TALKS since 2011

Thanks to volunteers and GNAT many of our presentations have been recorded and aired on GNAT-TV.
Look for Sustainable Living Series under Playlist.
Architecture to the Rescue!

If you are thinking about building a new home, putting on an addition or renovating an old house; you only have one chance to get it right. Serious thought and critical decisions need to be made to avoid rotting walls, high utility bills, and unwelcoming spaces.  Join local architect, Alan Benoit, for an engaging presentation filled with illumination, insulation, and information you won’t hear anywhere else.  
During this informative talk, Alan will help you avoid many common pitfalls by explaining everything you need to know about proper wall design, various building materials as well as a touch of building science.   His presentation will include many hands-on samples as well as photographs that clearly show side by side examples of bad design vs. good architecture.  Better still, he will demonstrate how architecture can be inspirational, create a sense of place, and truly save the day!

This presentation clarifies the often mysterious and sometimes confusing world of home heating. With Vermont’s long winters, there’s no escaping the fact that every home and business needs some type of heating system. Whether you are considering replacing a tired old furnace or building a brand new efficient home, this talk will allow you make more informed decisions.  Alan Benoit, local architect, will explain the difference between a boiler and a furnace; BTUs and COP; and radiant versus hydronic.  He will present the installation, maintenance and long term operating costs associated all systems currently available.
 

Heating Systems Demystified

Don’t let your home renovation become a nightmare!  Something as simple as using the wrong type of insulation can lead to moldy and rotting walls.  During this invaluable talk, local architect, Alan Benoit, will explain the major elements of “Building Science” and help you avoid many common renovation pitfalls.  He will clarify good versus bad wall designs, pass around various building materials, and teach you the pros and cons of each.

Building Science
Net Zero Homes

Wouldn’t it be great if you could dramatically reduce your heating and electrical bills?  Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate them altogether?   Great news, it can be done and local architect, Alan Benoit will tell you how.   He will explain how to find the right combination of insulation, air sealing, heating system and renewables, and clearly demonstrate that owning a Net Zero home is now quite achievable.
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Good Bug, Bad Bug

Join Alan as he reveals his fascinating discoveries of the insect world. Through close observation, patience, and careful investigation he has uncovered a world filled with villains, allies, armies and heroes and captured them with extraordinary photographs. Alan will take us on a journey through his gardens and introduce us to the multitude of cast members he encountered there. Filled with amusing stories and enlightening slides, this month's FREE talk will be an entertaining one for the entire family!

21st Century Straw Bale Home

Building a home using natural materials like straw and clay would seem perfectly normal for Arizona in the 1800s.  But what about using these materials to build a home today in Northern Vermont’s wetter and much colder climate?  How do you keep the straw dry, control air tightness and meet our stringent energy code?  How do you even begin to build a house using straw bales and what are the tools and techniques used?  This month’s Sustainable Living presentation will answer all these questions and many others with an excellent collection of photos, videos and even some hands-on demonstrations.  Better still, the homeowners/builders will be in attendance to give a first-hand account of the process, describe building their “labor of love” and share all that they’ve learned along the way.  If you’ve ever considered building your dream home, want to use natural materials in your next project, or are simply curious about the process, then you won’t want to miss this month’s fascinating talk!
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Looking to stay in shape and have fun during the long, cold, dark winter months?  Even in Vermont, there are many options for staying fit in winter that don’t involve visiting the gym.  Join Nancy Benoit, Susan Lynch and Alan Benoit as they share their unconventional fitness routines of hiking, biking, and night skiing their way through bone chilling temperatures, darkness and icy conditions. They will discuss proper clothing, proper preparedness, give tips on their techniques and show examples of the equipment they use. 

Alternative Winter Fitness in the
Ice & Snow
Passive Heating, Cooling & Lighting

Alan Benoit, local architect, will demonstrate how we can heat without burning fuel, cool without air conditioning and light without using electricity. This workshop will present the systems used,  and demonstrate how, through proper design, passive techniques can be affordably incorporated into any building.

We will look back at the design and construction of the new Manchester Community Library.  Alan Benoit and Chris Cole will highlight the processes and products that were chosen to provide energy efficiency, durability, day-lighting, and other benefits.  They will have samples of the actual materials used on-hand and then lead a walk through the library to point out where, how and why each were chosen.

