigenous, vernacular, passive, and natural based structures vs. technical, large scale, urban, complex, and expensive. Which is better? These aspects of building are usually tailored to the situation, though the general consensus was that as resources become fewer and the population becomes greater, a combination of the two building styles will become increasingly necessary.
ON LEED Certification
Much of this course emphasized LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard building—the plusses, minuses, methods, and theories. We took a close look at the actual scoring charts that are used for determining a building’s sustainability, along with visiting several LEED Certified buildings. Following are some brief descriptions/observations:
Being LEED certified is a debatable process. Certification is very expensive, so to be so is therefore an exclusive standing only achieved by financially successful businesses. Following the standards often doesn’t make the best and safest use of resources. For instance, we visited the new headquarters of NRG systems, a Model Manufacturing and Office Facility for designing wind systems and assessment kits. They have about 20 tracking PV panel set-ups the same size as the SENS House, along with several roof panels for a system total of 67 kwh. LEED awards one point for use of PV electricity. NRG chose to only use recycled car windshield tiles and slab concrete for floors, for thermal mass, less off gassing (no carpet) and for their radiant floor heating/cooling system. However, LEED offers one point for installation of recyclable/recycled material carpet, so NRG put in 25 sq ft of carpet in their only elevator to get the point. There’s something kind of goofy about that, as both the tour guide and our instructors pointed out. Their webpage is: They have this incredible radiant cooling system that makes use of their lake, a wood pellet fired furnace system, solar hot water, and great signage for educational purposes (reminded me how much SENS and Campus buildings need informational signage!!).
We visited a very similar building (equally impressive in design and size) that is the new headquarters of Northern Power Systems, an environmental testing lab, non LEED certified but winner of the Integrated Design award from Efficiency Vermont. Solar hot water, PV powered, daylighting, environmentally safe finishes, etc…web link is:
At the VBG (Vermont Builds Greener)/Efficiency Vermont office, we learned about the new pilot program of LEED Home Design. There are about 20 homes certified and 30 more or so going for certification this summer. They gave each class member a great book that I’ll pass on to SENS resources—the High Performance Design Guide to Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings.

We stopped by the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, a non-certified (because it was built before certification was possible) but very impressive building. The most interesting things to me were the huge Clivas Mulstrum composting toilets in the main buildings that work great and smell great and are the preferred toilets of all facilities. The enthalpy wheel is cool too: check it out at
When we visited the construction site of two large dorm facilities designed to house 800 students at UVM, the contractor was unexpectedly enthusiastic about following lead points. He presented the project by detailing each aspect of the “green” building, concluding that they could theoretically be silver certified though its more likely that all points won’t pass (for instance, it’s difficult to prove that 50% of deconstruction site waste was reused) and that they’ll end up with a building that is simply LEED certified. He emphasized that all crews, no matter what their experience with green design or motives/lack there of for care of the environment can all relate to a point based system (“ok, Jo, if you wire everything like this, we get one more LEED point which means more money and recognition for our building”).
LEED doesn’t address buildings of smaller size nor does it give points for buildings constructed with durability in mind. The most important points cannot be scored—the ones for common sense. However, it’s a policy in the right direction and LEED seems to be of growing interest to architects and builders alike.

The composting toilets at Vermont Law school.

Other Class Stuff
Some random stats on buildings-the environmental impact of human structures comprised of 42% energy use, 40% atmospheric Emissions, 30% Raw Materials, 25% Solid Waste, 24% Water use, 20% Effluents, and 15% land use…..I know, I know, that that doesn’t add up to 100% but you get the idea…
We had a great discussion on systems thinking-it was presented from a builders perspective of linking all aspects of the structure, appreciating how interconnected systems are, looking at how one change effects another, looking at processes, and thinking ecologically and relationally. It was a much better introduction here than what I experienced at Lost Valley in the permaculture context.
I got the chance to understand the commissioning process and architectural lingo—(ex. PD, SD, DD, CD, and CA—pre design, schematic design, design development, construction docs, construction administration…SWEMI—site, water, energy, materials, indoor env. quality)information that I’m sure I will build on with the community design build class that I’ll take in three weeks.
Question of the day: Shouldn’t we expand on the traditional “reduce, reuse, recycle” and make it “refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle?
We had a great presentation on building materials—once again a far superior and more detailed description compared to the one I received last summer. We talked about all kinds of things including PVC/Vinal alternatives, life style assessment, cradle to cradle materials use, everything that has PVC in it (including plastic bags, blinds, rubber) CCA wood and alternatives…here’s the info:
Some notes on green roofs-a light roof in the heat of the day is about 110 degrees F, whereas a dark roof is about 200 degrees F. Green roofs are even less than a light color. They improve air quality by reducing dust in the surrounding area. The largest concern is the ability of the structure to hold additional weight of soil material. The most common failure of green roofs is no continued maintenance of the plants on top which cool and slow discharge of water and allow the roof to actually work. Green roofs are proven to provide a drastic reduction in what are known as “urban heat islands” (when infrared pics are taken of the earth, cities of course appear as red hot). If you ever have a chance you should check out the GAP manufacturing building in San Francisco—it has a green roof done by Bill McDonna.
A quote for Richard: “I’ve visited over 20 living machines in my career, and only 10 or so were actually functioning when I saw them” (one of my instructors—he went on to say just how complicated and high maintenance they are…)
One of my favorite field trips was to the Cob Hill Cohouseing project, an intentional community in the little bitty town of Hartland VT. You can check it out here if you’re interested: It was designed by Jeff Schoellkof, one of our instructors.
It’s a community of about 35 adults, it’s been around for 5 years or so, 100, 000 community fee, 250,000 for purchasing a house, solar hot water heat on all houses and green design, each house has a composting toilet (phoenix-2-3 thousand dollars each), several small enterprises (cheese, farm stand, beef, CSA, the sustainable food laboratory, the sustainability institute started by Dana Meadows, Our Climate Ourselves), it is heated in the winter by one large wood fired furnace that heats water which in turn goes through radiant floor heating (residents take turns firing it), average per house is 2 ½ cords of wood per year which comes from their 100 acres, per capita average of 25 gal h20 per day, what I heard was 1275 kwh per month per capita average, but that’s questionable b/c it’s about 40 kwh per day, and if that’s true I don’t think they’d advertise it. The homes are beautiful, as are the gardens and land and farmland. The people are all upper middle class and many work off site. Pretty elitist. One of the founders was explaining that the process of designing the houses was an interesting demonstration of how easily we all can get wrapped up in American materialism—as each person involved allowed their house to get larger and larger, more complicated and complex. He explained that in retrospect many have realized that it would have been easier and cheaper to keep the units the same and allow individuality to be expressed through internal décor and outside landscaping. They have great ties to the community due to the CSA and struggle the most with privacy issues due to the design (similar to our Ecovillage).

