College of the Atlantic - Green Building for a Green School

Green Buildings for a Green College

We applauds the College of the Atlantic; for many years an environmentally conscious college.  With its roots in developing the nation’s first major in human ecology over 45 years ago, this small college in Bar Harbor, Maine has long been on the precipice of sustainability. So it comes as no surprise, that as the college began constructing new buildings and renovating old ones during the last decade, they went the sustainable route.

Green Living

The centerpiece of the college’s sustainable growth is the Kathryn W. Davis Student Residence Village.  This complex, completed in 2008, features three triple story duplexes, housing approximately 50 residents. These buildings were designed to have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible.  Each building is oriented to take advantage of natural sunlight. There are two windows in each bedroom, helping reduce the need for day lighting, while ample roof space and optimal orientation was incorporated to allow for the future installation of solar PV panels.  Additionally, effort was taken by the college to limit the size of these buildings, so as not to dominate or dramatically alter the coastal skyline.

A multitude of other green building practices were utilized as well, including:

  • Double-studded walls, eliminating thermal bridging.
  • 12 inches of recycled cellulose insulation, improving energy efficiency
  • Radiant in-floor heating installed on the first floor, promoting energy efficiency
  • Fly-ash (a wasteful by-product of cement) recycled into flooring material
  • Locally harvested wood used to construct upper floors
  • Recycled materials used in the buildings ceiling panels
  • Interior finishing materials and furnishings locally sourced when possible and made from sustainably harvested wood or recycled content, and requiring no harmful cleaning solutions.
  • Residential use of composting toilets on 2nd and 3rd floors; reducing water use and turning human waste into compost for campus landscaping.

Green Renovations

This green college has found some ways to sustainably renovate and reuse existing campus buildings as well; like turning a century plus old sea cottage known as Sea Urchins, into a community center.  Sea Urchins, as happens to many old buildings, had fallen into a state of disrepair and was slated to be taken down. Through a plan conceived by Director of Buildings and Grounds, Millard Dority, the college was able to salvage portions of the building, and include the addition of an elevator, health clinic, and student run cafe; transforming  it into Deering Common Community Center. This sustainable renovation came at the behest of the student body, as well.

For the most part, this restoration involved reusing and restoring as many elements of the original building as possible. After all, it is better to reuse than to recycle. Design elements, including the entranceway nook and distinctive lighthouse towers, were preserved and restored. Aspects including flooring, wainscoting, and wood panels were kept and reused as much as possible as well. As many multi-paned windows as possible were also maintained. Altogether, approximately 80% of the original building was preserved; significantly reducing the waste normally created in both destruction and new building construction. And budget wise, the renovation of this building was completed at 75% of the cost of new construction.

Beyond the preservation of elements to reduce waste, other efforts were made to green-up the building, including:

  • The addition of strapping to the original single-stud walls, helping minimize heat loss
  • Cell spray foam insulation used to a minimum depth of 5 inches to promote energy efficiency
  • Additional use of wood that was locally sourced and sustainably harvested
  • Avoidance of all materials that release chemicals under normal conditions, known as off-gassing
  • Triple-glazing on new windows
  • Preserved windows equipped with storm window fittings

We love seeing such a range of sustainable green building practices put to use on a college campus. Next week – alternative energy takes the lead at the College of the Atlantic. 

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David Thurnau

Community Relations at Community Green Energy
David Thurnau has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.

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