Building a 21st Century Library
50 Shades of Green

Over the last ten years, "green" has been used and over-used to describe everything from houses to ball point pens!  Once a term that helped consumers, designers and manufacturers identify products that had limited environmental impact, the term "green" has little meaning today.  During this presentation, Alan Benoit of Sustainable Design will review a long list of items that have been labeled as "green" and identify their true colors.

Renewables & Return on Investment 

Renewables & Return on Investment 
Investing in renewable energy is a great way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprint, and reduce our heating or electrical bills.  Knowing which technologies perform reliably as well as those which consistently offer the greatest savings, can help us better evaluate each system.   At this talk, Alan will review many of the common renewable energy systems available, note the types of rebates and credits associated with each, and make apples to apples comparisons of their returns on investment.

Professor Lucas Brown and a group of students in Green Mountain College's REED program have created a new kind of home for a more nomadic millennial generation.  Together they designed and built a 70 square foot house dubbed the OTIS; Optimal Traveling Independent Space.  This mobile pod comes complete with rainwater collection, a composting toilet, biomass heat, and solar electricity!  After their presentation on the social context, ecological design criteria and design-build process, we will head outside to get a first hand look at their mobile micro house and enjoy a tour of its interior.

Mobile Micro House Visits Manchester

Simplify your vegetable garden and have more fun growing food. In this photographic presentation kitchen garden designer Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of The Complete Kitchen Garden, will show you a new way to design your garden based on a classic four square approach.  You will learn how to build up your healthy organic soil and create a beautiful garden area that turns work into play.  You won't want to miss this talk.

Four Square Garden Design
Home Efficiency Basics

Want to better understand where and how your home looses heat? Curious where you should look to determine how to invest in your home to get the best results? Ever wonder what a building envelope, box sill or raised heel truss is? The answers to these questions and many others, may surprise you. Come hear Alan Benoit, local architect, take the mystery out of energy efficiency and present it in a way that is easy to digest.

Efficiency Case Studies

Join Alan Benoit, local architect and owner of Sustainable Design as he looks back at some local efficiency upgrade projects and how they have performed.  We often hear how putting on solar panels, improving insulation, air sealing techniques and building a tight home can all save us money and help us live more comfortably, but is it all true?  This presentation will look at a variety of examples, compare the numbers before and after the project was executed, and see what real-world savings have been realized.

Alan Benoit and Brian King will team up once again along with special guest Carol Berry to talk about some common invasive plants, the trouble they cause, some unexpected benefits and the native alternatives that are available. Alan is a Master Gardener, studied native plant horticulture at the New England Wildflower Society and is a member of the Manchester Conservation Commission. Brian King has been working in horticulture since the age of 15, has an Associates Degree in Horticulture from Essex Agricultural School and was a volunteer for the propagation department at the Arnold Arboretum for several years. Carol, inspired by Timothy Lee Scott's Invasive Plant Medicine, will offer an enlightening counterpoint for the evening.

Individually, the speakers have done their part to fight back the invasive species in New England and propagated native plants to replace them. Together, through their extensive experiences, they have gained the knowledge they need to help you and the community restore balance in the woods and in the landscape. You won't want to miss this informative evening guaranteed to alter how you see the world around you.

Native vs. Invasive Plants
February Peaches

Join Alan and Nancy Benoit as they share their secrets for growing, harvesting and preserving vegetables, fruits and berries. This local couple use permaculture and intensive gardening techniques to grow a variety of organic food on less than 1/2 acre. Their gardens have inspired the planting of over 350 fruit trees in the community and have recently been photographed by Organic Gardening Magazine to be featured in an upcoming issue. Alan will highlight the varieties of plants, trees and shrubs they grow, identify the idiosyncrasies of each and share his pruning and pest-fighting tips. Nancy will share a lifetime of hints for efficiently harvesting, processing and preserving foods while effectively capturing all their flavor. Come on out for a fun and educational evening and learn how nothing tastes better than peaches in February!
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In this rapidly-changing world, it is important that we adopt ecologically-sensitive and resilient design and construction strategies to address global climate change and other pressing issues facing the development of the built environment. It is all the more critical to identify the role socially- and community-responsive practices play in providing long-term solutions to these ecological problems.

Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin owners of New Frameworks Natural Building LLC, will examine the function that natural building can play in supporting these practices. They will present the newest, cutting-edge high-performance natural building strategies that are being currently implemented by their company and others in cold, wet climates like Vermont. Finally, the results of an extensive field-based research project conducted by the presenters analyzing thermal and moisture performance of natural buildings in the northeastern United States will be shared to prove the efficacy of natural building practices as a viable solution in sustainable design and construction. This presentation will feature case study, research, building science principles, and philosophical arguments to support the role for natural building as a solution for building efficiency and resiliency.

