On August 7, 2016, Jean Terwilliger, Sam Ostrow, and Ashar Nelson gave a sermon during worship at The Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Middlebury, VT. The three-part presentation entitled “Place, Path, Practice” explored the ways that architecture is spiritual. Jean (“Place”) discussed how buildings, from modest homes to magnificent cathedrals, can evoke feelings of peace and awe and offer a means to greater appreciation of the natural world. Sam (“Path”) explained how the underlying purpose of creating spaces is to increase opportunities for connection with our surroundings; how the construction of space, done thoughtfully and with care, can facilitate a deep sense of presence, much like meditation. Ashar (“Practice”) illustrated how the craft of architecture in and of itself can be a meditative and spiritual experience. Click here for the full text of the presentation.
A FIRM; A FAMILY
By Jesse Gillette, 2016 Summer Intern
Two years ago, I met Andrea Murray and was introduced to her firm, Vermont Integrated Architecture, P.C (VIA). While our conversation started on the topic of architecture, it quickly turned to one focused on the natural beauty of our state. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this conversation would align heavily with my own perceptions in relation to the role of architecture in a community (built or natural), and would not be forgotten when searching the state for an internship.
There I was, two years later, sitting at my own desk in the office of VIA; after months of preparation, I had received an internship that would influence me more in a summer than it seemed architecture school had in four years. On my first day, I was given my own design project, and, on day two, was working on my first professional project, a community center for the town of Westport, NY. A few days later, I was doing detail work for Pierce Hall, a community building for the town of Rochester, VT. Through these two projects, I began to understand how to communicate graphically the components and adjacencies of building systems, and the effort it took to organize and communicate these drawings to our consultants and clients. As the summer progressed, I was making design decisions for myself, conferring with consultants one on one, and making site visits here and there. And, to my surprise, I was given the opportunity to work on models for the Middlebury Natural Food Coop and new Shelburne Town Library, a three-dimensional way of communicating that I particularly enjoyed. There’s a trend here, and I quickly realized how crucial communication was to the responsibilities that VIA was entrusting me to fulfill.
Of course, this transition to and progression within the professional practice did not come easy, as the jump from school to the office is never easy (it is actually rather nerve-racking, coming from someone who does not often get nervous). Yet, there was a team of eight people that genuinely cared about my growth, and were there to answer my questions or help me with my problems. They were fantastic about communicating with me, and with others, and through that communication, they could not conceal their care for the communities that their projects were serving. This was endlessly beneficial to me, as I then started to see the importance of community that VIA’s website had addressed unfolding right in the office- they weren’t just preaching their vision, but were living it as well. Their welcoming personalities made me feel a part of the team, and the trust they bestowed in me made me feel like much more than a mere intern. I was performing at such a level I had not in the past because I was surrounded by these influential people who exemplified what it took to operate a professional practice, and do so in an attentive manner that stressed the importance of community and nature (as a native Vermonter, this hit close to the heart).
With my internship nearing an end, I knew I would leave with an abundance of new design skills and knowledge in how the professional practice operates. Yet my greatest realization was how important the people really are, in any phase of a project, whether on our team or in the community. Everyone at VIA was doing more for others through architecture than they were doing for themselves in general. All the late nights and early mornings were not for extra pay or hopeful recognition, no. It was for the welfare of a successful project, and, in turn, an improved communal condition. I now understand my own place in architecture because I was connected to these people, connected to VIA. Although the projects I worked on were very important, I found this personal connection to be the greatest benefit I walked away with, and was thus of utmost importance for me to express here. On the eve beginning a graduate program at Norwich University, I look back on my three-month experience and smile (to say the least). I was hired as an intern, but left the office as a member of the VIA family, and for that, I am forever changed, and endlessly grateful.
VIA was one of 20 applicants recently chosen to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Initiative beginning this April. Over 70 Vermont business owners applied for this year’s inaugural offering of the federal program in Vermont. Using the “Streetwise MBA” curriculum developed by Interise, a Boston-based entrepreneurial education organization, the seven-month program will help Andrea Murray, VIA’s president, develop a three-year strategic plan for the business, exploring areas such as financial planning, human resources, marketing, and profitability. Taking place at Vermont Technical College in Williston about twice each month through October, the course promises to provide Andrea with the tools to plan for VIA’s future growth and become a greater presence in our local economy.
