Projects / Educational      Saco, Maine

The Ecology School at River Bend Farm


  • MEEA 2018 Environmental Ally of the Year


In a four-firm collaboration with Simons Architects, Briburn, and Richardson & Associates, we endeavored to design the nation’s most sustainable campus for The Ecology School.

The School brings students from across New England to participate in field trips and residential overnight programs where they will engage in hands-on field ecology and science experiences focused on environmental stewardship, resiliency, and the joy of getting outdoors.

After years of renting a property, the School set out to find a new home where they could set down roots. Their chosen site, Riverbend Farm, sits along the mighty Saco River just before it reaches the ocean. Located almost entirely within a conservation easement, the site demands a minimal development footprint and design that embraces its existing topography. The School accepted this challenge, aspiring to build the first certified Living Community and one of the greenest residential environmental learning centers in the country.

We knew that designing a new campus would be a labor of love, and we couldn’t wait to get to work.


Our teams partnered with landscape ecology analysts to understand the site’s potential and the School’s goals for improving every inch of its diverse riverfront property. The first phase of the project includes a new Dining Commons and trio of interconnected dormitories. Future work will introduce a second smaller dormitory, staff housing, and renovations to the site’s original farmhouse and barn. The finished structures will be entirely solar-powered and achieve Net Positive Energy. All water used onsite will be reclaimed and treated with activated carbon filters and UV light. Captured storm- and rainwater will nourish the fields and gardens, which in turn grow nutritious produce for the Dining Commons. The campus as a whole will adhere to the Living Community guidelines – the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today.

The design and mission of River Bend Farm link human and natural systems through a fully immersive learning experience. The campus’s working riparian farm serves as a 105-acre outdoor classroom to anchor lessons in conservation and sustainable agriculture and food systems. Science literacy gained through this direct experience will teach visitors not just how the natural world works, but also our place within it.

Will any of The Ecology School’s students grow up to be green architects one day? We hope so.


  • Year Completed

  • Cost

  • Partners

    Scott Simons Architects
    Richardson & Associates
    Integrated Eco Strategies
    Zachau Construction

Sustainability Achievements


  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Sustainable landscape
  • Edible landscape
  • Native plantings
  • Renovation required minimal site disturbance
  • Bike racks onsite
  • Reused materials from the site
  • Ecological Stormwater Management
  • Resilient landscape design


  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Uses recycled or reclaimed materials
  • Uses locally-sourced materials
  • Designed for durability
  • Designed for low maintenance
  • Designed for minimal embodied energy
  • Low global warming potential insulation


  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Optimized for daylighting
  • Fresh air ventilation system for indoor air quality
  • Visual connection to the outdoors
  • Low-VOC finishes
  • Formaldehyde-free building
  • Living Building Challenge Red List compliant
  • Health Product Declarations compliant
  • Contains no EPA chemicals of concern


  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Rainwater capturing system
  • Low-flow fixtures
  • Designed to maintain natural drainage patterns
  • Landscaping requires little irrigation


  • Living Community Challenge registered
  • Fossil fuel-free building
  • Uses renewable energy systems
  • Uses passive design strategies
  • Net zero
  • Has an integrated energy monitoring system
  • Fresh air ventilation system with heat recovery
  • Super-insulated
  • Triple-glazed windows
  • High Quality Air-tight construction
  • Drainwater heat recovery system
  • Electric vehicle charging integration