In the summer of 2012, Aitan Mizrahi joined us on the Yestermorrow campus for 9 “spectacular” weeks in the Natural Building Certificate immediately followed by “core” of the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. His courses at Yestermorrow were formative to his career and he continues to carry these experiences with him.
What first brought you to Yestermorrow?
Yestermorrow had been on my radar for a while. I was working as a dairy farmer in Northwest Connecticut and had heard of the school through the grapevine. I had loosely implemented design build principles as a farmer - building the infrastructure from scratch and continually adjusting and modifying the space as I went along. Once I retired from farming, I was curious about and enamored by design build and wanted to learn more so I signed up for courses at Yestermorrow. I spent 9 weeks on campus in the summer of 2012 starting with the Natural Building Certificate immediately followed by “core” of the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design.
What happened next?
At the end of the summer, I began using my new skills at the Pearlstone Center, a Jewish retreat and conference center, located in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. My main project was to design/build a 1,200 square foot, 2-story, 4-bedroom cabin. I incorporated teachings from both the Natural Building Certificate and the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. I was determined to use as much natural materials as possible - denim insulation, lime stabilized clay plaster on exterior and clay plaster on interior, etc - but received a lot of push back from conventional builders and architects. I worked closely with Deva to make solid arguments based on building science for our natural building wall assemblies. I felt like a pioneer bringing technology to an area of the country that was ready for these techniques but didn’t know about them yet.
Today, the building is a highlight on the retreat center campus. When it’s not being used for staff housing, it is rented out as high-end guest lodging. The building has proved to be energy-efficient and requires minimal heating and cooling which helps keep costs low. I’ve heard that staff and guests have all been happy with the accommodations.
What are you up to now?
After Yestermorrow, I went to The Conway School where I earned a Masters in Ecological Design. Some of the concepts taught during the “core class” (ecological design in the built environment) I found useful as a student at The Conway School. As a Yestermorrow alum, I received grant funding to help pay for part of my tuition.
These days, I’m working in West Oakland, CA as the general manager at O2 Artisans’ Aggregate. O2 Artisans’ Aggregate, an eco-industrial park, is home to a network of artisans working collectively to develop and promote environmentally progressive projects.
As the general manager, I help to incubate new businesses and support existing businesses that highlight our overall vision of developing closed-loop systems that use resources effectively and efficiently, creating jobs for underserved populations, and fostering a culture of quality craftsmanship.