Semester Program

Translate theory into practice, designing and building an architecturally innovative, high-performance shelter.

Started in 2011, the Semester in Sustainable Design/Build is an ongoing partnership between Yestermorrow Design/Build School (Waitsfield, VT) and UMass Amherst’s Department of Architecture (Amherst, MA).  Operating annually from mid-August to mid-December, the Semester Program takes up to 15 undergraduates and recent graduates through an architectural design process to the substantial completion of a single, high-performance, year-round structure.  Students, while completing a 15-credit course load, receive instruction in design, assembly and detailing, and building performance while exploring group process, definitions of sustainability, and relevant contexts.  This full-immersion, credit-bearing semester in green building and design complements architecture, building science, engineering, and environmental design majors and has wide application in liberal arts curricula.

  • Gain important hands-on skills developing a real-world project
  • Explore concepts of sustainability through practice
  • Earn college credit
  • Work with expert instructors who are professional designers and builders
  • Add practical and relevant experience to your academic or professional résumé
  • Open to college students, recent graduates, and professionals
  • The only pre-requisite is self-motivation—no previous architecture or construction experience necessary
  • Financial aid may be transferable

In this program, students translate theory into practice, ultimately building an architecturally innovative high-performance shelter of their own design. Students gain experience in group design and facilitation as well as project management. They develop their own positions and arguments for good design and sound ethical and environmental building practice. They leave knowing how to use a variety of hand and power tools and feeling comfortable on a building site. They are empowered with the ability and confidence to measure and implement appropriate technology now and into the future.

They do this all while developing a tight network of friends and academic and professional colleagues. Nowhere else can liberal arts students get this level of intensive, hands-on instruction for college credit from leaders in the fields of design/build and green building.

The Yestermorrow/UMass Semester in Sustainable Design/Build was recently selected by Trimble Sketchup for a case study. In this process, they completed a video highlighting many aspects of the program, including its use of their software.

The Yestermorrow-UMass Semester in Sustainable Design/Build offers admission to highly motivated undergraduates and recent graduates from any major at any accredited degree-granting institution of higher education—no previous architecture or building experience is necessary. The semester’s interdisciplinary curriculum includes lectures, seminars, studio time, and job-site work all reinforcing and complementing one another while informing the group project. Our instructors are leaders in academia, green architecture, and building craft.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School has been in the forefront of the sustainable design/build movement since its inception in 1980, teaching architects, builders, and laypeople methods and tools to reduce ecological impacts by creating environmentally responsible architecture. Vermont’s scenic Mad River Valley—known for the best ski terrain in the east and home to Yestermorrow and a thriving community of artisans, farmers, and entrepreneurs—is a locus for innovative initiatives to revitalize local economies and promote sustainable energy use. The UMass Architecture + Design program is New England’s only public accredited architecture degree.

Come to the Yestermorrow-UMass Semester in Sustainable Design/Build to advance your skills, develop your portfolio, and build your competitive edge.