Cob Hill Cohousing project in southern VT--the village, boiler door, cheese making facilities, in-home bathroom mosaic, commons house, and the CSA. Thanks for the pics from Sandy Spada.

Our class project was to design an affordable housing community on a piece of land purchased by Warren for that purpose. I worked with two fellows who just graduated from architecture school, and we designed quite the community. It will be reviewed by the board next week and they’re hoping to begin construction next spring and use our classes input. Cool stuff.
Some of the new architectural components of building that were introduced to me had a central theme of lighting (passive solar, roof overhangs/deciduous trees/vines/screens, translucent skylights/lighttubes, light shelves, reflective techniques, beam placement perpendicular to…)and insulation (triple paned windows, cellulose, SIPS, various insulative materials and techniques (not so much the natural ones)).
Eco-design affordable housing design site--the frisbee goes everywhere!

A wood fired masonry stove, one of the houses we visited that is going for LEED certification, the site of affordable housing design.

All in all, I saw lots of the same fans/lighting systems and sunny boy’s being used here in VT as Berea's Ecovillage!

II. THE 25th ANNIVERSARY Founders Dinner and Weekend Celebration
Lucky me, I happened to pick Yestermorrow’s 25’s Birthday to be here. All of the founders and many of the past board members, staff, interns, and students were here throughout the weekend. Workshops and tours and talks were given by a variety of Yestermorrow folks. The big shindig was Saturday night—a formal dinner for 120 folks that us interns got to serve for. Yikes! Food service for that type of thing is a rush. New experience for me! It was neat to observe the interactions of such successful people in a field of work I understand and agree with.
On Saturday, in amongst work and all sorts of preparations, I worked with the rustic furniture making workshop. The instructor was highly experienced and a large proponent of using sustainable local materials, which is what rustic furniture is all about. We made a table and bench for the front lobby. We talked about morphogenic resonance (willing the wood to find its proper place in the design), use of green wood, and various types of fastening.
On Sunday, I helped construct a temporary earth oven for the American Flatbread company in Warren. Cob was defined for me the first time as “a culturally specific earth building method that comes from England.” Ben, our instructor then went on to tell of young lad’s tossing “cobs” of clay up to wall stackers in Great Britain. He pointed out that most of the rest of the world lives in earthen structures of some sort. We talked about two types of construction—woven twig, and molded wet sand. Then we did a different method of brick stack with a soapstone hearth and stacked rock foundation. We talked about the necessity of letting an earthen oven cure for 2-4 weeks and I ate pizza out of our oven today. We talked about making the size ratio 4:7 from top of doorway to top of oven and creating a catenary (sp?) arch for strength and efficiency. We did neither and the pizza tasted great. Building with earth is flexible.


SO this is how you build a temporary cob oven! Above is the "mud" (actually clay from a pit behind American Fatbread) mixing (kati's never been happier in overalls and dirty feet), brick stacking, inside view, and finished product.

ON July 4th Activities and Warren Village Parade
So the little village of Warren has a famous 4th of July parade, attracting around 10 thousand people each year. The floats are usually human or bicycle powered and almost always have a strong political statement. My favorite was a humongous pile of dirt that followed a herd of vegetables and a large banner that said something about food independence. If you were in the right spot in the crowds, the dirt pile would stop and “sprouts” would grow out of the top. Others included a three story white house that bucked like a horse with a bizarre looking Gorge Bush riding the top, and a series of consecutively smaller pigs that had 460 billion spent on pentagon, 38 billion on education, 15 billion on AIDS and world hunger, etc…

This is the Cob Oven at Flatbread in use on July 4th and my fellow interns at the parade.