Cottage #182, site of the initial Model Cottage meeting.

There is a new project (the “Model Cottage” project) underway on the Kendal campus. It is intended to explore the opportunities for improving the desirability and efficiency of existing cottages during the renovation process that occurs before a new resident moves in.

The project was initiated by Kendal resident Owen Owens. Owen lives in one of the large “new cottages”. He has lived there alone since his wife had to move to skilled nursing for medical reasons. Owen thinks he may be ready to move to a smaller residence.  

But, as co-founder of the Kendal Energy Committee and head of the Kendal Nature Conservancy, Owen didn’t want to move unless he could be sure that the place he was moving to was energy efficient and took advantage of its natural surroundings. What might Kendal be able to do to meet these criteria? He brought his idea to the Energy Committee and to Seth Beaver (Director of Facilities). Seth agreed that this is a good moment to be looking at these issues, and that was the origin of the Model Cottage project.

The initial “charrette.” On September 10, the project officially began. Seth, in conjunction with the marketing department, had selected vacant cottage #182 as a possible test case. A small group gathered there to look at the cottage in its current state (bare walls and floors, but no structural changes). They were joined by a group of about two dozen interested people on Zoom.

The meeting lasted about two hours, and you can view a video recording of the whole thing here.

Seth had brought in the architectural firm, Lenhardt Rodgers, that is working with Kendal and Crosslands on revitalization. (The Model Cottage project is not an official part of revitalization, but lessons learned from it are likely to be useful in the revitalization discussion.) In addition to representatives from Lenhardt Rodgers, participants included representatives of the Facilities and Marketing departments, and of Warfel (our primary construction contractor). Members of the Energy Committees from both campuses also participated.

Architect Joyce Lenhardt led the group through a “charrette” (the term for an architectural brainstorming session). She opened the session with introductions and outlined the agenda. Owen then described the origin of the project and what he hoped to get out of it. (A copy of Owen’s list of the attributes he would like in his residence is here.)

Then, Julia Drake from the marketing department provided a short tour (broadcast on Zoom) describing the features of the cottage and the options she would offer to a new resident.

The SWOT analysis process. For the rest of the charrette, Joyce Lenhardt led the group through a SWOT analysis (“SWOT” stands for Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats and is a common business framework for analyzing an existing product or line of business.) As participants threw out their ideas, she recorded them with a marker on a large flip-chart.

I have transcribed her notes and added a few explanatory phrases where it seemed necessary. The result is the bulleted list at the end of this post.

The participants agreed that the exercise was very useful. We look forward to the next step, which will involve some sketches from Lenhardt Rodgers which will show some of the possibilities that came out of the charrette. There is no guarantee that the results of the charrette will actually be incorporated into the renovation of cottage #182, or that any of them will be part of subsequent renovations. But it seems likely that the process will result in important new insights and improvements to our housing—for both renovations and new buildings.

SWOT analysis results. The following bulleted lists are the items from the SWOT analysis that were recorded on paper flip charts. The bracketed phrases are explanatory material that I have added, not part of Joyce Lenhardt’s original notes. The nature of a SWOT analysis means that some of these items are simply one participant’s opinion, not the consensus of the group.  


  • Location—nice exterior [view], close to Center
  • Simple, modest
  • Size: square footage
  • Window in kitchen
  • Patio enclosure [3-season room]
  • Vented attic available to access
  • Orientation—[good] for solar
  • Flexibility to modify kitchen
  • Standard materials & equipment [for new residents to pick from]
  • Great sales team—90-day turnover w/o permit [i.e. 90-day turnover is available if there is no construction that requires permits]


  • Lack of natural light in living room
  • Size of bathroom—too small, not [wheelchair or scooter] accessible
  • 3-season room—either not available during the winter or people leave door open or use space heater. Not accessible [the track/threshold of the sliding door makes it hard to get a scooter or wheelchair in and out]
  • Small
  • Lack of storage
  • Not open [layout]—too chopped up
  • Ceiling height—too low
  • [No provision for] scooter storage and charging
  • Kitchen exhaust—not to exterior
  • Have to walk through bedroom to use bathroom
  • Electric resistance heating—not energy efficient, affects furniture layout
  • Temperature gradient ceiling to floor [with the current heating system, the ceiling is much warmer than the floor]


  • Passive solar [heat] from 3-season room
  • Adding insulation
  • Improve HVAC [heating/ventilation/air conditioning]
  • Appeal to low income community
  • Adding roll-down shades with remote to 3-season room
  • Options to open up kitchen and other customization
  • Communal HVAC and hot water a possibility [for 4-unit cluster] w/virus control [incorporated] while occupied
  • [Easier ways to] control heating and cooling
  • Roof-mounted solar—contributes to goal of carbon neutrality
  • Improve air sealing
  • Better storm doors
  • Find a way to make 3-season room into 4-season
  • Rain barrels
  • Greywater systems
  • Find a way to maintain more smaller units

Threats [=difficulties, challenges, obstacles]

  • Appearance of mini-splits [ductless heating/cooling], solar panels, and noise—neighbor concerns
  • Abatement requirements [e.g. asbestos]
  • Radon concerns
  • Cost
  • Plumbing—don’t move it [because that can be very costly.] (Sometimes freezes—under-slab leaks)
  • Aged infrastructure
  • Only one unit at a time [can typically be renovated]
  • ROI [return on investment] is not = to carbon neutrality
  • Units vary so much
  • Access to units, sometimes [a problem]
  • Code upgrades, permits

[Updated 9-21-20 at 11:30 to correct an error in the cottage number.]