In June 2015, Andrea Murray attended the Northern New England AIA COTE (Committee on the Environment) Leadership Summit in Portland, Maine (see video summary here). Invited by AIA-VT to represent one of several Vermont firms notably committed to sustainable design, Andrea joined a select group of design professionals from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Boston to discuss how they can work as individuals and firms as well as a regional community to achieve the Architecture 2030 Challenge. The 2030 Challenge seeks to transform the built environment from a major source of greenhouse gases to a central part of the solution to climate change, calling for all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Participants in the summit explored ways to move beyond a handful of model green projects to adopting sustainability as a cultural norm throughout a firm’s portfolio and ultimately across architecture as a whole. VIA is pleased to be part of this conversation and will continue to make sustainability an integral part of our design work.
Long out-of-use farm buildings are a common sight throughout Vermont. Yet, on a pristine, historic farmstead in Cornwall, one old milking parlor has become a contemplative writing space that recognizes and honors its agricultural past. At its annual meeting in early December, the Vermont Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized VIA with a 2015 Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture, Small Project for the transformation of this unassuming farm building into a contemporary writer’s studio (see Writer’s Studio in our portfolio).
The jury, made up of members of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, noted that the building was “skillfully restored around a wonderful interior space that has been transformed with imagination, ingenuity, and technical virtuosity.” Of the hand crank mechanism fashioned from a salvaged dairy barn stanchion and farm equipment gears, the jury stated that “the new hardware associated with the sliding mezzanine is simple, thoughtful, familiar, but clearly innovative, and even playful.” Overall they felt the project was “marked by a high level of consistency between language and imagination.”
The recent blower door test on the Carothers’ new home in the White Pine Lane neighborhood in Middlebury demonstrated that the house exceeds the Passivhaus airtightness standard of 0.6 ach50 (air changes per hour at a pressure difference of 50 Pascals) with a reading of 0.4 ach50. For comparison, the Vermont energy code requires a reading of 3.0 ach50 while the Vermont high performance building standard is 1.0 ach50. This result ranks among the best of architect Jean Terwilliger’s work. The test was done prior to the addition of insulation; another test will be run when the house is complete. You can learn more about blower door tests at the Green Building Advisor website.
As the VIA team moved the last of the boxes into our new location, we marveled at how we possibly fit it all into our previous office space! Now at 137 Maple Street, Suite 29B in the South Marbleworks building (between Noonie Deli and American Flatbread), we are quickly back to project work while slowly settling in. With a high ceiling and large windows, the new light-filled space feels much more conducive to creative collaboration. Hopes for this new office include more efficient storage, a private conference area, and a loft, all in good time. We hope you will stop by soon and see us!
On Wednesday, April 29, Jean Terwilliger participated in a panel discussion of Home Energy Efficiency Standards in a program sponsored by the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op and moderated by board member Andrea Murray. Other panelists included Alex Carver of Northern Timbers Construction, Richard Faesy of Energy Futures Group, and Peter Schneider of VEIC. They explained the difference between different standards of energy efficiency, discussed current trends in the industry, and addressed questions from the lively and attentive audience. A video of the event is available here.
Ashar and Andrea joined Governor Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch, and many Waterbury town officers and employees for the Waterbury Municipal Complex groundbreaking ceremony on April 13.
Construction is expected to take about 40 weeks, with estimated completion in December 2015. The new municipal complex will provide office space for many government services housed in temporary facilities since Tropical Storm Irene destroyed the municipal offices nearly 4 years ago.
The design also includes a Community Meeting Room, an expanded library, and space for the Waterbury Historical Society, formerly housed in the historic Dr. Janes House. The Janes House will undergo a full renovation and restoration as part of the project. Check our facebook page and the Waterbury Historical Society website for construction updates.
Jean Terwilliger, Project Architect with VIA, recently received certification as a Passive House Designer and Consultant through the Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany. Certification was based on eight days of training and a written examination covering topics such as thermal envelopes, ventilation and exhaust systems, thermal bridge prevention, and renovations with Passive House components. Jean is also a certified LEED for Homes provider.
Passive House (Passivhaus in German) is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating and cooling while achieving high levels of comfort, durability, and indoor air quality. Passive House buildings provide wonderful, healthy, light-filled spaces for occupants while providing long term affordability and a path to large greenhouse gas reductions. Because each Passive House is unique based on the local climate and particular site, careful, site-specific planning and execution of the details is paramount. Certified designers have the expertise to provide the design and energy modeling required to help clients achieve Passive House energy standards. “While I have been using the principles of Passive House design for a long time,” says Terwilliger, “I look forward to integrating this deeper level of understanding into my work for even healthier and more efficient buildings.” Terwilliger’s past projects include many energy star homes including three for Habitat for Humanity of Addison County, and several homes in design and under construction which will meet Efficiency Vermont’s High Performance, Net-zero-ready standard.