John Connell founded the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in 1980 and the Yestermorrow Building Group Inc. (later to become 2morrow Studio in 1982.) He taught at Yale's school of architecture for five years after which he authored the book Homing Instinct: Using Your Lifestyle to Design & Build Your Own Home, McGraw Hill, 2000. Besides teaching he is currently designing green homes that tell "stories", design/building treehouses for handicapped children, and animating short films. 2morrow Studio puts into actual practice the design/build philosophy taught at the Yestermorrow School. A small design/build firm in Vermont, 2morrow Studio works with residential and small commercial clientele interested in integrated energy-efficient architecture using the latest green and sustainable methodologies. Besides architectural design, Connell is an experienced team builder, group facilitator and educational program designer. The Yestermorrow School teaches people how to plan, design, build or renovate their own homes. It is staffed by over 40 architects, builders and artisans from all over the United States who believe that the way to improve the built and natural environments is to re-involve people in vernacular architecture.
Q: I would like to build a house this summer in Maryland--anyone that you could recommend me to in the area -to build a reasonably priced sustainable home -I would greatly appreciate any and all leads.
A: The best green architect I know who works in the Maryland area is Jeff Schoelkopf. He lives in Warren, VT. and his email is jeffsATmadriverDOTcom. Jeff is an experienced design/builder who knows plenty about materials and methods as well as the proper design of sustainable homes (but, of course, he couldn't build your house from his present location). I know Jeff has done quite a bit of work in Maryland over the course of his career. If you need help with the design, I couldn't think of anyone better. If you need references for a builder, perhaps he can help here as well. Hope this helps.
Q: I am seeking a green builder in central Vermont. I've nosed around but have had little success finding a contractor with any experience or sympathy to green building. The only one I've found is extremely "high end". Do you have any suggestions for me?
A: As a long time (23 years) resident and design/builder in Central Vermont, "I feel your pain". Finding reasonably priced green builders has never been that easy. Still, there are those who do it and have done it for quite a while. What sort of design are you trying to have built - timber frame, earth sheltered, strawbale, conventional? - so many different ways to go. Do you in fact already have a design and drawings? It's not enough to find a green builder if you don't have a green design. That's actually where you want to start because the green designers know all the green builders.
Q: Where can we find information about ''green renovating" a house built in 1830 and located in Mansfield, CT, near the University of Connecticut? Info re where to find contractors, prices, materials, etc., that are "green."
A: I'd try Environmental Building News for materials and methods. As for where to find a good green builder - that's the $64k question.
Q: I am preparing to build our new home of which I have been researching for several years. I initially had an architect in the area that was knowledgeable in green technologies, but unfortunately, while I was working in Baltimore he passed away. I am inquiring with you today in the hopes that you may be able to direct me to an architect or draftsperson in my area that can transfer my dream to workable prints (for permit submission and ultimate construction). I intend to do all masonry construction, (partial earth on north side) southern facing with radiant floor heating, open beam ceiling(s) as well as all steel roofing. I believe I have the concept complete however, I will need additional experience/opinions.
A: While we have clients as far away as Georgia and California and regularly work in Connecticut and New York (all from Vermont), I have always maintained that it's better to find an architect in your immediate neighborhood. I have to believe that there are other green design/builders in Virginia. Perhaps you should contact your South Eastern Sustainable Energy Association, or subscribe to EBN (Environmental Building News). These are two of the associations that I'm a member of which attract architects, builders, engineers and others interested in a greener future.
Q: I am purchasing an old (250 years) log home that has a small addition built on to it in Ligonier, Western Pennsylvania. I am looking for some contacts of people who could help me gut it and turn it "dream green". Builders, Architect, any ideas. It is small, but gets nice sun and wind.
A: I only know one registered architect out that way and she lives in Chadds Ford (or thereabouts). Her name is Margo Leach and she is a very accomplished residential architect. While Margo has been well schooled in green design, she does not make it her only specialty. Her current focus is in humble but timeless designs; similar to the 250 year old house you're planning on reviving. Also in that area I know another residential designer, Kathy Meyer. Though not licensed, Kathy trained at Cornell and has worked as a residential designer for over 20 years (5 years with me). She makes "green" a bit more prominent in her practice and she is a very insightful designer with a lot of experience with older houses. I suggest you give them both a ring. They may be able to help you with builders as well.
