A Gap Year at 50-something

A guest post by Fred Bartels, Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design student
After teaching computer science for thirty years I decided to take a break and pursue a long-standing interest in sustainable architectural design. This interest had been planted back in the 60s and 70s, during the heyday of Buckminster Fuller and The Whole Earth Catalog
Searching for alternatives to full-blown architecture programs, I discovered Yestermorrow. The school’s strong, environmentally conscious design/build philosophy and rich course offerings greatly appealed to me. The possibility of completing Yestermorrow’s Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design in the adult gap year granted to me by my wife sealed the deal, and led to many interesting trips to the Mad River Valley this past academic year.
Yestermorrow has allowed me to explore sustainable design in a supportive and challenging environment with some of the most creative and environmentally aware designers, architects, planners, engineers, and builders in the country. The great conversations with other students and teachers that occur over meals, while working on projects in the evening, and during field trips are as much a part of the curriculum as the formal instruction.  
For my practicum project I’m working on the design of a building with a complex, organically curved roof, to be built as much as possible with natural materials. The knowledge available in the Yestermorrow community has been incredibly helpful in working through many of the challenges involved in the design. Along the way I’ve also picked up many great ideas for building a net-zero house for our retirement.  
I’ve taken courses at Yestermorrow in all seasons, but one thing has remained constant. It is a place that is passionate about the building arts, and making buildings that are as sustainable and enjoyable as possible.