Ecological Design in the Built Environment

The Proof is in the Practicum

(Check out a Teeny, Tiny Film about the project!)

Just over two years ago I began my Certificate in Sustainable Design & Building at Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Warren, Vermont. I started out with the three week core curriculum Ecological Design in the Built Environment. I returned to Yestermorrow that fall for the Less is More Class focused on designing small spaces and the composting toilets workshop. That winter I participated in the two week Natural Design-Build course, a hands-on class that enabled us to work with straw bale, light straw clay, and wood chip clay construction techniques as well as design considerations for natural structures. I finished up my coursework in February with a set of three classes: Sustainable Development Best Practices, Green Remodeling, and Invisible Structures. This last course has really stuck with me since it focused on the social, legal, and financial systems that support our built environment. The coursework exposed me to new ideas and information as well as a very practical building skill set. More importantly, it introduced me to a network of talented, fascinating, and inspiring people who encourage each other across time and space.

But I knew all along that the certificate practicum project would be my chance to show that I had synthesized the knowledge and was able to apply it. When my friend asked me last winter to help her design and build her Tiny Barn, I realized I could count tiny house building as my practicum project. I asked Dave Cain, one of my Less is More instructors to be my adviser and he agreed. In March I helped my friend build the shell of her Tiny Barn and this summer I’ve been a Tiny House Design-Building for Orange Splot. I’ve had the chance to take a tiny house from the shell stage to near completion. Between the two projects I’ve learned how to build a tiny house on wheels from foundation to trim!

Yesterday I presented my practicum project to a panel of critics at Yestermorrow. A former classmate of mine Emily Morris is a talented videographer and made a Teeny, Tiny Film for me, which was part of the presentation! I was able to Skype in from the tiny house I helped build so I gave a tiny virtual tour at the beginning of our conversation. The half hour went by quickly as I shared my story, my lessons learned, and my next steps. I was dubbed a “tiny house evangelist” by one of my former classmates who was also presenting his practicum. I’ll have to be careful with that, but I was honored.

I initially considered Yestermorrow a stepping stone in my path towards creating sustainable community, but instead it's been more like a springboard, catapulting me on to adventures and opportunities far beyond what I originally envisioned. Yestermorrow's Certificate in Sustainable Design-Build has introduced me to fascinating ideas, brilliant people, and a plethora of information that has proven invaluable as I've embarked on a career in sustainable design, build, and consulting. Thank you, Yestermorrow!