The structures that we build fill and alter the landscape around us. Sometimes, they enhance the landscape, while others detract. Yestermorrow, a sustainable design school based in Warren, VT, teaches hands-on sustainable design. They teach students to build structures that are beautiful, healthy and durable. And if you’ve seen some of their work, you’ll definitely agree that they enhance the landscape around us (click here to see pictures of their campus and work)
Yestermorrow is one of the Vermont entrants in our Revelation to Action competition (read their entry here). To get to know their work better, we asked their Executive Director, Kate Stephenson, a few follow-up questions.
Q: It sounds as though there is a rich support system between Yestermorrow and your surrounding community. How did this relationship develop and evolve? Feel free to describe some of the most fulfilling community projects you have completed.
A: We work closely with many of the non-profits and community groups in the Mad River Valley and other corners of Vermont. With all the courses we offer, we have a ready supply of willing hands, so it's logical that we would use that student labor force to help build projects in the community. A few recent partnerships include: building a new ticket counter for the Savoy Theater in Montpelier [pictured below], a barn and workshop for the Center for Whole Communities in Fayston, a childrens' playhouse for the Open Hearth Community Center in Waitsfield, and a series of ongoing projects working with the Vermont Foodbank to help renovate the Kingsbury Farm in Warren.
It's also been great to work with some of the same organizations year after year- we've partnered with the Central Vermont Community Land Trust on structures at a number of affordable housing projects in the Valley including the new Wheeler Brook Apartments, Evergreen Senior Center and the VerdMont Trailer Park. It's a great deal for our community partners because they can get high quality projects built at relatively low cost- they pay for the cost of materials but Yestermorrow provides the student and instructor labor at no charge.
Q: How do sustainable building and design support teamwork and community improvement?
A: I think one of the major tenets of sustainable design is to create healthy, durable and beautiful places for people to live and work. One of the things we focus on at Yestermorrow is how to make structures that improve the quality of the place where they are located as opposed to detracting from it. Through good design we can create welcoming, productive spaces which bring people together. Our project to build the bandstand on the Waitsfield town green is a great example of that- it creates a spot that encourages people can hang out, watch musicians perform during the farmer's market, and connect with other members of the local community.
Q: How can distant communities who are interested in sustainable design and build, adopt some of your techniques?
A: While we build all kinds of different types of projects from countertops to cabins to timber frame homes, our main technique is education. Yestermorrow's mission is to empower individuals to have input into the built environment, and that concept is something that can be adopted in communities across the country and the world. Another key component of what we do is skill-sharing. Any community can adopt that idea by bringing together people who have a skill and others who want to learn it, and provide an umbrella for that connection to occur.
How would you improve your community's landscape? Folks from New England and New York you can still enter your innovative ideas in the Revelation To Action on competition on Changemakers until April 21st, 2010.