Sustainable Housing in Vermont with Smokey House

Danby, Vermont January 2024 - present

How can a building design address a community’s economic resilience?

Nestled in the forest near the picturesque town of Danby, VT, is the Smokey House Center in a beautiful property. But this is more than just a property; it’s a beacon of ecologically sound farming and forestry spanning over 5,000 acres. At its core is the Smokey House Living Lab, a pioneering program conducting applied land-based research to foster ecological and economic resiliency within regional food and forest systems.


Site Plan, image credit: Parsons BFA Architecture Studio

Project Mission

In this project that is part of a grant, we join forces with Smokey House Center to pioneer innovative solutions that address pressing challenges faced by small communities—particularly in the realm of housing. While urban areas often dominate discussions on homelessness and housing crises, it’s the small cities, towns, and rural regions that also bear some of the highest burdens. We aim to delve deep into understanding the needs of these communities, their cultural histories, and how architecture can not only provide basic shelter but also precipitate and cultivate more robust, resilient communities.

Current Site

“There is an urgent need to reduce the carbon emissions of traditional construction. This project will give us insights into how we can design and adopt nature based building systems today.” -Alison Mears

The Smokey House Pilot Project and Design Studio

The collaboration begins with this pilot project. Our goal is to design and prototype innovative timber housing, educational structures, and farming/food production facilities. These structures will be more than just buildings; they will embody sustainability, affordability, and resilience. By utilizing locally sourced timber and other natural materials and exploring cost-effective construction methods, we aim to create models that can be replicated in communities facing similar challenges across the nation.

Students from the BFA Architectural Design at Parsons School of Design are proposing innovative proposals from their senior studio. The design course, co-led by HML’s director Alison Mears and faculty member Bless Yee, took place Spring 2024. The students and faculty visited the site and researched and developed the work over the spring semester. 

We’re committed to placing human health and local ecologies at the forefront of every design decision. From timber systems of structure to non-fossil-fuel-based building materials, the designs will prioritize low embodied carbon and circularity.

By partnering with Smokey House, we’re striving to develop housing models that are not only environmentally conscious but also economically viable.

Check back often for project updates!

↑  Glossary