Wayfinding at Green Gulch

One wish of Green Gulch residents and visitors alike for quite some time has been clearer, more direct pathways and way finding at Green Gulch.  One of the requirements of this construction project is ADA pathways and clear signage.  So after decades of temporary signage, Green Gulch is putting up slightly less temporary signage (as Buddhists, we know that nothing is permanent).

The effort started months ago with a great deal of planning and consultation, and is now in the execution phase.  Signs will continue to go up and alternate pathways to go into effect over the next couple of months.

Former resident, and professional contractor Sam Senerchia returned to help with sign mounting and installation:

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Residents Jiryu and Frank did a lot of the actual mounting:

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A new sign at the edge of the Zendo pond, near the main lawn, directing visitors to the farm & garden and welcome center:

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Clearly marked ADA pathway to the Zendo:

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A new signpost in the main area of Green Gulch, directing visitors to the new building, Still Water Hall, over the new ADA accessible bridge, or to the Welcome Center.

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Many more signs, including wayfinding maps and informational kiosks, will go up at the outer and inner parking lots, new pedestrian pathway (the back road), and welcome center area over the next couple of months.

Cloud Hall: Finish Line in Sight!

It is hard to believe that construction will soon be over.  The construction crew has been hard at work over the past couple of months finishing the new building and site work.

The exterior of Cloud Hall, including the basement stucco, has been finished for some time, and looks beautiful:

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The new roof over Cloud Hall and the Zendo is also finished, and although stood up quite well for the first few rains of the season (the head of maintenance commented that it was so nice not to get the usual half-dozen reports of leaking student rooms, or have to deploy buckets in the Zendo), the big storm in early December caused the roof to leak at the junction with the old Cloud Hall stovepipe, as well as a large branch to crash into the roof, which made a hand-sized hole in the new membrane (it has since been repaired).

Stucco went up on the top floor of the new building in early November:

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This completed the exterior of the building, except for the hand rails, which have been fitted and will be galvanized and installed by the beginning of the year:

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The student rooms are trimmed out:

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And the Green Gulch maintenance crew (Thibault pictured above) mounted bars for new curtains, and wardrobe units which were built during work period.

Larry Strain, the project architect, and Helen Degenhardt, head of Zen Center’s Finance Committee (and also an architect), on the final walk-through of the new building (in the program space):

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A detail of the kitchenette that will serve the space.  To the delight of the Green Gulch Guest Program crew, which has been schlepping dishes to and from the kitchen for decades, there is a dishwasher!:

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A detail shot of the bridge railing, when it was almost complete:

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The back road re-grading and surfacing went quite well.  It will be the main pedestrian pathway to Green Gulch:

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There is one spot in the road where water drains from the side hill, crossing the road and making it impassable without boots during big rains!  We will need to problem solve this spot to facilitate better winter access.

The final piece of the project is the accessible pathways running around the site.  Construction of these began very late in the project, and then was held up by recent rains.  Instead of being finished by December 15th, as planned, the project will spill into the New Year.  Disappointing – and very familiar in construction!  (The good news:  we received a temporary occupancy permit to gain access to the student rooms on the upper floor – connected to the interior of Cloud Hall – while path work is being completed this week.)

The ADA pathway from the parking lot to the new program space (and Welcome Center) runs from the inner parking lot past the farm office and maintenance shop:

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The site looked like this for a week while the crew waited for rains to pass:

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(The pathway and retaining walls are now poured – photos to come!)

The pathway will go past the auto shop, below the grade of the main road in some spots (there will be space for a vehicle to park in front of the auto shop):

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The paver-topped path that lead to the old office and zendo will be re-done to accommodate the new building and conform to ADA standards.  The parts of it that were removed during construction will be re-graded to tie into the ADA pathway and re-done (looking at the old kiosk near the steps of the Tea House):

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The pathway to Cloud Hall, in front of the Zendo, needed to be moved over slightly to make room for one of the exterior stairways:

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Construction of the new laundry room was slowed by the county permitting process.  It will hopefully be completed soon!!

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The grading around the pool deck as well as resurfacing inside (pavers) and rebuilding of the fence (it will be completely enclosed) will happen in January.  Once finished, visitors will have a line of sight and more-or-less straight walk from the back road to the new Welcome Center (which you can see in the right of the frame, below).

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Stay posted!