Margo Leach - mgleacharcsATaol.com
Kathy Meyer - mskmeyerATmadriver.com
As always, if all else fails, I stand ready to help you out. I always advise people to use local design talent, but when green design is not locally available one must reach out. We've done projects in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Georgia and New York so Pennsylvania would be easy enough.
Q: I just bought an old home in Mamaroneck, NY and am looking for a local consultant to help me make decisions as I renovate so I can have a green home. Do you know of any organizations that would list such a person?
A: I'm afraid I don't know a green consultant in Mamaroneck, but there are some things you might do to locate one yourself. Look for a listing in your local yellow pages for a solar consultant, solar installer, or insulation contractor (pushing green methods and energy conservation). These folks often work with green consultants and might know who you could contact. Also, you might query at the Yestermorrow D/B School as they have graduates and faculty all over the Northeast (I will copy this email to them). Their web address is www.yestermorrow.org Also, NESEA keeps pretty good records on their membership. I don't know how willing they are to distribute these names, but that's where I would start. As a last resort, you can use us, here at 2morrow Studio. We have plenty of experience working with clients at a distance. It's always better to have someone local, but we have helped people from coast to coast.
Q: I am interested in buying a plot of land with an old, and dilapidated home already on the land, tear it down, and build a green friendly home. I was wondering if you could help put my wife and me in touch with someone that specializes in designing and building green homes in Connecticut?
A: I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any green builders in the Connecticut area but there are loads of green architects around New Haven. The green architects usually know the best builders. One note while we're here - tearing down a pre-existing structure, no matter how dilapidated, will start you off on the wrong foot. The amount of embodied energy lost and the amount of landfill created will more than eclipse most of the good done by the green features in your new home. Consider a wholesale renovation and possibly addition before assuming the old house is worthless. My office operates out of an 1800 workers' house that was all but collapsed when I found it. The renovation, while not historically faithful, saved as much as possible and added a lot. The resulting structure will be a green example for at least another hundred or so years. Don't just build green, Build to last!
Q: I am researching ways to quit working and live simply. I am over 65 and of sound mind and body. I own my own antique home; it's lovely, rural, lots of trees but oil-guzzling and too big. I do not wish to live in senior housing. I had the idea some time ago of living in a yurt; found info on Pacific Yurts. Finding inexpensive land is a problem though and then I thought how nice it would be to have a community of yurts or some other type of Green house. I would like to know if you have any information on this for the East Coast, MA, NH, VT. I would like to see some of these homes. There must be someone in this area who is into this.
A: I'm little acquainted with these little system domiciles. I will say that I've spent the last year studying green, LEED compliant modular houses and we are building two as I speak. They are coming in around $125/sq.ft. including most everything but the land. This is pretty good for an architect designed custom home in an area where such usually costs upwards of $275/sq.ft. Good luck with the yurts!
Q: I am in the process of purchasing an abandoned home in Baltimore and would like to gut it and renovate it totally green. Do you know of a consultant or renovation company who is familiar with Baltimore, Maryland?
A: I'm unfamiliar with anyone in the Baltimore area. I suggest you give the local AIA a call and ask specifically for what you want. The same at the local chapter of the NAHB. This is only the beginning of your search. You should definitely speak with at least three contractors and vet them thoroughly. Visit their projects, ask for credentials, get references etc.
Q: I am a carpenter in East Sooke, Victoria, BC. We are designing our own Owner Built home in East Sooke. I am trying to find a building envelope engineer to enable us to build a healthy, breathable house in spite of current building codes. Is there anyone you can recommend to me? I hope to build with conventional framing & a natural envelope.
A: (Chris Magwood) I would definitely recommend Tim Krahn at Building Alternatives www.buildalt.com. He and the firm are our go-to engineers for all the work we do. They are not based in BC, but they are licensed in BC and have done numerous projects in the province, including some cool rammed earth structures.