Natural Building for a Changing World

In this rapidly-changing world, it is important that we adopt ecologically-sensitive and resilient design and construction strategies to address global climate change and other pressing issues facing the development of the built environment. It is all the more critical to identify the role socially- and community-responsive practices play in providing long-term solutions to these ecological problems.

Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin owners of New Frameworks Natural Building LLC, will examine the function that natural building can play in supporting these practices. They will present the newest, cutting-edge high-performance natural building strategies that are being currently implemented by their company and others in cold, wet climates like Vermont. Finally, the results of an extensive field-based research project conducted by the presenters analyzing thermal and moisture performance of natural buildings in the northeastern United States will be shared to prove the efficacy of natural building practices as a viable solution in sustainable design and construction. This presentation will feature case study, research, building science principles, and philosophical arguments to support the role for natural building as a solution for building efficiency and resiliency.

Vermont's residential energy code, now in place since 1997, remains a mystery to many homeowners. Failure to comply with its requirements could lead to serious consequences in the years ahead. Jeff Gephart of  Efficiency Vermont will provide an overview of this recently updated and expanded state law and the many ways it affects any new building, addition, renovation and repair. His presentation will also highlight the benefits of the Energy Star program and the additional services Efficiency Vermont provides. Attending this talk will enlighten you on the variety of requirements, incentives and rebates our state has to offer.

Vermont Energy Code
Rebates, Incentives and PACE

Join Alan and his guests as they highlight the many state and federal rebates, incentives and financing options available for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects. For this month’s Sustainable Living presentation, Alan will be covering the ins and outs of the HVAC rebate available through Efficiency VT for heating and cooling system upgrades.

Next, Karen Lee of Solar Pro will talk about the variety of state and federal financial incentives, rebates, and tax credits available for renewable energy improvements, including solar hot water and PV, among others and the related nuances of each. Then Meghan Chambers of Efficiency Vermont will teach us about the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program which will be rolling out at the start of the New Year. She will discuss how PACE works, how Vermont's PACE is different from other states and share her knowledge about the process, filing of forms, implementation, etc.
Learn More About PACE
PACE: Getting Your Town On Board

Your money can have a positive social impact along with a financial return. Todd Walker, of the Progressive Asset Management Group will provide an overview of the socially responsible investment field, review how you can participate and give some investment ideas. Will Belongia, the Executive Director of the Vermont Community Loan Fund, will speak about Community Investing as an industry and the Loan Fund’s past, present and future work. Come learn how investing your hard-earned money can truly make a difference in the world.

Socially Responsible Investing
Smart Meters

CVPS SmartPower® is CVPS's “smart grid” solution to modernizing and automating the electric grid. It's part of a nationwide initiative that is taking advantage of federal funding to bring our current electric grid up to date with today's smarter, more reliable technologies. But what will it mean for you?  CVPS representatives will explain the benefits, the technology and the timeline for implementation, and answer your questions.
 

Maximizing Food Production on Minimal Land 

Featuring Scout Proft of Someday farm in East Dorset, Vermont.  This presentation will challenge participants to increase their potential edible growing areas right outside their back door.  Learn to look at your home site -- whether it is an apartment or a ten acre spread-- as a producing foodscape.  Participants are encouraged to bring a plan of their outdoor living area and together we will turn it into a micro edible farm! Joining Scout is Anna Johansen of Anna Blooms, a landscape architect who has been designing landscapes which incorporate edible plants. She will be on hand to give insights on material sourcing and how to work within the limitations of resources available.

The Impacts of Building Materials

Alan has been designing homes in the area with a focus on creating buildings that are truly sustainable.  During his recent research, he dedicated six straight months to exploring the impacts of construction materials, publishing his findings in his highly praised culminating paper.  
During his talk, Alan will share with us what he has learned and demystify the terms often associated with this topic, including “Life Cycle Analysis”, “Natural Capital”, and “Cradle to Grave”. His hands-on demonstrations, visual illustrations, and real world case studies will make it easy to understand the effects construction materials can have on people’s health, our natural resources, and the environment.

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CONTACT

Sustainable Design LLC

444 Barnumville Road

Manchester Ctr, VT 05255

802.362.4310

Alan@SDvermont.com

Nancy@SDvermont.com

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