September and October Construction

A LOT of work has been done in the last couple of months on the new building, now named Still Water Hall, as well as finishing touches on other parts of Cloud Hall.

**The wood siding is almost completely up on Still Water Hall, and the scratch coat and brown coat have gone up on the upper portion of the building (it will be finished in stucco to match the Zendo and top floor of Cloud Hall on the west side).  The view below is from the “lawn,” with the Zendo off the left hand side of the frame:

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This is the view from the pathway that leads from the inner parking lot to the tea house (and old office).  The covered landing will eventually have stairs leading up to it:

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**The covered entryway on the east side of Cloud Hall has been rebuilt:

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It is unclear, given the new configuration of this entryway (the bridge connects up to it off to the left of the doors), whether the han will return to its former location.

**The new roof membrane on Cloud Hall and the Zendo is complete.  New rain gutters are still being installed.

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**The radiant floor has been installed in the program space and student rooms in Still Water Hall.  The pictures below show the tubing, before the “gypcrete” (a mixture of gypsum plaster, Portland cement and sand, used for fire ratings, sound reduction, radiant heating and floor leveling) was poured.

The program space:

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A student room in the dorm above:

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Looping over toward the stairway down to Cloud Hall:

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The hallway in the dorm (all the tubes connect to the control panel):

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The control panel (wow!):

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The program space in Still Water Hall after the gpycrete was poured:

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The alcove in the left of the frame is the storage closet for yoga props, chairs, etc.  The wooden doors were custom-built for the closet and the glass paneled doors are for the front and back entryways.

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The exposed wooden beams, a lovely architectural detail, extend out through the front and back of the building and will support covered walkways on both sides.

In the picture below, you can see the beams at the top of the left hand side of the frame, on what will be the front of the building (entering over the new bridge from the direction of the Wheelwright Center):

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**The bridge is coming along as well.  For quite a while it was just bare concrete:

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Then the handrail support posts went up:

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Then the wooden decking started going down:

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It will be finished in the next couple of weeks.

**The final coat of stucco went up on the exterior of the basement:

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**And the retaining wall that holds up the pedestrian pathway between the Cloud Hall bathhouse and the dining room and basement offices (part of our updated ADA pathways around Green Gulch) was “refreshed” so that it actually retains what is behind it and the railing is straight:

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Basement Stucco

The exterior of the basement is almost complete.  As with the rest of Cloud Hall, there are many layers under the one we will all see…

You may recall that they demolished the walls of the basement, and re-framed them, back in April (this photo taken from inside the basement, looking toward the dining room):

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Then the whole building got a plywood layer, and a vapor barrier:


Then came the exterior insulation:

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 As with the rest of the building, a layer of gypsum board went up over the insulation, covered by “weather-resistive” paper.  Instead of wood siding (as on the upper floors), metal lath went up.  This creates a drainage space between the building paper and the stucco, allowing water to drain out through the “weep screed” at the foundation.  (From the InspectAPedia website: “Stucco relies on this drainage plane for waterproofing, since the stucco material itself is relatively porous. It tends to soak up water when it rains, but it dries out quickly since it is highly permeable to water vapor.”)

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A closer look:

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Stucco has three coats: the “scratch coat”, seen below:

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The “brown coat,” here:

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And the “finish coat,” which will go on 28 days after the brown coat.  (Stay tuned…)


There has been a lot of work in the past few weeks on the pathways leading to Cloud Hall and the basement.

They are not, as of yet, completed.  We are waiting on the architect-specified binding agent for the pathway surface – it does not contain nasty chemicals that might wash into the creek (the sub-contractor had originally ordered a different product).

Here is the pathway leading to the southeast entrance to Cloud Hall, ready for surfacing:

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The ADA pathway splits to the left, where it will lead either to the new program building or, if you take a right turn off the bridge, to Cloud Hall.

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The same pathway, photographed from the bridge (the pathway in the left foreground of the shot leads to Cloud Hall).

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The view from inside the entryway (men’s bathroom off to the right in this shot).

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The freshly poured concrete pad meeting up with the ramp that comes off the bridge.  The finished bridge and ramp will have a wooden decking over them, as well as railings and path lights.

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The same entryway.  You can see how the ramp to Cloud Hall meets up with the bridge on the far left of the photograph.

The other pathway that is taking shape is the one to the basement offices.  This one is also ADA compliant, and very cool.

