This course has been offered since 1980 and is the heart of our curriculum. It is appropriate for a range of individuals, from the person who wants to "do it all" to the person who simply wants to be informed enough to have meaningful and productive conversations with his or her architect and builder. Students will learn through hands-on construction projects, studio sessions, lectures, slide shows, house tours, and discussion. In the studio component, students are taught the design process starting with site analysis, programming, and design sketches, as well as through orthographic drawings and models. As students participate in an actual building project, they learn the safe use of common hand and power tools. Evenings are devoted to guest lectures, slide shows, and additional studio work. Topics covered include site assessment, estimating, basic engineering, design theories, and an overview of construction techniques. Environmentally responsible design and building practices are integrated into every aspect of the course. The Home Design/Build Course will provide individuals with the fundamental skills and resources necessary for creating their dream home - be it new construction or renovation. This course is also a good introduction for those interested in pursuing an architecture or building career. At the end of this intensive course, students typically leave with schematic floor plans, a scale model, and section and elevation drawings. They have gained a new awareness of design, materials, and the process of realizing a home that reflects their values and lifestyle. 

Course start time: Sunday, 5pm
Course end time: Friday, 5pm


"I can't say enough about the wonderful overall experience (I'm also very tired)."

"The instructors were extremely dedicated and put in long hours."

"My experience through the week was outstanding.  Not only did I learn about architecture, but I also learned a lot about myself.  The instructors had really great vision and artistic creativity and I really appreciate their feedback and the guidance during class."

"An excellent course - It has changed the way I think of the design process.  A very positive learning experience.  The instructors and all the staff at Yestermorrow were most encouraging and committed to seeing us succeed."

"Listening to other people solve their own design problems in other areas was a great and unexpected learning tool."

"Definitely above expectations.  All the instructors were great and contributed greatly to the quality of our project.  Would do it again in a minute."

"There were several times in the design project when I was overwhelmed and the instructors helped me move on.  I feel I accomplished a lot and gained a degree of self-confidence."

"This was a dynamite class and the instructors were very easy-going, dedicated, and knowledgeable. Thoroughly enjoyed the field trips to various very classy and creative homes of local architects. Can't believe I was able to stay up between 12-3 am and enjoyed it.  Creativity is energizing.  Fun group dynamics!  A winning week!  Thanks."

  • Competency Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Sterling College credits: 5 Continuing Education Units ($650 additional)

Course Objectives

  • Comprehension of the Design/Build Process
  • Drafting Skills
  • Basic Tool Use and Job Site Safety
  • Site Analysis
  • Programming
  • Design Development

Recommended Readings

  • Alexander. A Pattern Language
  • Connell, John. Homing Instinct
  • Silverstein, Jacobson, Winslow. Patterns of Home
  • Susanka, Sarah. The Not So Big House and Creating the Not So Big House
  • Ching. Building Construction Illustrated

Recommended Tools (optional)

  • Toolbelt
  • Hammer
  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Carpenter's Pencil
  • Utility Knife
  • Combination Square or Speed Square
  • Leather Work Gloves
  • Heavy Duty Work Boots

Design Project Info

  • If you have a specific site or project on which you intend to focus, the more factual documentation you can bring with you in the form of pictures, plans, measurements, surveys, etc. the more we can work with you to come up with specific solutions to your actual project.
  • Site: Survey, photos (of pertinent features and views), maps, topography, hydrology, utilities locations, if available.
  • Zoning and Building Code requirements, if available.
  • Existing Building(s): Photos, drawings, measurements, special conditions, building orientation(s), if available.
  • Any other information you deem pertinent about the project and your potential site.
  • Note: It is not required to have a specific project to participate in this class, and in some ways that can be an advantage.  Some students take the class prior to actually owning a site.  Others take the class as career discovery or educational exploration.  Nonetheless, it is helpful to have a possible project in mind -- a fantasy dream house or site in mind for one day in the far future is enough to begin the process.  Or you can simply pick a site on our campus during the class and utilize it for a hypothetical project.


Course Outline

Week 1


  • 5pm - Welcome Tour/Orientation
  • 6pm - Welcome Dinner
  • Eve - Class Orientation: Design/Build Pictionary


  • AM - Course overview; Basic Drafting Skills; Reading Plans
  • PM - Overview of class building project, site rules, and tool usage.
  • Eve - Drafting skills practice


  • AM - Programming, Sizing your project, Codes and Budget; Site analysis, Solar Access; Model making exercise
  • PM - Site mapping skills, Site analysis tools; Begin construction of class project
  • Eve - Program, site analysis, budget for your project.


  • AM - Schematic design, Bubble diagrams
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Yestermorrow Lecture Series; Continue bubble diagrams


  • AM - Pin-Up Bubble Diagrams; Schematic Design, plans and sections
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Create scheme for site plan, floor plan, roof plan, sections


  • AM - Schematic structures; Schematic insolation and insulation
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Pin-Up scheme plans; Create scheme 2


  • AM - House tours to various owner builder projects
  • PM - House tours continue
  • Eve - Open

Week 2


  • AM - Open
  • PM - Open
  • Eve - Guest Lecture, Desk crits for scheme 2


  • AM - Pin-Up scheme 2, Schematic HVAC, plumbing, electric
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Scheme 3: Floor plans, roof plans, sections, typical wall


  • AM - Pin-Up scheme 3; Design development for doors, window, roofing, siding
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Scheme 4 - Final scheme


  • AM - Desk crits; Construction management and cost estimating
  • PM - Construction of class project
  • Eve - Yestermorrow Lecture Series; begin study model


  • AM - Pin-Up, review scheme 4, how to improve it
  • PM - Final day constructing class project
  • Eve - More scheme 4; continue work on models, prepare for presentations


  • AM - Final presentations
  • PM - Final presentations, course evaluations
  • Eve - Graduation Dinner



Start Date: May 22, 2016
Duration: 12 Days
Tuition: $1750
Materials: $70
Start Date: July 31, 2016
Duration: 12 Days
Tuition: $1750
Materials: $70