Semester in Sustainable Design/Build - Competition Winner

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Semester in Sustainable Design/Build - Competition Winner

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School’s Semester in Sustainable Design/Build will provide college students with an opportunity for a 14-week, full immersion semester of study with a solid grounding in sustainable design principles and hands-on experience in the design/build process.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

At present, neither experiential education nor training in sustainable building principles and techniques are integrated into most architecture school curricula. There are few opportunities to learn sustainable design/build techniques and principles, and most are limited to students from the university in which they are enrolled. Students who wish to pursue studies in sustainable building techniques often find that opportunities are expensive and do not grant credits toward their degrees.
About You
Yestermorrow Design/Build School
Section 1: You
First Name


Last Name



Yestermorrow Design/Build School


, VT

Section 2: Your Organization
Organization Name

Yestermorrow Design/Build School

Organization Phone


Organization Address

189 VT Rte 100 Warren VT 05674

Organization Country

, VT

Your idea
Country and state your work focuses on

, VT

What makes your idea unique?

Yestermorrow’s Semester in Sustainable Design/Build will equip students with the knowledge and tools to become the next generation of sustainable design and building professionals. In most architecture programs, design is taught in a vacuum, with little or no contact with building materials or methods. Yestermorrow has been focused on teaching an integrated design/build process since 1980. Combining design and building offers students and professionals a holistic and tactile educational experience that promotes the creation of intentional, highly functional, and inspired buildings and communities. This philosophy sets Yestermorrow apart from other educational institutions. The Semester in Sustainable Design/Build will fill a glaring gap by providing a curriculum unique in the world of architectural education. Led by faculty who are practicing professionals in the fields of sustainable design and green building, students will work together to design and build a structure serving a real need in the local community. Nowhere else in the country can students get this level of intensive instruction and hands-on design/build experience for college credit.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Semester Program graduates will become the next generation of designers and builders leading the green building movement. After completing the program, we expect them to return to their home universities armed with an in-depth understanding of ecological design and the hands-on building skills to inform their design process. We anticipate a ripple effect, first in their university programs, and then in their initial work environment, as their recalibrated outlook on sustainable design/build impacts fellow students and colleagues.
Specific outcomes include:
• Provide access for 12-15 undergraduate students to one semester of experiential education in sustainable design/build by September 2011.
• Transform the program participants’ knowledge, skills and awareness about sustainable building and design.
• Grant students the opportunity to apply their learning through the process of designing and building real collaborative community projects.
• Provide affordable housing or workspace for community members or organizations.


In the first year of program planning the focus will be on curriculum development, fostering relationships and agreements with degree-granting institutions, as well as outreach and marketing to potential students enrolled in those institutions and elsewhere. Marketing will be achieved through the development of print and web materials, traveling to conduct information sessions at partnering institutions, publishing a newsletter and blog, and direct outreach to potential students via email and social media. At the completion of the first Semester in Sustainable Design/Build offering, the outcomes of the participants’ project will be disseminated through press releases and articles published in academic journals, newspapers and magazines, as well as through Yestermorrow’s website, and other online tools and networking sites.


1. An affordable and credit-bearing design/build program accessible to a wide range of college and university students by September 2011.

2. Partnerships with universities to offer academic credit for the Yestermorrow semester program. Yestermorrow already has established relationships with a number of institutions, including: Rhode Island School of Design, University of Vermont, Norwich University, Green Mountain College, Goddard College, Burlington College, Philadelphia University and the Boston Architectural Center.

3. Students will demonstrate understanding of critical key ecological design and building strategies, techniques, and theories -- specifically, a whole systems approach to value-based planning, design and construction with a focus on site, energy, materials, indoor air quality, water, building envelope and systems design.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

2010- Hire coordinator, develop curriculum, create partnerships with universities, plan community project, develop business plan and financial models
2011- Recruit students, hire faculty, develop design program with client, and teach inaugural semester in Fall 2011
2012- Evaluate successes and challenges, adjust as necessary, recruit students, rinse and repeat

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Lack of time and resources for planning, failure to recruit interested students, or lack of buy-in from partner schools.

How many people will your project serve annually?

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Yestermorrow partners with local community organizations throughout Vermont to provide design and building services at low cost. Yestermorrow students and instructors provide free labor to design and build structures in the local community. Recent examples include picnic pavillions for affordable housing, bus shelters, trail shelters, renovation of a farmhouse for the foodbank, and a barn-raising. The Semester in Sustainable Design/Build will allow us to work with a community client on a larger, longer term project, ideally providing affordable green housing in our local community.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. Developing curriculum and logistics to launch a semester program.
2. Recruiting students to enroll in our semester program.
3. Finding community partners for hands-on design/build projects.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

At Yestermorrow, we've been teaching the design/build process for over 30 years through short workshops and intensive courses, building projects in the community all over Vermont and throughout the country. We had students who kept coming back for more, and asking for more advanced courses. About five years ago we realized that by offering longer, more in-depth programs we could take on larger projects and have more educational impact on individuals. We developed the idea for a semester program for college students so we could reach future design/build professionals early in their careers and provide them with a real hands-on experience that will impact their lifelong career choices.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Yestermorrow was founded in 1980 by John Connell, a Yale architecture school graduate who believes that every designer should know how to build, and every builder should know how to design. He created Yestermorrow to provide a place where people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life could learn about the design and building process in an unintimidating, hands-on way.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Don't remember