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 We are all enjoying its serpentine quality (someone mentioned it looks like a dragon!).  Here it is, seen from the second floor of Cloud Hall:

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Work Period: Cloud Hall Move In

The past couple of weeks at Green Gulch have been marked by the presence of many fantastic volunteers here for another work period – with the goal of moving everything back in to Cloud Hall!

Cloud Hall right before move-in day:

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With the tools and paper removed:

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And after a decent amount of order restored (the shoe rack situation is a work in progress – we will need wait for the radiators to be installed before they are in their final configuration):

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You might notice one major thing that had changed:  no stove!

Now that all the rooms (and central area) have radiators, we have no need to burn wood for heat.  Don’t worry – we have wired the boiler which feeds the radiators in such a way that we could hook up a generator in the event of a prolonged power outage, so given air quality concerns and the added benefit of easier flow through Cloud Hall (particularly for Suzuki Roshi memorials), we decided to remove the stove.

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The difference between the color of the wood that was under the stove and the rest of the floor is quite striking (as you can see in the photo below).  We were happy to find there was flooring under the stove – we did some exploratory digging and were pretty sure this was the case before the brick was removed, but at Green Gulch you never know what you’re going to find!

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The Doshi altar and Kaisando have been restored.  Kwan Yin is now on the Doshi altar (see below).  The figure that was there previously, Ida-ten (the deity that protects monasteries), was relocated to the Wheelwright Center altar during the renovation and will stay there either permanently or until another altar is cited closer to the entrance to Green Gulch.  (One thought is that perhaps when the back road is re-done as the main pedestrian entryway there will be a good place to put an altar – it is traditional in Japan to have a statue of Ida-ten at the monastery gate.)

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In the picture below you can see the new cork floor along the walkway on the second floor.  Cork was selected because of its sound dampening qualities (all current and former residents who were consulted unanimously agreed that carpet – which is the best sound insulator – is a terrible idea in Green Gulch’s damp climate).

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The stairway connecting Cloud Hall to the dorm on top of the new program building is temporarily closed off by plywood:

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A surprising and lovely feature of the east-facing rooms of Cloud Hall is the very wide window sills that were created when the external insulation, siding, and all the other layers were added:

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Frank checking out one of the rooms on the west side of the building:

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This is a photo of the new counter in the women’s bathroom, before it was totally finished (it was finished before move-in).  If you had ever used it, you might recall that the counter top was badly rotten – due, it turns out, to water damage from the wall behind it (which was fixed when the Bunk House was demolished and the program building put up in its place).

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One of the amazing projects that the work period participants did, in addition to doing many dishes, helping in the kitchen, and bringing good cheer to the valley, was to completely unpack/empty three of the five storage containers that we have had on the property since March (and go though and organize the other two).  Here are the contents of one of the containers being moved and sorted:

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Another crew worked on sewing new curtains for all the rooms in Cloud Hall.  (This project was not completed, so if you’re local and you have a sewing machine, give us a call!!)

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Another work period project was to build simple storage units with shelves and hanging bars for Cloud Hall rooms (many of the funky closets in the downstairs rooms were removed, and many of the rooms didn’t have good shelving or a place to hang clothes before the renovation).  Here are some of the members of the furniture the crew working in the shop:

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We were lucky that Phil (center) a Tassajara work period regular, and professional carpenter, headed up this project.

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Although not all of them got built, all the pieces for sixteen units were cut, sanded, and are either put together or ready to be assembled – all in two weeks!

Here are some of the shelves that were assembled, drying in the bike shed:

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The Guest House and Wheelwright Center rooms, which housed students for the last four months, are clean and ready to welcome guests full-time as of September 4th.

Thank you work period participants!

Great Strides

As the Cloud Hall move-in date draws near, things are really coming together.  It is delightful to see all the little details falling into place.

Back stairs are all finished and looking great

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Siding is going up at an amazing pace.  The south side is nearly finished

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And the east side is going up quickly

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(The basement level on this side will be re-stuccoed.)

Window trim and baseboards have gone up in the Cloud Hall rooms:

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 As well as wall sconces – on dimmers!

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(Somehow a dimmer seems like a really nice thing to have when there’s so much pre-dawn activity.)

Exterior work continues as well.  The Zendo roof has started to be removed:

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 and the Cloud Hall portion of the roof is completely off and tarped:

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 There is a lot of dry rot and evidence of past termite damage (no termites in evidence now) in the roof joists, particularly around the perimeter – they will all be replaced before the new (insulated) roof membrane goes on.

Grading for an ADA path down to the basement offices has begun:

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It will be a long snaking path, which you can sort of see marked out in orange.  We will also have a more direct route, straight down the middle.

And today the concrete for the bridge was poured!

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The finished bridge will have wood decking over it.  It provides ADA access to the new program building, as well as to the east side of Cloud Hall (there will be handrails).  The han will have to be relocated – probably to the other side of the entryway.

We are all thrilled with the work and are looking forward to moving back in in a couple of weeks!

Roof, Siding, and Library

Lots of activity on this soggy, foggy Green Gulch Monday:

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(Frank and I went up to Hope Cottage and got a good view of the fog – otherwise, this has nothing to do with the CH project!)

In addition to work continuing on the new program building, the Cloud Hall roof demolition began today.  This photo was taken from the “mail trail” – I particularly like the plywood ramp they built from the roof to the dump truck in the bottom left (unfortunately you can’t see the dump in this photo).  The Zendo will be re-roofed as well, so there will be no seam between the two roofs.  You can also see how far along they are on the new program building, which is in the top right of the frame.

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A crew was out from Sawyer Construction today working on the ceiling of the library.  I was also pleased to see that they had removed the carpet.

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Finally, the reclaimed redwood siding has started going up!  It looks gorgeous, as you can see:

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Late July Details

Everything continues pretty much on schedule, with the exception of the radiators for Cloud Hall which, due to longer shipping times, will be installed well after the students move back in in a couple of weeks.

Work continues on the bridge, which will get poured this coming week:

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The walkway and stairs that run along the East side of the program building were already done:

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(The soil to the left of the retaining wall will be back-filled and be basically level with the top of the wall.)

The reclaimed redwood siding has arrived

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and framing has begun around the windows:

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The laminate counter top in the Cloud Hall women’s bathroom has been removed and will be replaced (it was quite rotten in some places):

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Painting of the basement offices is nearly complete:

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And work has started on the old basement dorm (future library and sewing space).  The drop-down roof was removed, exposing the underside of the beams that make up the Zendo floor (which were the flooring of the original barn):

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Late July Update

With a month to go before the scheduled finish date for the Cloud Hall portion of the project ( the new library will likely be done in late September, and the new program building is scheduled to be done in mid-December), things are looking good.

The exterior was covered in Densglas sheathing (fiberglass mat gypsum sheathing), and the seams taped.  The view here is from the southeast corner of the new program building, looking north toward Cloud Hall (bottom windows are to the Cloud Hall bathrooms).

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 Most of the windows are installed in Cloud Hall and the basement offices, and the building is mostly covered in a “weather-resistive” paper called Super Jumbo Tex (“The product delivers over six times the water protection of standard Grade “D” paper, while providing optimal breathability, to prevent the potential for moisture condensation within exterior walls.”)  This is, as I understand it, to allow the reclaimed redwood siding, which will go on next, to dry out more evenly and thereby last longer.

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The view above includes the bridge to the new program building (lower left).

The bridge from a slightly earlier date, as seen from the other end:

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The bridge as seen from the basement windows (of what will be the new student lounge):

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(It will look different when it’s poured and the decking is on instead of plywood – and hopefully the fuchsias will grow back.)

Meanwhile, at the other end of the building, by the bathhouse, the stairs are being replaced:

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And in the basement, many of the water pipes have been replaced with iron or copper pipes – hooray!  We have had our share of water leaks during this project, and are very happy to have such nice new plumbing!

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(The pipes will be concealed in the ceiling of the new student lounge in a few weeks.)

Up in Cloud Hall, the painting is almost finished:

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And the under floor insulation (on the second floor) and cork flooring have started going in:

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The framing of the new program building is complete except for the roof. This photo is looking from the lawn, up at the program building’s second floor (each student room on the second floor will have one large window and one small window.  There will be two bathrooms on the north end of the building – to the left of the frame):

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 And from upstairs, looking south down the corridor:

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Looking into one of the rooms:

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 The stairs connecting the upstairs rooms to the interior of Cloud Hall (through what used to be the closet in the Tanto’s practice discussion room):

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(The roof will be popped up to accommodate an actual person…)

The view from the Tea House today, as seen by the Tea Teacher: